Col Sanjiv Kumar (Retd)
The USA went into Afghanistan not to occupy the country but to smoke out and bring the perpetrators of 9/11 to justice. The Taliban was ruling then and they refused to support the USA in their hunt for the Al Qaeda Terrorists who were holed up under the Taliban patronage. This mission which was to last a few years, at its best, lasted 20 years for reasons beyond the anti-terror. Certainly, the US did not leave Afghanistan for the shortage of money or casualties of its soldiers or any of the other cock and bull being propagated by the media.
Afghanistan is a landlocked, resourceless, financially bankrupt country with no industrial, agricultural or services industry base. It is a land that historically no civilisation ever wanted to occupy. From Alexander to Babar, no one wanted to settle in Afghanistan, it was only a passage to the doors of undivided India. There was nothing in Afghanistan to plunder or conquer. There may be a large mineral wealth which the hills of Afghanistan hold but to extract those minerals is another thing.
Pakistan’s army and its people are rejoicing the return of the Taliban government as a sort of victory of puritanical Islam over the modernist West. Some even think that the two ‘stans’ will merge to make a larger one, something like a super Pakistan. Some ‘strategic thinkers’ with delusion filled minds believe it can give new life to the dead horse of Kashmir. Some in the Indian media and defence analysts believe that a Taliban-Pakistan Army nexus can incite some insurgency in Kashmir.
Pakistan has fallen into a trap, which it dug, thinking it was for others and the reason is that Afghanistan has zero-sum economic value. It is a country of 40 million people who are violent, largely uneducated, fragmented, loyalties divided among several warlords who organize violence and control territory. History has proven that no one central authority across ideological, economic, military, social and political spheres of life has ever been able to govern this region.
Pakistan role in Afghanistan Pakistan was the staunch ally of the USA right through the Cold war and became significantly important when the erstwhile USSR occupied Afghanistan in support of the Communist regime in Afghanistan. It is no secret that a large sum of funds – money as well as weapons – sent for the Mujahuddin support by the US, were kept by the Pakistanis for their consumption and to fuel terror in India. The USA was well aware of this fact but turned a blind eye to this for three decades.
What Changed! The greed of Pakistani and the continued haven provided to the Terrorists in Pakistan has not been taken kindly by the US and the allies. Most terror networks draw their roots from Pakistan. It was a slap on the face of the USA that the mastermind of 9/11 and the most wanted man on earth, was kept under the patronage of ISI next to a military base in Pakistan, for years, when the USA was hunting for him in the region.
It is well known that Pakistan is the fountain head of the global terror network, under the garb of the Kashmir dispute the Pakistanis have been actively supporting multiple Terror groups across the world. A large number of designated terrorists roam freely in Pakistan, while the Pakistani establishment feigns ignorance. The funds for development from the world bodies and aid from donor countries have been siphoned off to fund terror groups. The World aka the USA has lost its patience with this charade of Pakistan.
Pakistan’s proximity to China and the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor(CPEC) has put further strain on the US-Pak relations. It is well known that the next threat to the world dominance of the US is China. Till the time the USA was in Afghanistan, the Chinese were kept away from their inroads into Afghanistan, but the US presence in Afghanistan was not helping the US interest in any way. What Afghanistan offers is barren, ugly, dry mountains with harsh and extreme climates. The stories of its strategic location or natural resources are just a myth. It has mineral resources only on paper, else why would the country be so poor!!! Afghanistan’s only export worth any value is drugs, out of the less than 20 per cent irrigable land more than half is used for Poppy cultivation. It is rumoured that the US Report of the mineral catches of Afghanistan is a ploy to get China interested in Afghanistan and venture into the minefield called Afghanistan.
The reality of the Issue
The USA could not confront Pakistan directly over all these issues and slowly over the years, it started to distance itself from the Pakistanis. Pakistan was not even allowed to be involved in the Doha Talks. The US aid to Pakistan became a trickle over the years but even that was required to be stopped. The USA had lost its patience with Pakistan and to teach them a lesson they decided to withdraw from Afghanistan leaving a mess for the Pakistanis to sort out. They played this game of withdrawing under domestic pressure and the futile loss of US lives and tax payer’s money, knowing well the Afghan Government would not last even a week without active US backing. The Taliban being nurtured by the Pakistani dispensation was waiting in the wings to fill the void. The Pakistani Army and the ISI actively and openly supported the Taliban, in a hope that the Taliban would become their puppets once in power
USA Gift to Pakistan
What Pakistan has now got is a country that has exported only terrorism, hashish and asylum seekers. It is country with the worst economic, demographic, education, human development, health, women welfare, culture and entertainment, quality of life, trade, industry, agriculture, energy, security, communication, energy etc. indicators in the whole world and Pakistani think they have been blessed with a jewel in their crown!
Which foreign nation would invest in Afghanistan where the interim cabinet the Taliban has announced comprises of at least 14 wanted men on the UNO’s blacklist. The interior minister is most wanted on the FBI’s terror list. Five ministers are popularly known as “Taliban-5” for being the ex-Guantanamo Bay inmates, handed over to the US by Pakistan then. The Prime Minister is the one who ordered the destruction of the Bamiyan Buddha. The Deputy Prime Minister was arrested in 2010 from Karachi and was in a Pakistani jail for eight years till January 2019 when he was released on the US orders to be made the political head of Taliban office in Qatar! The Defence Minister is the son of Mullah Omar, the founder of the Taliban. The Intelligence Chief was educated in a madrassa in Quetta and was arrested in 2001. Such is the brief introduction of the galaxy of the Taliban leadership.
The free lunch of the last two decades where the USA put up over Trillions of Dollars is over. Soon, Afghanistan would face hunger and a shortage of commodities. Soon, the warlords, like wild hungry dogs will be out hunting and scavenging anything they can come across, be that live prey, or dead livestock. The Afghan people who have had tasted a bit of freedom in the last 20 years will surely rebel against the harsh measure which the Taliban would implement. It is a situation ripe for a civil war, which would not be restricted to the borders of Afghanistan alone.
Afghanistan will implode first and then explode. Pakistan will be the collateral damage. The kind of Islam which the Taliban profess will make its inroads into Pakistan with a lot of sleeper cells already entrenched there in the form of millions of madrassas ‘educated’ radicals, 3.5 million terror breeding cells aka mosques and hate-filled mindless mullahs preaching Jihad. The US has ensured that Pakistan gets buried into the hole it has dug for others.
Afghanistan is an unfortunate land that has had nothing but misery to offer to its unlucky inhabitants – since time immemorial. It is a law of nature that, in any nation where free thinking is a crime, women are persecuted, and music is prohibited can’t prosper. Pakistan has added manifold in its problems. How can Pakistanis think that their already nearly bankrupt country will kiss life by merging with a financially, intellectually and morally bankrupt country headed by terrorists? I am appalled if the Pakistani junta believe that Pakistan can thrive by having close contact with a society largely following medieval morals.
The Chinese Card
China too has been disillusioned into believing in the myth of a potential mineral-rich wealthy land ready to be taken over by the highest bidder. The Chinese are already making investments and have drawn plans for future huge investments in a hope of multi-fold returns in the future. The mineral wealth of Afghanistan has been there, if it exists, from the industrial age onward. It will well know the Colonial Powers of the 17th-18th Century exploited the mineral wealth of the other nations without really touching their reserves. Does it mean that the Industrial Nations of the world were not aware of these resources, or they did not want them? The US was here for two decades, they carried out detailed surveys and published reports on the huge potential of wealth there but did not mine even one gram of mineral ore. Hard to believe the charity of the USA, that they did these surveys to help the Chinese.
The Chinese will try to capitalise on their good fortune of getting free excess to Afghanistan’s resources. To mine them they will have to make huge investments, the investments will have to be guarded by the PLA and as history has proven, no foreign army has been able to survive in the Afghan lands. In other words, China will soon be sucked into the quicksand of Afghanistan.
The USA has killed two birds with one stone – Pakistan will be grappling with its terror fallout and China will get embroiled in Afghanistan.
India and the Taliban
For India, I think TALIBANISATION of Afghanistan is a blessing in disguise. It will ignite the North West Frontier Province (NWFP) and FATA region of Pakistan and the Pakistani Army once again will get involved in controlling their NWFPs, the Durand Line exists only on paper, the Pashtuns on either side of the line have a great affinity to each other. The Baluchistan freedom struggle will get a new impetus and their demand for independence will find new supporters. The strategic depth being advocated by the Pakistan military commanders may just become a Strategic Depth to Afghanistan from the Central Asian regions. I don’t think that this situation is a major problem for India. To the author, the Taliban in Afghanistan may just be a blessing in disguise for India.
In conclusion, the erstwhile USSR never came here to occupy Afghanistan, nor the US. The big powers used Islamic fundamentalism to their strategic benefit and an excuse to occupy the region and that’s all. The US created monsters in Afghanistan that are going to devour only each other. Pakistani society will be its prime prey. We thought that the fate of the Pakistanis is already miserable enough, but one should be sure the real suffering for Pakistan has just begun.
It is the sweet revenge extracted by the US over the Pakistani betrayal to the US over 60 years. Pakistan will implode without a single shot being fired from a foreign land.
*Author is an Indian Army veteran. Views expressed here are personal.