The contemporary world is rapidly changing with the power transformations, formation and deformation of alliances, economic and security engagements, partnerships and evolving dimensions of terrorism threats. Since the withdrawal of the US after twenty years of war, the situation in Afghanistan has changed quickly and abruptly. The rapid seizure of power by the Taliban and absence of resistance by Afghan soldiers and government raised many questions regarding the law and order situation of Afghanistan. In this context, regional security and terrorism would be the biggest threat in the coming years.
In addition, transnational extremism, opium/heroin trade, refugee influx and weaponization are the major concerns that have the potential to further deteriorate the situation and have serious security implications in the region. Regional powers and the international community have been concerned that there should not be a civil war again in Afghanistan. It should not be home to extremists and terrorist entities. The hasty US withdrawal without any concrete plan of development in a war-torn country and no counter-terrorism actions and policy would give space to other factions like TTP, ISIS, BLA and ISKP (Islamic State Khorasan Province).
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A situation of uncertainty and instability in the region
Hence, it’s a major concern for all regional and international peace stakeholders that the Taliban led the Afghan government’s ability to control the terrorist organizations and to not let anyone use Afghan soil for harboring terrorism and extremism.
The deteriorating security situation in ungoverned spaces occupied by terrorist entities can be used by spoilers like India and the former intelligence agency of Afghanistan’s puppet government NDS. On the other side, the Al-Qaeda operatives in their recent interviews warned that “war against the US will be continuing on all other fronts unless they are expelled from the rest of the Islamic world”. This could have severe consequences for the peace in Afghanistan and the overall security situation of the region.
Moreover, recently ISIS-K an Afghanistan-based terror group has claimed responsibility for the bomb blast in which more than 100 Afghan civilians and 13 US servicemen died near Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul when US forces were providing humanitarian assistance for evacuation. A former Afghan security official said, “Afghanistan has now become the Las Vegas of the terrorists, of the radicals and of the extremists”. And after the attack, US officials say they are preparing to combat both immediate and longer-term terrorist challenges in Afghanistan. In this situation, TTP and ISKP have reached an operational understanding to join forces for proxies and spread militancy in order to carry out attacks in Pakistan. Hence, the security situation in the region is quite alarming.
Keeping in view this scenario, India’s involvement in Afghanistan for destabilizing Pakistan through militancy and proxies must not be neglected. Though it evacuated its embassies from Afghanistan yet it had an investment of $3 billion dollars for developmental and intelligence projects. It also provided scholarships to Afghan students and cadets which they can also use for their ambitions. But since the Taliban took control India’s political and security establishment faces fears for its interests and financial stakes in Afghanistan. Some see it as a loss for India and a win for Pakistan. As famously said, there is nothing permanent in international politics except interests. Power and interests are the maker and breakers of alliances and enemies.
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Multiple factions of the Taliban that exist in Afghanistan
Another important element that needs attention is that there are multiple factions of the Taliban that exist in Afghanistan. Approximately five to six are currently operating. First is the Doha Group in which the Mullah brothers and the company included. They are educated, progressive people. Neo- Taliban, a term coined recently for the educated and moderate ones. Some of them have gone through difficult times in prisons and custody of Pakistan. They are the ones who want and somehow bring peace through political negotiations and they are slightly moderate in their approach in handling matters at this moment after a long struggle against foreign occupation and war.
They are the ones who were openly committed to the United States that we will not allow anyone to misuse Afghan territory for terrorist activities. Then comes the second faction of the Taliban, Haibutullah who had families in Pakistan. Then the third ones, who are the organized Pakistan syndicates. They were producing heroin and hashish and making money out of it. Basically, they support the Taliban financially but this group has its own interests and motives. By appearance, they have long beards and wear turbans but they are not the real Taliban. They are the ones who make money and are financiers of the Taliban. The fourth one is the young insurgent groups.
According to a recent study, they are 50% of Afghan youth were born after 2000. Hence, this new generation is not aware of what actually happened in the 1990s. The majority of them are unemployed and they are taught to fight against any foreign occupation of their land whether they are Britishers, Soviets and now Americans. These young Afghans are basically the front soldiers and a separate entity. Therefore, the Taliban are multiple groups that have their own interests and goals. Taliban who is controlling the regime is figuring out a way to consolidate all the groups because they are also threatened by the group led by Daesh or ISIS of Iraq and Syria which is ISKP.
It is important to mention here that they are not Arabs and also not outsiders unlike the Afghan Jihad of the 1980s when people came for jihad all over the world. These are the extremist’s faction of Tehreek e Taliban Pakistan (Lashkar-e-Jhangvi) and some of them are those Afghan Taliban’s who do not appreciate US-Taliban negotiations.
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Afghan Taliban have a narrow view of peace talks
Hence, in this situation, if the Taliban regime projects themselves as progressive and adopts moderate policies this might lose further members of their ranks to the group of ISKP. If they try to combine all the factions of Taliban groups then they have to act in a harsher way which would create a hindrance in their recognition in the international community. Afghanistan has a large territory and the local groups could exploit the situation of instability and insecurity as they are likely to re-start operations in Afghanistan.
Terrorism has a negative impact on the economy, security and peace of countries and regions. It always undermines the rule of law, justice and creates instability. Afghanistan never operated as a peaceful nation-state. It has a long history of wars, internal conflicts, foreign occupation and religious extremism and terrorism. Regionally, Pakistan is the most affected country due to all the instability and insecurity in war-torn Afghanistan. Pakistan, in the past, faced severe repercussions financially, individually and institutionally.
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So, considering it, political engagement with the Taliban regime is significant in order to bring peace in the country and subsequently in the region. Countries should recognize and incentivize the Taliban and give them an opportunity to engage the world and support them to control the situation. In this regard, options for Pakistan are limited as it is at the helm of the devil and the deep blue sea. Pakistan needs to look into its security strategy towards Afghanistan to remain on the safe side.
The writer is an MS Scholar of Strategic Studies at Air University Islamabad. Graduate of Defense and Diplomatic Studies from FJWU. The views expressed in the article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.