The Afghanistan Trilogy
The Afghanistan Fallout in Pakistan
The Afghanistan Fallout on China
The Afghanistan Fallout on India
Between two brothers it is brother vs brother.
If the cousin is around.
It is brother plus brother vs the cousin.
If an outsider is around.
It is the brother plus brother plus cousin vs the outsider.
When the outsider is vanquished
It is back to brothers vs the cousin.
When the cousin is vanquished
It back to brother vs brother.
This is a tribal reality
USA for the outsider
Pakistan for the cousin
Taliban, Non Taliban, Haqqanis, Old Taliban, Old Guard, National Resistance Front, IS K, Pashtuns, Tajiks, Hazaras, Uzbeks and all the ethnicities and tribes for the brothers.
That is the Afghanistan reality
The outsider stands vanquished.
Next will be the cousins turn
Thereafter the brothers will continue fighting with Naya Taliban in pole position
It will await the new outsider – China!
That is Afghanistan in future
Welcome to the Naya Geopolitical world of Naya Taliban created by Naya Pakistan. 01 Sep marks the beginning of a new geopolitical chapter with wide-ranging implications for the region. People are left to make their own choices about their future – ways, means and ends. USA has withdrawn ingloriously from this region. There will be recriminations and retrospection. Once that is over, USA will switch to a non-contact engagement mode with a smoking gun in order to seek redemption, revenge and homeland protection. That is a later day story. A greedy and ambitious China will eye the Naya pot of gold at the end of the rainbow which defines Afghanistan and Pakistan. Will it fill USA’s vacuum? It does not seem to have the stomach to do so yet. India has left the place in a hurry, which it must re-enter when the time comes, but must be wary of the issues involved. It is in this context we need to understand how the cards are stacked, in the swathe between Indus and Amu Darya which constitutes the lands of Naya Taliban and Naya Pakistan. More importantly the area in-between holds the key to the Naya future of both these entities.
Naya Pakistan is on a high of Afghan poppy having defeated a superpower again with jihadi snake poison. The last time it did so it went into an economic tailspin. Today it is in an inflationary spiral of sustained double-digit inflation (averaging 10.9% ). Naya Pakistan, a traditional food exporter has started importing wheat. At the beginning of the wheat sowing season it is facing serious shortage and has already resorted to rationing of water. This is important. Water is the werewolf which will ultimately devour Pakistan. Debt has reached 87% of its GDP. It borrows more to repay less. As per one of its own commentators “big currents of autocracy and extremism will reach us from all sides now, as we, a hybrid autocracy already, are now encircled by Sunni and Shia autocracies in the west, a Hindu extremist regime in the east and an atheist autocracy in the northeast”. Pakistan will not be disappointed. The snake will kill the charmer. Deliverance is round the corner. Till then It needs the US to get out of the FATF and IMF clutches. The US might not need it anymore. The West is already talking of a direct UN created aid pipeline into Afghanistan. Expectedly, Naya Pakistan is now indulging in unmistakable state sponsored nuclear and terror blackmail with their NSA ‘warning ’ of a second 9/11, if the West doesn’t recognise Taliban. Logically it should be sanctioned. However the West has enough idiots who love ‘Packistan’ and will ensure nothing is done. If the West has sense they should neuter Pakistan’s crown jewels – its nuclear arsenal. Chinese investments through Pakistan to exploit Afghan minerals is hype at best. The progress of CPEC and related terror attacks will make China think twice. Naya Pakistan’s other high end brand ambassadors besides Taliban like IS-K, Al Qaeda, TLP, JeM and LeT impose caution on everyone. Pakistan might be Naya but will continue with purana tricks. It will attempt to pass on a few Talibs to Kashmir at the first opportunity. All said and done Naya Pakistan of 200 million bankrupt purists have given themselves the prize of victory – 45 million Afghans in a humanitarian crisis presided by their Talibs. The hard reality is that Pakistan could get isolated and culled as a pariah. Oh I forgot! The Covid is still around taking its toll on Pakistan. The only problem is that even the Covid is scared of Taliban Khans Naya Pakistan.
The Old Taliban hung people from lamp posts. The Naya Taliban hangs them from helicopters. That seems to be the only difference between the two Talibans’ – the mode of hanging. All the comforting words and reassurances from Naya Taliban are being belied by their actions. They are simply proving to be untrustworthy so far. Naya Taliban has won the military and political battle to inherit a country on the brink of collapse. The Afghan economy was 40% aid dependant. Another 40% was overseas remittances. All this has been shut off by IMF and World Bank. Administrative offices and banks are being attempted to be re-opened. The bigger problem will be the unfolding humanitarian crisis. 1/3rd of the population is facing food insecurity. Food might run out by September. A food crisis is on the cards. More than half the population is below poverty levels. There are over 570000 internally displaced people during the past two months. Taliban is all set to lose the governance battle. To reiterate, unless it forms an inclusive government about which the West is convinced, it will not be able to avert a disaster. At the core, the Taliban is still a militant organisation with the old Taliban, Haqqani Network and recently won over ethnic Warlords forming a triumvirate. This triumvirate has to accommodate the old Guard of Hamid Karzai – Abdullah Abdullah combination and the Northern Resistance in the ‘inclusive’ government. This fledgling government has to contend with terror from IS K and Al Qaeda. Finally it has to dance to the tunes of its puppeteer – Naya Pakistan to survive. Taliban is cognisant of not letting Pakistan siphon the aid which is due to it. Hereafter it will be vulnerable to smuggling of its own revenue streams. Something has to give. It is wooing the Chinese desperately with promises of security it cannot keep. The Chinese are fully aware of this. No pigtailed Chinese will cook his noodles in Afghanistan based on Talibani promises despite Pakistani assurances. The chances of getting their Salami sliced are high. Already, it is apparent that Taliban wants to cut loose from Pakistani apron strings. There is huge muddle in Kabul. I will not be surprised if Afghanistan continues to plumb new depths of chaos and instability. The alternate seems to be getting back to Old Taliban ways of the stone ages. If Naya Taliban wants to succeed they must mend their ways. They might or not. Who knows.
The crux of the future lies in the nether land between Naya Pakistan and Naya Taliban. The Durand line is dotted with scores of the seminaries and madrassahs in Baluchistan and Khyber Pakhtunwa established by Zia ul Haq and co. half a century ago. These Harvards and Stanfords of radicalism have recruited, indoctrinated, trained and produced generations of jihadis. They will continue unabated in future. All these Pakistani seminaries, produce cadres for the Taliban, TTP, Al Qaeda, ETIM, IS-K, LeT , JeM, Haqqani Network and all conceivable groups. The cadres have been fungible between groups. Their leaders have had interwoven career paths much like corporate executives with full-fledged accreditation, accommodation, interoperability and cooperation. The jihadi groups have bases either side of Durand line. Afghan groups have bases in Pakistan. Pakistani groups have bases in Afghanistan. Transnational groups straddle the Line. Now, Pashtuns of Afghanistan have historically stoked nationalism in their Pakistani brethren. Pakistan has always treated the Baloch as second rate citizens. The result was an unstable western frontier with cycles of low level insurgency. The seminaries and the jihadi system were double purposed. While they were the main indoctrination and recruitment centres for the Mujahideen Jihad against USSR, they were also purposed to direct Pashtun nationalism towards Afghanistan , away from Pakistan. Later, these became the main recruitment centres for Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The system has also ended up stoking radical ideology, Pashtun nationalism and Baloch separatism. All this has been reinforced by the Talibani victory. Currently neither Naya Taliban nor Naya Pakistan can undermine this system or the area. It has attainedautarky. Simultaneously, the brutality of the Pakistani Army evidenced by an increasing list of missing persons, its propensity to use maximum force (including air force) to settle insurgency and utter neglect of the area has only solidified alienation of the border inhabitants. That is why one sees a simultaneous eruption of violent and non-violent movements for Pashtun rights in the form of TTP and PTM in Pakistan. On the other side, as Taliban becomes political and legal, it will leave a void in its illegal drug and smuggling pipe line. Other groups will now prey on this lucre to grow. This growth will be accelerated by the return of transnational champions of jihad who are already making a beeline to Afghanistan. Here is the cinch. If Taliban curbs ETIM and TTP at the behest of China and Pakistan , these groups could gravitate to either IS K or Al Qaeda to weaken Taliban. Currently IS-K might not be strong to pose an existential threat to the Taliban. However, it has the capability to stage deadly attacks to destabilise Taliban’s consolidation. If ETIM and TTP join hands with IS K , a weakened Taliban could get derailed. On the other hand, if TTP and ETIM are given a free hand, Pakistan and China will be always well disposed towards Taliban. View it from any direction. Taliban will be to Pakistan and China what Pakistan has been to the rest of the world. It will be a victim and sponsor of terror in this autarkic world of Jihad/ radicalism/ terror. Naya Taliban will start playing Naya Pakistan and China. It will need counterbalances. However , watch out for the radical spill over into India.
It is in this unfolding fluidity that India must take a call. When should it return to Afghanistan? It is not a matter of ‘if’ but ‘when’. Not returning will be ceding strategic depth to Pakistan. That would have repercussions on our core national interests including strengthening the Sino-Pakistan nexus. Returning there means making China and Pakistan look towards the West at one level. At another we will be enhancing the people to people connect with the Afghans who have always reposed total faith in India. That will also increase India’s influence in the region. However, returning in haste puts Indian lives at risk since the Pakistani puppeteers of Taliban will take a toll on us. Further Taliban itself might not be able to extend itself beyond a point at this stage. However, the indications are clear. All Afghans less Taliban will be relieved whenever India is back. Even the Taliban has given sufficient indication through media and back channels that it wants India back, it knows that Pakistan will not build roads and dams in Afghanistan when it needs China to build them in their own country. It needs recognition from India and will eventually welcome it back as a counterbalance to China and Pakistan. The cards as they are stacked are clear. India should not hesitate to engage Taliban. The engagement could be as part of the international community or bilaterally. We can aid the Afghan people even without going there. We can even help the new administration by training them at our public institutes of governance and administration. We need to build a trustable environment to ensure security before we venture to step into Kabul. We need to remember that there are no permanent enemies or friends only permanent interests. Our permanent interests are in the people of Afghanistan. The Naya Taliban is a temporary phenomenon we will have to handle. In all cases we must to listen to the ‘talk’ but look closely at the ‘walk’ and then make a move. It is also time to focus on Pakistan and turn the screws. Make them look east and west simultaneously only to see the vulnerable middle ground vanish. Water, CPEC, economy, societal imbalances and terror are part of this weak middle ground. There are many geopolitical and political screws to turn. What I do not find in our discourse is how to pin Pakistan down. I would prefer that instead of the constant hand wringing lament in the media that we have lost. Just think…India has successfully exited Afghanistan with all its people and reputation intact. Our economy seems to have shrugged its ghost off. We remain strong in an environment of global uncertainty. Hence, I conclude with a thought….
Pakistan is boasting
Pakistan defeated USSR with USA
Pakistan defeated USA with USA
the time has come
Pakistan must be defeated by Pakistan
It will do a world of good to the world
Let us think positively
PS : – A sincere thanks to all those who make these wonderful cartoons which I have unashamedly plagiarised.
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