Former Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, who was deposed last April in a US-orchestrated post-modern coup as punishment for his independent foreign policy (especially for refusing to host US bases and strengthening relations with Russia), warned on Tuesday that continued Pakistani-Taliban tensions can lead to another never-ending war. The dangerous security dilemma between them risks erupting into a conventional conflict due to the Afghan Taliban hosting anti-Pakistani TTP terrorists.
Instead of resorting to proactive cross-border kinetic means for defending his country’s objective national security interests, the former premier suggests prioritizing diplomatic measures and only employing limited military ones in parallel with that if needed. He also blamed his US-installed successors for the spree of terrorism that followed his overthrow, claiming that they neglected their responsibilities for political reasons and unrealistically expected local police to deal with these threats.
Understanding the matter better
In the event that Pakistan commences a “special military operation” in Afghanistan like its post-modern coup regime very strongly implied last week is in the cards, then former Prime Minister Khan is worried that it might end badly. That’s because he warned that the newfound terrorist threat is qualitatively different than the one that the armed forces successfully defeated in the past since it’s comprised of battle-hardened fighters who also wield those Western weapons that were left in Afghanistan in 2021.
Another point that the ousted leader drew attention to was the near certainty of already unprecedentedly intense internal discord being further exacerbated in the scenario of Pakistan seeking military help from the US through drone strikes. It’s with these concerns in mind that he strongly recommended that the post-modern coup regime exercise extreme caution in terms of how they proceed with tackling contemporary terrorist threats.
Former Prime Minister Khan’s assessment of everything is accurate since it’s indeed the case that continued Pakistani-Taliban tensions could easily spiral into another never-ending war. At least $7 billion worth of Western weapons were officially left behind in Afghanistan, so his warning about newfound terrorist threats being qualitatively different than in the past is credible. Not only that, but he’s also right about these fighters being battle-hardened after they directly contributed to the US’ loss in that war.
While the Pakistan Armed Forces would indisputably have air superiority in any potential special operation, there’s only so much that such strikes can do to stop cross-border terrorist threats. A ground operation of some sort might follow in order to sustain the immediate gains achieved by any air campaign, but that’s fraught with serious risks for the abovementioned reasons. In the event that the US militarily assists Pakistan in any direct way, then unrest might organically erupt behind the front lines.
The locals in that country’s border regions detest America for its literally hundreds of drone strikes against them over the last two decades that killed an estimated 2,500-4,000 people. In fact, those attacks were one of the reasons why some of them became radicalized and jointed terrorist groups like the TTP in order to carry out revenge against their own government for allowing this to happen. Former Prime Minister Khan therefore has legitimate grounds for warning against more US drone strikes.
The worst-case scenario is that Pakistan launches even just a limited ground operation into Afghanistan together with relying on US drone strikes either across the border or within its own. That could immediately set into motion the fast-moving sequence of events that results in the never-ending war that the ousted leader is so concerned about since it would risk ruining Pakistani-Taliban relations for the indefinite future as well as radicalizing countless more of his country’s own locals along the frontier.
The way forward
The socio-political and security dynamics unleashed by that scenario would doom those two to a self-sustaining cycle of mutual instability for the foreseeable future as each wage HybridWar against the other until one of them is finally exhausted. All of South Asia would suffer in the process, and thus by extent every responsible Eurasian stakeholder in the emerging Multipolar World Order, while the US would strategically benefit by dividing and ruling this pivotal region of the supercontinent.
Pakistan already lost more than 70,000 people and at least $150 billion over the past two decades due to its role as the US’ regional proxy in Washington’s so-called “Global War on Terror”, which it can’t afford to lose again, let alone in the context of its presently cascading economic, financial, political, and security crises catalyzed by last April’s post-modern coup. It’s therefore incomparably weaker than before and thus might seriously struggle to survive in this worst-case scenario.
With these dire warnings in mind, the best-case scenario would be for Pakistan to ensure its objective national security interests by focusing on the home front with respect to reinforcing border security alongside rooting out terrorist sleeper cells. This could be accompanied by the diplomatic measures that former Prime Minister Khan suggests for resolving the dangerous Pakistani-Taliban security dilemma. Hopefully, there are still some reasonable folks in The Establishment who’ll listen to him.
Andrew Korybko is a Moscow-based American political analyst, radio host, and regular contributor to several online outlets. He specializes in Russian affairs and geopolitics, specifically the US strategy in Eurasia. The article has been republished and the views expressed in the article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.