Khaled Ahmed: Pakistan has sought to appease terrorism by becoming anti-American and pro-Taliban. [The coming blowback]

Pakistan after the American withdrawal

By Khaled Ahmed

Most observers are worried about Afghanistan after the withdrawal of US-Nato forces from there in 2013-2014. It should be interesting to see what would happen to Pakistan once the Americans are gone.

Islamabad’s Jinnah Institute in its briefing (July 25, 2011) spelled out Pakistan’s ‘objectives’ in relation to post-withdrawal Afghanistan. The most outstanding point made in the report pertained to India: “Pakistani foreign policy elite accept that India has a role to play in Afghanistan’s economic reconstruction … but Pakistani security establishment [thinks] a reluctance to address Pakistani misgivings increases the likelihood of a growing Indian footprint, and in turn, New Delhi’s greater ability to manipulate the endgame negotiations and the post-settlement dispensation in Kabul”.

Will India get out of Afghanistan after the American withdrawal? From a statement by the Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh (“we will support the Afghan people”), it appears that it plans to retain its presence in Afghanistan.

The most likely post-withdrawal scenario is that there will be a civil war in Afghanistan. A parallel war will take place between the Afghan National Army and the non-state actors from Pakistan. The US commander in Afghanistan, General John Allen, has told Congress he thought a future 230,000-strong Afghan force, scaled down from a planned 352,000, was enough after 2017. That will historically be the largest army Afghanistan will ever have.

Ahmed Rashid in his latest book Pakistan on the Brink: The Future of Pakistan and the West (Allen Lane 2012) discusses the Afghan Army: “US recruitment policy includes a strict ratio established in 2003 among all ethnic groups. Thus Tajiks could not be over 25 per cent in the army, but in 2010 they constituted some 41 per cent of soldiers and officers in the army, while Tajik officers commanded 70 per cent of the units (P 87).

The Taliban will have 25,000 men, counting on the basis of the maximum mustered so far. The uneven battlefield will be ‘equalised’ by inserting additional fighters from Pakistan. The Tehreek-e-Taliban will raid across the Durand Line, but the manpower it mobilises may not suffice.

Pakistan expects Afghan Taliban, the Haqqani network, Hekmatyar’s Hizb-i-Islami, ragtag warlords of Fata and Malakand to battle an Afghan Army already inclined to defection. But manpower will still be needed to even the scales and speed up defections. The Taliban will be helped by the Punjabi Taliban, of which the Asian Tigers are already aligned to the Haqqanis. The Defence of Pakistan Council headed by the powerful Jamaatud Dawa (JuD) will oblige with more Punjabi manpower. The JuD leader Hafiz Saeed allegedly says he alone can muster 100,000.

Pakistan is home to the armies that will enter Afghanistan but it hardly controls them. Therefore, the blowback from Afghanistan this time will be transformational for Pakistan. It may not survive the ‘fundraising’ by its non-state actors through kidnappings and bank robberies in its major cities. This trend among the state-supported jihadi outfits has been in evidence.

The Taliban in Pakistan have been criminalised. In affected areas, criminals are in the process of becoming Talibanised. Vendettas are carried out increasingly with suicide bombers because Taliban are busy selling their surplus fedayeen. Karachi and Peshawar are already paralysed by kidnappings for ransom. From the current trend in its Defence Housing Authority, Lahore too, is expected to be targeted in a big away.

Pakistan has sought to appease terrorism by becoming anti-American and pro-Taliban. After the withdrawal, a Talibanised Afghanistan will survive only if Pakistan, too, fulfils its promise of becoming a khilafat.

The policy of appeasement will proceed to its logical end. The remaining attributes of the state will fall off, with religious parties, plus madrassas with jihadi capacity, increasingly exercising authority in its name.

Courtesy: The Express Tribune, April 22nd, 2012.

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