Implications of A Permanently Disrupted Afghanistan

Implications of A Permanently Disrupted Afghanistan
Since the Taliban resurgence and coming to power in Afghanistan, the whole region is facing a new wave of rampant militancy and violence. The Islamist and jihadist ideology of the Afghan Taliban has greatly encouraged religious extremists – both across Pakistan and Afghanistan.

The conglomerates of the Afghan Taliban are already suffering from the worst insecurity and attacks by militants particularly the Islamic State - Khorasan Province (ISKP). Along with economic crisis, complete political instability, pathetic infrastructure, religious fanaticism, unemployment and brain drain, the rising militant attacks are threats not only to the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, but also to Pakistan’s national and regional security interests.

Intra-Taliban conflicts and divisions over power-sharing are the leading factors that have brought Afghanistan to a state of rampant insecurity. The imposition of controversial and rigid laws, ban on girls’ education, persecution of opponents, stubbornness over traditional religious principles and growing lawlessness have divided the Taliban’s key leadership for the last few months. There are even reliable reports that the Haqqani Network has contacts with the IS-KP in Afghanistan to put pressure on the Kandahari group of the Taliban for getting key power positions in Kabul.

Recently, Kabul-based journalist Mirwais Afghan tweeted that “there is fear of a coup [against] Mullah Hibatullah by Mullah Yaqub and Sheikh Haqqani. The city of Kandahar has turned into [a] military zone, and the security of the city has been handed over to the Norzai and Sargzai Taliban. Mullah Hibatullah's security affairs have been handed over to Helmand’s Governor Mullah Talib Sagzai.” This is a very alarming situation – needless to say, endangering not only Afghanistan and the entire regional security.

Politically imagined Afghanistan is the heart of Asia. Rudyard Kipling called Afghanistan the epicentre for Great Game rivalries among the great powers. Unstable Afghanistan is a threat to the stability of Central and South Asia. The region will remain unstable unless regional and extra regional states help Afghanistan to ensure stability, security and integrity. In other words, disturbed Afghanistan means disturbed Asia.

The regional stability question would be of particular interest to China. If China wants to emerge as a world superpower, it has to stabilise Afghanistan, otherwise, China’s quest for a bigger global role will turn into a nightmare. Strategically, Afghanistan connects Central Asia, South Asia and the Middle East. If China wants safe and easy passage to the aforementioned regions as well as the Arabian Sea, it has to focus on stability of Afghanistan.

The interests of Islamabad and Beijing are shared and mutual. Afghanistan has direct impacts on China’s Belt Road Initiative(BRI), particularly the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). The threat of the TTP’s vibrant resurgence is the principal factor which may cripple the security, economic and strategic interests of both states. Chinese authorities have already informed Pakistan about the security concerns which may threaten the viability of CPEC projects.

Undeniably, with the Taliban’s arrival in Afghanistan, the TTP in Pakistan has emerged with a new strength, and is operating in a very dynamic and strategic approach. The TTP has not only ideological ties with the Afghan Taliban, but they have always supported each other militarily. In 2007, talks between Pakistan and TTP were also held with the help of Mullah Muhammad Umar and Mullah Dadullah. The then Commander of the TTP Abdullah Mehsud (known as lame Abdullah) had understandably cordial relations with the Afghan Taliban.

According to a Pakistan Institute of Peace Studies(PIPS) report, security personnel have remained the principal target of most of the militant attacks carried out by the TTP in the last two years. In only a few of their attacks have they targeted civilians.

Recently, right after ending the ceasefire with security forces of Pakistan, the TTP has categorically intensified its attacks. Last week, the militants had taken hostage the entire station of the Counter Terrorism Department (CTD) in Bannu District of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and demanded safe passage to Afghanistan. The government conducted an operation by Special Services Group (SSG) commandos of the Pakistan Army to wrest back control of that facility.

The ongoing fresh wave of militant attacks across the country in general and the Pashtun belt in particular is a threat to an already fragile security situation. Since the 9/11 incident, Pakistan has been suffering from economic, political and security problems. The rise of militancy will further sabotage the disrupted state of peace and stability.

Additionally, the rising attacks of the TTP and its cooperation with Baloch separatists will surely add more fuel to the fire of insurgency in Balochistan. Hostile states are also looking for an opportunity to sabotage CPEC and Pakistan’s national security interests.

Regional powers, particularly China, Russia Pakistan, Iran and Tajikistan, need to cooperate and focus on Afghanistan for regional stability. The implications of a disrupted Afghanistan will be menacing for all parties concerned.

Rahim Nasar is an Islamabad-based security and political analyst. He tweets @RahimNasari