The spectacular victory of Taliban in freeing their Country from foreign occupation forces
and their stooges has taken everyone by surprise. My selection of words in the opening
sentence may have irked many. So let me first acknowledge that we know very well and
understand that the attack by US and Coalition Forces was approved by UNSC
Resolution and supported by the world at large, thus legitimate and just. But what about
continuous changing of objectives and goal posts ? Without going into the details and
taxing the readers, suffice to say that the whole exercise of Allied Forces in Afghanistan
became illegitimate the moment there was deviation from the UN approved purpose.
Anyway this is not our main subject.
Is it a military miracle that Taliban pulled in Afghanistan ? Definitely not , but strategic
brilliance was also a part of the entire episode . I would rather term it as a ‘Politico
Military’ coup . It also carried with it mastery in Psychological and Intelligence Operations.
They managed to do all this in the absence of any support from International Media. So
let us dissect various aspects of this magic.
Reading of the Situation : The first to go wrong were Americans, UK and Allies, who
undermined the Taliban’s prowess and believed in much exaggerated Afghan Govt
Forces’ abilities. Probably US after taking the decision to exit, couldn’t care less what
happens to Afghan Government and its forces. Ashraf Ghani was confident about the
strong Afghan Armed Forces equipped to the teeth with the most modern military
hardware including night fighting capabilities, modern helicopters and combat aircrafts.
Afghan Taliban left nothing to chance . They kept themselves very busy in making Pre war
political preparations through clandestine meetings with all important personalities in all
provinces , probably employing stick and carrot pressures.
Comparative Strategies : Taliban at the very outset of operations first absorbed all the
relatively empty spaces and communication arteries, followed by entry and exit points all
along the international border and finally went for the important cities and provincial
headquarters, leaving Kabul for the final Coup de Grace. And most of this happened
without much of fighting , more with the help of talking and activating sleeper supporters.
The lightening speed with which they defeated the reluctant Afghan National Army is mind
boggling, defies all military logic, and can only be termed as a POLITICO-MILITARY
On the other hand the Afghan Army that was well equipped and trained but poorly led
with no motivation to fight in the absence of any worthwhile national purpose, was
dispersed in small penny packets void of strong air support. Afghan soldiers were also
not happy with the behavior of occupation forces with them and their fellow citizens. The
corrupt to the core Ashraf Ghani’s setup was also no inspiration for the Afghan people
and the soldiers. The way Taliban was greeted at places further lowered the morale of
Taliban enjoyed the overwhelming support of the people in most of the areas . This can
be amply deduced from two facts, one that such a large freedom struggle against the
strongest armies of the world cannot succeed without the masses providing shelter and
logistics. And secondly such speed of operations freeing city after city cannot happen
without the local support.
Taliban on Trial : Taking over the Country from an existing regime that was weak due to
lack of independent working space , relied heavily on US economic ,military and
administrative support and on top of it was highly corrupt, may not have been very
difficult. But cobbling up an inclusive Government, in such a politically and ethnically
diversified Country would be an Herculean task, and may take some time. Then creating
or strengthening an effective governance infrastructure and running it against a plethora
of contesting and conflicting interests would be another big challenge. On the foreign
policy front to get initial recognition by enough number of countries enabling the new
regime to get international legitimacy and right of representing Afghanistan at UN and
other global forums would be another diplomatic difficulty. Taliban has made numerous
pledges to alleviate some strong apprehensions the world over. Harbouring terrorists or
providing them safe havens , attitude towards working women and their dress codes, girls
education etc are the leading questions that are being asked due to worlds memory
about the last time Taliban was in power.
Taliban’s two spokespersons Zabihullah Mujahid and Sohail Shaheen have been working
and speaking over and over again giving assurances that without abandoning their
original faith the modus operandi this time would be very different and in line with the
expectations of international community. There are some indicators also that give positive
signals. The fact that Taliban by and large adhered to the clauses of Agreement signed
with US ( though Americans violated the agreed timelines), avoided much bloodshed,
granted amnesty to nearly all and are allowing a peaceful exit of foreigners and their
Afghan helpers in spite of enjoying a good control nearly all over the country including
Kabul except Panjsher Valley, speaks volumes about a sea change in their attitude.
Continuation of such benevolent and peaceful behaviour may get them international
recognition and internal support , two very important ingredients required to help them
settle as legitimate rulers. Some riots related to resistance to change of National Flag etc
has been observed but were swiftly controlled. Protests by women for their rights were
also allowed and remained peaceful.
But the moment the detractors of peace (very much there) both internal and external ,
get a breathing space they will start spewing venom and may also resort to false flag
actions to create rifts and misunderstandings in an already fragmented society. Purpose
would be to initiate a civil war or large resistance movement. Assassinations of some key
figures to further their nefarious designs cannot be ruled out. Taliban need to be wary of
such characters, entities and countries. Already disinformation campaign is picking up
that Taliban is carrying out door to door search to smoke out intelligence operators
supporting the erstwhile regime. Few casualties attributed to Taliban firing is being blown
up whereas none talking about the callous US action of a Military Plane taking off in spite
of knowing that all the twenty odd Afghans clinging outside the body would definitely be
killed, and that is exactly what happened. All lost their lives in cold blood. But who cares
when Americans are the killers.
Implications For Pakistan : If peace and comparative tranquility returns to Afghanistan,
that seems probable this time, it will have huge positive influences on the entire Region of
Central Asia, West Asia and South Asia. Pakistan needs to prepare for this enormous
opportunity as it would require agility and organised focused endeavors to benefit from
unprecedented economic activity waiting in the wings. Connectivity likely to improve, BRI
and CPEC will start bubbling with commerce and industrial activities. Trans-border
movements , people to people contacts, education, arts likely to flourish. The negative
impacts that were envisioned earlier pertaining to high influx of refugees and increase in
cross border terrorism are quite unlikely. Except those who find these times an excellent
opportunity to move for greener pastures, thus long queues in Kabul to leave for greener
pastures in Europe and USA , create a pathetic sight. Allow a visa free departure in any
poor country and see what happens. Much longer queues and more desperate attempts
to board for free rides will happen.
However certain Islamist Groups can get inspired and start asserting themselves with
more vigour. As long as these activities are within political domain, there should be no
worry. Any show of muscles can be conveniently taken care of by State Institutions. So all
said and done , impact on the region and Pakistan is likely to be positive and reassuring.
Reading The Tarot Cards : It seems Taliban will succeed to form an inclusive
Government within few weeks. First group of countries likely to recognize would be
Russia,China, Iran,Pakistan, Turkey, few CARs etc. It will be quickly followed by many
European, African and South American nations those who would not like to miss the boat.
US, Canada, Australia, Japan, India and UK with some allied countries may take some
time , but they would also not like to leave the arena for Russo-China Group uncontested.
Economic competition may also bring with it certain intrigues and destabilizing efforts,
but if the future Afghan Government keeps a firm control over the events and steers its
economic and political policies well, they may be supervising over an emerging
international market with unprecedented economic activity.
KEEPING OUR FINGERS CROSSED
Lt. Gen. (R) Naeem Khalid Lodhi
The writer is a Former Defence Minister and Defence Secretary. He is the Chairman of Think Tank ‘Council on Global Policy’. He has held major command positions in the Pakistan Army. He is also the member of Advisory Board, Content Board and Consultant on Defence Strategy of Global Times Pakistan.