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Dawn Editorial: As predicted, the ‘strategic depth’ policy in Afghanistan is proving to have been a one-way street

hydrabadi_arab

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AS the security situation in Afghanistan continues to deteriorate, the prospect of foreign militants relocating there from conflict zones elsewhere is becoming more likely. That development is certain to have a dangerous spillover effect in the region, particularly in Pakistan where signs of an uptick in militancy are already being felt.

According to the 28th report of the Analytical Support and Sanctions Monitoring Team, prepared for the UN Security Council, so far there has been “only limited relocation” but it could increase “should the environment there become more hospitable to ISIL or groups aligned with Al Qaeda”.

Editorial: Blaming Pakistan for the failures of Afghan govt and its Western patrons is blatantly unfair

The report also says that Al Qaeda is present in at least 15 Afghan provinces, and that in Kandahar, Helmand and Nimruz provinces, its Indian Subcontinent chapter, or AQIS, “operates under Taliban protection” and consists mainly of Afghans and Pakistanis. If this is indeed the case, then the Afghan Taliban’s assurances to the US that they will not allow transnational Islamist outfits to operate from its soil cannot be taken at face value. Unlike the case with the militant Islamic State group, a comparatively new entrant in this conflict zone, the Afghan insurgents and Al Qaeda have had a mutually beneficial relationship which goes back decades. Those links have clearly endured and may even strengthen further.

Read: TTP maintains ties with Afghan Taliban, says report

It is also well known that the banned TTP has sanctuaries inside Afghanistan’s border areas, which neither the Afghan government — for strategic reasons — nor the Afghan insurgents — for ideological reasons — have tried to disturb. The fact that the Taliban, despite Pakistan’s support to them over the years, have never condemned any atrocity carried out by the TTP in this country should have been a telling indicator as to where their sympathies lay. As many analysts had long predicted, the ‘strategic depth’ policy is proving to have been a one-way street, affording the TTP space to regroup and replenish its ranks rather than bringing any discernible benefit to Pakistan.

The TTP was already in a resurgent mode after five splinter groups, including Jamaatul Ahrar and Hizbul Ahrar, returned to its fold some time last year in Afghanistan. The reunification, which may have increased the umbrella group’s strength to 6,000 armed fighters, was overseen by Al Qaeda. Several attacks in Pakistan have been claimed by the TTP over the past few months, perhaps due in part to this development. Worse may follow if the Taliban manage to seize control of Afghanistan.

The only possible way out of a scenario that threatens the hard-won peace against militancy in this country and could plunge the region into chaos once again, is for all sides to engage with the Afghan Taliban. In return for the economic cooperation that Afghanistan desperately needs, they must demand that the Taliban give iron-clad guarantees of reining in international militant groups on their soil. Otherwise, Pakistan’s worst fears may come true.

Published in Dawn, July 28th, 2021

 

Pak Nationalist

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People drooling over the Afghan Taliban have little clue about the ideological makeup and loyalties of both TTP & TTA. We are stuck between a rock and a hard place.
 

airmarshal

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I dont think anyone is drooling over prospect of Taliban taking over. The govt is cautious about backing Taliban. But this is a genuine concern that those who think Taliban are a non-entity have been proved wrong in the past 2 decades emphatically.

Even if Taliban take over, they will not be accepted as genuine leaders as opposition powers and foreign spoilers will not let Afghanistan be at peace.

So the peace lies in broad based government. But the puppet Kabul regime does not want it. Hence blame game against Pakistan.
 

Pak Nationalist

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I don't think a consensus government could help us out either. Afghans do not accept the Durrand line, and any government with the participation of the nationalist elements would keep creating mischief and an exclusively Taliban govt. would back their ideological brethren (TTP) who have fought and bled alongside them. As I said, we are stuck between a rock and a hard place. Have we had a stronger economy and a robust defense ecosystem, we could have protected our interests at the back of our own might, like the Turks. Unfortunately, political instability has ensured we never got our economic break by generating a high foreign investment momentum. We would suffer the consequences of our weakness for a long time now.
 
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Ghost 125

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People drooling over the Afghan Taliban have little clue about the ideological makeup and loyalties of both TTP & TTA. We are stuck between a rock and a hard place.
whats the difference ??? ANA NDS and current regime is even more supportive of TTP. Latiffulah mehsud was literally snatched from ANA escort by americans. whats all the fuss about. atleast IEA is not firring from spinboldak towards our side.
 

Khanate

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The truth of the matter is no one has articulated an end game for TTP.

We can see a plan in place to deny TTP safe heavens and disrupt its sleeper networks in Pakistan. This is all great and we see the peace dividends but nonetheless these are stop gap measures. What is the end game then?

Are we killing every last TTP scum living in Afghanistan?

Are we leaving them to rot and die out in Afghanistan?

The downside of leaving TTP in Afghanistan is that the longer it is in Afghanistan, the more freedom it has to organise and the more it can be exploited by regional and international actors. Al-Qaeda is a good example of what can happen when terrorist groups have total impunity to do as they please.
 

Pak Nationalist

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whats the difference ??? ANA NDS and current regime is even more supportive of TTP. Latiffulah mehsud was literally snatched from ANA escort by americans. whats all the fuss about. atleast IEA is not firring from spinboldak towards our side.
It is not as straightforward as that. TTA brokered peace between warring Khan Said Sajna and Shehryar Mehsud factions of TTP. They paid rich tribute to Hakeem Ullah Mehsud when the Americans droned him describing his services to the Afghan 'Jihad'. Our concern is TTP enjoying sanctuaries in Afghanistan. Anybody with money could get their hands on weapons; TTP would not need NDS for that in the future when TTA takes over. It makes little difference if TTA physically attacks us. We do not suffer casualties at the hands of ANA currently. We suffer casualties due to the safe heavens TTP enjoys on the other side of the Durrand line. That would continue and might even intensify under TTA. That is the concern. We must be very cautious about backing TTA as common citizens. I am sure our decision/policymakers have the facts before them.
 

airmarshal

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I dont understand why 'liberal' Pakistanis ridicule every concept that defines Pakistan's interest.

Strategic depth only means if Afghanistan is at peace, its land will not be used to give sanctuary to terrorists attacking Pakistan. A peaceful and friendly Afghanistan will also secure one of our longest borders as its proved in last 20 years where an unfriendly Afghan govt has always provided terror sanctuaries to Indians.

Strategic depth does not mean Pakistan has ambitions on Afghan land as its portrayed by our idiotic liberals.
 

Ghost 125

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It is not as straightforward as that. TTA brokered peace between warring Khan Said Sajna and Shehryar Mehsud factions of TTP. They paid rich tribute to Hakeem Ullah Mehsud when the Americans droned him describing his services to the Afghan 'Jihad'. Our concern is TTP enjoying sanctuaries in Afghanistan. Anybody with money could get their hands on weapons; TTP would not need NDS for that in the future when TTA takes over. It makes little difference if TTA physically attacks us. We do not suffer casualties at the hands of ANA currently. We suffer casualties due to the safe heavens TTP enjoys on the other side of the Durrand line. That would continue and might even intensify under TTA. That is the concern. We must be very cautious about backing TTA as common citizens. I am sure our decision/policymakers have the facts before them.
bhai i already know this... my question is was ttp not enjoying safe heavens with ANA ALP ABP and NDS controlling the borders ?
on top of that Razik's militias and border police have attacked and shelled chaman side numerous times, same story on the torkham.
crux is the high on nationalism afghan bhangi is more dangerous for us thn a religious fanatic, our 74 years of history testifies to it. from assasination of First Pak PM, invasion of dir bajaur, khudai khidmatgar movement, Faqir Ipi insurgency in waziristan, Khad terrorist activities in Pak, Scud ballistic missile attacks on Pak (yes even indians have never used ballistic missiles against us, these racist charsis have), raids of afghan airforce before arrival of F 16s, PTM, to the 20 years long insurgency supported by NDS in pakistan.
i would rather have haibatullah akhunzada in kabul thn likes of amrullah saleh.
it is not about ideals its about choosing the lesser evil.
 

Pak Nationalist

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bhai i already know this... my question is was ttp not enjoying safe heavens with ANA ALP ABP and NDS controlling the borders ?
on top of that Razik's militias and border police have attacked and shelled chaman side numerous times, same story on the torkham.
crux is the high on nationalism afghan bhangi is more dangerous for us thn a religious fanatic, our 74 years of history testifies to it. from assasination of First Pak PM, invasion of dir bajaur, khudai khidmatgar movement, Faqir Ipi insurgency in waziristan, Khad terrorist activities in Pak, Scud ballistic missile attacks on Pak (yes even indians have never used ballistic missiles against us, these racist charsis have), raids of afghan airforce before arrival of F 16s, PTM, to the 20 years long insurgency supported by NDS in pakistan.
i would rather have haibatullah akhunzada in kabul thn likes of amrullah saleh.
it is not about ideals its about choosing the lesser evil.
I see what you are saying there. However, the lesser evil is still evil. It has to be seen if the lesser evil proves to be lesser in magnitude even. These are not the Taliban of the '90s. A lot has changed. The newer generation of fighters who have fought the ISAF/ANA since the 2000s view Pakistan with great suspicion and even derision, one might say. I think we both agree that we have been dealt with bad hands in both cases and must make do with whatever options we have. My only fear is "what if" the TTA of 2021/22 turns out to be more belligerent and devious than the Kabuli regime? That is a thought which troubles me greatly these days. One could only hope that regardless of the facts, things turn out differently. Chinese are reaching out to TTA as well. They have investments in Pakistan and need that access to energy/supplies through Gwadar to address their Malacca strait conundrum. Maybe they could secure foolproof guarantees from TTA, given that we neither enjoy the leverage nor the influence we once did over TTA.
 

Pak Nationalist

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I dont understand why 'liberal' Pakistanis ridicule every concept that defines Pakistan's interest.

Strategic depth only means if Afghanistan is at peace, its land will not be used to give sanctuary to terrorists attacking Pakistan. A peaceful and friendly Afghanistan will also secure one of our longest borders as its proved in last 20 years where an unfriendly Afghan govt has always provided terror sanctuaries to Indians.

Strategic depth does not mean Pakistan has ambitions on Afghan land as its portrayed by our idiotic liberals.
I concur with you there. Liberals see the world in binaries. They can seldom wrap their head around the fact that something which is good for Pakistan might not be bad for Afghanistan, or might not be an expression of Pakistani irredentism. Moreover, many view patriotism as an anathema, so backing anything purely in the national interest is a problem for them. I advise we must reach out to this segment of our population just like the other end of the spectrum and have this very important conversation. Some could be disabused from this oversimplified worldview.
 

Ghost 125

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"what if"
all the external manouvering, involving China etc is to counter this very "what if". your concern is genuine and we must prepare. regarding magnitude...managing rag tag ttp supported by some elements will be easier thn managing a conventional enemy in our backyard, armed to teeth numbering upto 3, 4, 5 lac with a very toxic ethnocentric and ultra nationalistic ideology.
 

GumNaam

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dawn.com...go fig! I just have one simple question for all these liberals classifying all 'Taliban" as the same...why is that the high value ttp targets that Pakistan assassinates are in ghani regime controlled areas so God damn ALWAYS and never in Taliban controlled areas?
 
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Patriot forever

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I see what you are saying there. However, the lesser evil is still evil. It has to be seen if the lesser evil proves to be lesser in magnitude even. These are not the Taliban of the '90s. A lot has changed. The newer generation of fighters who have fought the ISAF/ANA since the 2000s view Pakistan with great suspicion and even derision, one might say. I think we both agree that we have been dealt with bad hands in both cases and must make do with whatever options we have. My only fear is "what if" the TTA of 2021/22 turns out to be more belligerent and devious than the Kabuli regime? That is a thought which troubles me greatly these days. One could only hope that regardless of the facts, things turn out differently. Chinese are reaching out to TTA as well. They have investments in Pakistan and need that access to energy/supplies through Gwadar to address their Malacca strait conundrum. Maybe they could secure foolproof guarantees from TTA, given that we neither enjoy the leverage nor the influence we once did over TTA.
You need to understand the dynamics of current situation. Afghan Taliban major aim is to attain legitimacy and acceptance especially from the neighbours Pakistan Iran Central Asian countries and powers like China and Russia. Without this support even if they come in power (which is inevitable) they wont be able to rule and keep the people satisfied, especially without the border ports. They have to adapt, and yes they have explicitly communicated that their soil will not be used against any other country.

Current kabul regime has not only given its lands and protection to train and house proxies against Pakistan but is explicitly involved in doing it itself. NDS is equally complicit in terrorist attacks in Pakistan as RAW. If you want to tell me Taliban gave the TTP BLA etc indian weapons or arranged safe houses in kandahar and kabul you are way off the mark. Do you really think the attack that TTP did on critical army installations and assets like Awacs or CPEC, who do you think was planning all these behind the scenes/ did it benefit Afghan Taliban or India? TTP is not an ideology like Afghan Taliban it is a mercenary proxy. Its real masters are not Afghan Taliban.

Afghan Taliban have ever claimed a direct attack on Pakistan?

I will give Afghan Taliban the benefit of doubt as compared to Kabul regime.
 
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crankthatskunk

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Who is worried about Taliban, when they until now have not posed a threat to Pakistan!!
While last 20 years have seen numerous attacks on borders and inside Pakistan by the snake puppet government of Afghanistan.
We let the proven enemies create mayhem in Pakistan, without giving any robust responses.
We should have been doing daily/weekly surgical strikes inside Afghanistan to kill NDS/RAW agents and the terrorists created by them.

But, alas, those who thump their chests in victory songs, were having a "Thand" Program for last 2 decades.
Don't expect much from them now.
 

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