Will this Election Create a Multi-Country Zone of Conflict?

No, we don’t mean the election in India that begins in two days. The election in India has been well covered both by us and by every major paper in India & USA. Today, we focus on the election in what has been the door to India since the beginning of Indian culture. Yes, we mean the election in Afghanistan. Why do we focus on it today? Because of three events that took place this past week – events that could draw in Iran, Saudi Arabia and possibly America & Russia.

First a step back. Afghanistan was partitioned by Britain in 1893 into North Afghanistan (today’s Afghanistan) and South Afghanistan (today’s Khyber-Pakhtunkhawa, previously called North West Frontier Province by Britain). This partition divided Pakhtuns (Pashtuns) into two separate countries, Afghanistan and NonPakistan*. Our basic tenet has been that the current conflict between the Taleban & the two governments is for removal of US occupying forces and for reunification of Pakhtuns into one country under one rule. This was a lonely stand when we enunciated it in 2008 but now it is entering the mainstream of analysis.

                                             

The above was a fairly simple and historically consistent stand back in 2008-2010. At that time, the Taleban were fighting the Afghan government with the support of the NonPakistani (“NPak” for short) government which gave them sanctuaries and tactical cum weapons support. We have been convinced that the predominantly Pakhtun Taleban (called Afghani Taleban) were primarily nationalist and they would turn on the Panjabi NPak army once they win in Afghanistan. As we said, simple & clean.

Not so now. Because the last couple of years have seen the emergence of a different Taleban whose focus is to attack the NPak government using sanctuaries on the Af-NPak line of control (Durand line). This new Taleban, called Pakistani Taleban for short, is not nationalist but an Al Qaeda like organization that wants to establish an Islamic state in NPak.

So now we have two governments, Afghan & NPak, that are in a state of semi-conflict and two different Taleban, Afghani & Pakistani, with support from the two governments – the Afghani Taleban fighting the Afghan government with active NPak Government support and the Pakistani Taleban fighting the NPak government with some support from the Afghan government. In other words, two neighboring governments that hate each other and support insurgencies/terrorists against each other.

The only thing missing until now is a conflict between the two Taleban groups. That changed this week.


1. Afghani Taleban vs. Pakistani Taleban 

According to the Pahjwok Afghan News of Kabul, a fierce clash erupted between the Afghani & Pakistani Taleban on Friday, April 4. The article states:

  • “A fierce clash is ongoing between Afghan and Pakistani Taliban in southeastern Paktika province, the National Directorate of Security (NDS) said on Friday.In a statement, the intelligence service said a number of Pakistani Taliban had crossed the Durand Line into the province to stage attacks on elections day.” (emphasis ours)
  • “It said the Pakistani Taliban had been locked in a gunbattle with the Afghan militants after crossing the porous border. The fighting was ongoing till 3:30pm. Heavy casualties were inflicted on Pakistani Taliban and most of them were pushed back to their positions across the Durand Line.” (emphasis ours)

So the Afghani Taleban prevented the Pakistani Taleban from disrupting the election in Afghanistan even though the Afghani Taleban are itself staging attacks on the same election? Is this a case of “it is ok for us to attack our election but we will be damned if we let you guys attack it“? Or is attacking the election simply a ruse for territorial grab by Pakistani Taleban from the Afghani Taleban?

The statement from the Afghan Intelligence service seems proud of the Afghani Taleban killing the Pakistani Taleban even though the Afghan Government is fighting the Afghani Taleban and helping the Pakistani Taleban attack the NPak government. Weird! 

            
                                                (src – Pahjwok Afghan News)


2. This week’s order from President Hamid Karzai

Notice that the above article specifically uses the British-imposed term “Durand Line” instead of calling it the border. This is in adherence, as Stratfor reports, to an “order this week from Karzai to all government agencies to refer to the country’s eastern border with Pakistan as the Durand Line and not a normal border, reviving the historic Afghan position that they do not recognize the 19th century line drawn by the British“.

Remember that the Afghani Taleban have never recognized the Durand Line as a valid border and they have crossed it with abandon for the past 30 years or more. President Karzai’s position is not new. The Afghan Government terminated its 19th century treaty with British-ruled India in 1949 as we recall.

But why issue such a provocative order now? We know that President Karzai is trying to become more acceptable to the Afghani Taleban and currently negotiating a peace-like accord with them. So is this order like a call to the proverbial “brother vs. brother but brother with brother against the cousin” custom? In other words, Afghani brothers unite to fight the NPakistani cousins?

And how would the NPak government react? If Karzai’s war cry meets with some resonance in the Afghani Taleban, would the NPak government choose to join the Pakistani Taleban against their Afghan cousins? Is that the reason the Pakistani Taleban crossed into Afghanistan and fought with the Afghani Taleban? Is becoming more Islamic to suit the Pakistani Taleban a better solution for the NPak government than contemplating reunification of the Pakhtuns that the Afghani Taleban want?

Of course, the above assumes that the fighters that tried to cross into Afghanistan were really Pakistani Taleban and not NPak troops in disguise. This is after all a region where changing organizational affiliation is as eas
y as changing jerseys. 

All this is happening in spite of the presence of U.S. troops. What will happen to this four-party conflict when the U.S. forces leave?


3. Enter Iran from lower left

Iran has always been a presence in the mainly Shia areas of Northwestern Afghanistan. That makes the passionately Sunni and consequently anti-Shia Taleban an enemy of Iran. Iran is expected to support the old Northern alliance of Tajik, Uzbeck & Hazara communities of Afghanistan against the Pakhtuns.

Russia,Tajikistan, Uzbekistan are expected to support Iran in the fight against Pakhtun dominance in post-US Afghanistan. Even China is likely to support this alliance because of Chinese fears of Sunni Uighur insurgents entering China’s Xinjiang province from a Taleban-dominated Afghanistan. On the other hand, Saudi Arabia is supports the Taleban through NPak as a part of the Saudi-Iran conflict. All this is in the upper left of NonPakistan.

If this were not enough, this week a new crisis with Iran erupted in the lower left province of NonPakistan. This Balochistan province was seized by the British from Iran and given to NonPakistan in the 1947 partition of India. This province now has the local Baloch fighting the NPak government for their freedom and other insurgent/terrorist Sunni groups like Jaish Al-Adl fighting the Iranian government.

The Jaish Al-Adl group has captured five Iranian border guards and summarily executed one of these. The Iranian president Hassan Rouhani is under pressure to allow Iranian Revolutionary Guards to strike Jaish Al-Adl sanctuaries inside NonPakistan as retaliation. According to Stratfor, Iran is convinced that Jaish Al-Adl are agents of Saudi Arabia and NonPakistan is tolerating or supporting Jaish Al-Adl because it is desperately dependent on Saudi financial support. Therefore, as Stratfor writes,”the Iranians have an incentive to fire a warning shot to the Pakistanis, a shot that could come in the form of a cross-border security operation“.

That would be serious because NPak government has been zealous about protecting its territory from hot pursuits of terrorists.

4. A zone of conflict?

Look at this state that calls itself Pak-i-stan or “Land of the Spiritually Pure”,

  • a state that houses 6th largest population in the world with 180 million people,
  • a state with the 4th largest nuclear weapons arsenal in the world,
  • a state that is nearly bankrupt financially,
  • a state in conflict with its northern neighbor Afghanistan that is in even more trouble,
  • a state that faces an intense terrorism battle within its borders with an Al-Qaeda type group, and,
  • now a state that has become a battleground between Saudi Arabia and Iran.

This is the situation when U.S. Forces are still in Afghanistan. What happens when U.S. leaves Afghanistan with a new Afghan President in power, a president that could be more anti-NPak than Karzai?

This is why we have argued for ever that Afghanistan is of great strategic importance to America, even more strategic than NonPakistan. And this is why Stratfor’s Robert Kaplan writes in his article From Beijing to Jerusalem – The creation of a mega-zone of conflict:

  • “Indeed, Afghanistan in terms of strategic geography is like Myanmar: a universal joint for two or more antiquated Cold War-era regions, linking the Middle East, Central Asia, South Asia and East Asia via ripple effects felt in western China.”

And what might happen to NonPakistan? Robert Kaplan writes:

  • “Pakistan, if it does not further integrate its provinces Baluchistan and Sindh into the Punjabi heartland—and if it cannot manage a more turbulent eastern and southern Afghanistan—could gradually be reduced to a rump state of Greater Punjab, with the Baluch and Sindhis aligning themselves with a Greater India and a Pushtunistan straddling the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.”

And what happens during this breakup to NPak’s arsenal of nuclear weapons, the 4th largest in the world? No one knows.

No wonder President Obama is more worried about a nuclear bomb going off in New York than getting too deeply involved in Ukraine or Syria. 

* Editor’s Note: Regular readers are aware that we don’t use the word Pak-i-Stan. We all remember what happened when a regime called itself the Master Race. Soon that led to the term Lebensraum. The rest is history. No one of European descent calls that regime by its Third Reich name. The word Pak-i-Stan is even more heinous than the Master Race word. Because it means the land/regime of Pak or people pure enough for heaven. So by definition that regime cannot allow itself to be stripped of its purity by the presence of impure people. Hence their religious cleansing of Buddhists, Hindus, Ahemadiya Muslims and now Shiya Muslims. Yet many keep using that given heinous name Pak-i-Stan. We will not. So we correct it by adding the neutral “non” and calling it NonPakistan or NPak for short. Note we do not use the insulting or negative term NaaPak.

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