1.Afghanistan or Pakhtunkhawa or Both?
In our article on July 10, 2021 titled Afghanistan or Pakhtunkhawa or Both?, we postulated that the America’s withdrawal from Afghanistan might prove to be a nightmare for the regime called NaPakistan. Not only is it proving to be Both, but the biggest surprise its speed. What do we mean by “its”, recent readers might ask! They should be begin by looking at the red Durand line in the simple map below.
It is called the Durand line because a British guy named Durand created this artificial separation between the Pushtun people that lived in the mountainous region to the north of the red line and the Pushtun people who lived in the Indus plain to the south of the red line. It was a good idea for British-India & then for NaPakistan but terrible for the Pushtuns. They never agreed to this partition then or now. In fact, when the British left in 1947, the Afghan government declared the red boundary as ex-parte. That did not matter because the portion of the British-Indian army that became NaPakistani army kept what the British had seized.
This red line has been the epicenter of all the resistance, fighting, asymmetric warfare or terrorism (choose your own label) from 1979 to 2021. When Soviet Union invaded & occupied Afghanistan (north of the red line), a sizable number of Pushtuns came across into the Pushtun (green) area south of the red line. From 1980, the CIA trained a large number of Pushtuns in the art & science of asymmetric warfare and sent them north across the red line to attack Soviets. And the Napaki government built sanctuaries south of the red line to which these fighters could return between fighting.
After the Soviets left, these Pushtuns were consolidated into the Taliban, an intensely religious Muslim movement, by the Napaki government & sent back across the red line to occupy all of Afghanistan. They did it swiftly & brutally. Soviet Union soon broke up and America went into the Middle East. Soon, the Arab fighters whom America attacked in the Middle East migrated to Taliban-run Afghanistan and the alliance was born between Al Qaeda & Taliban.
NaPakistan was thrilled because finally the Talibani Afghanistan gave them the needed strategic depth against India. Then came 9/11. The American special forces followed. They overthrew the Talibani government & their fighters quickly went south of the red line into the sanctuaries the Napaki government provided for them. For over 20 years, these Talibani fighters went north across the red line to attack the US forces & the Afghani government. The US Government knew the special US ally against terror was actually training/funding/nurturing the Afghani Taliban to attack US troops & the US established Afghani government. But they did nothing about it.
Finally after 20 years, the Biden Administration withdrew from Afghanistan & left it to the Afghani Taliban. NaPakistan won and won big. And they patted themselves on their back for using American help to defeat America in Afghanistan.
But it was a momentary & incredibly pyrrhic victory for NaPakistan!
Actually the Taliban Pushtuns, which had defeated both the Soviet Union and America, preferred to now rule the Pushtun areas both below & above the red line. In other words, the Pushtuns should rule the Pushtun areas right? Why would they allow or even tolerate the rule of the Panjabis who have cultural & racial contempt for the Pushtuns?
That sounds nice but it is not easy. After all, the world will not allow the Taliban to run the NaPaki army. And the Pushtuns know it. Ergo, the partition within the Taliban.
2.The Taliban Partition
We have argued since our original articles in 2009 that the Taliban were an Afghan national force. Religion was central to them but they were not primarily a religious movement. Having won control of Afghanistan after 20+ years of fighting the power of America, their primary focus should have been and indeed has been to establish their control in Afghanistan. And they have acted with that resolve and in that manner.
But there are three factors that pose a challenge to this resolve of the Afghani Taliban:
- The Afghani Taliban also realize that the biggest danger to their focus on running Afghanistan comes from the NaPaki ISI & military. The Napaki regime wants the Afghani Taliban to act as Napak’s strategic depth & agents in their terrorist warfare against India. So the Afghani Taliban need a weapon to resist Napaki regime and, better still, to direct such a weapon into the heart of Napakistan.
- While the leaders of the Afghani Taliban want to focus on governing, there is a religion-above-all faction within the people who populate their ranks. And that faction despises the Napaki regime whom they label as Na-Paki (anti-religious). How do the Afghani Taliban leaders satisfy this faction?
- The Afghani Taliban also show the younger & newer ISIS-Khorasan that their religious credentials are second to none and want to eradicate the globalist ISIS movement from Afghanistan. How do they do so?
Try to think of an answer and you will yourselves say Tehreek-e-Pakistan or TTP. The TTP is the most resolutely anti-Pakistani group that there is in Pushtun areas & it seems similar to the original Afghani Taliban of 1990s. In addition, the TTP has operated for years inside Khyber-Pakhyunkhawa ( the Pushtun areas within Napakistan). Now with the sanctuaries provided by Afghani Taliban on their side of the red line, the efficacy of the TTP is high & increasing. In addition, the Afghani Taliban support to TTP can act as a shield against ISIS propaganda.
Those who scoff at ISIS being a serious concern for the Afghani Taliban should note this week’s raid by the Afghani Taliban against ISIS-KP, the Afghani affiliate of global ISIS. It describes the Taliban killing 8 ISIS members & arresting 9 more.
This shows that ISIS represents the biggest danger to the Afghani-Taliban within Afghanistan. In such a situation, the Afghani Taliban do not want create another adversary in Afghanistan by restricting the TTP. Instead, they are happy that the TTP is operating in Pushtun areas inside NaPakistan away from Afghanistan.
How is ISIS fighting back? They are accusing both the Afghani Taliban & the TTP as being Indian “proxies“, however dumb that may sound.
3. Campaign by TTP
Look at the map again. The green Pushtun area below the Durand line is a large & not densely populated area.
Policing such a large area is difficult in the best of times. But at a time when NaPakistan is running out of money? This may be why the TTP is not acting like a typical terrorist organization and attacking the urban population. Instead their campaign has been to attack police stations that are located in non-urban areas & lightly defended. As recent videos have shown, the TTP attacks these police stations with high powered weapons & allow the cops to run away. They also have no compunction in killing cops who resist in any way.
The goal is to destroy the police presence in the country side & thus destroy people’s confidence in the government. And it seems the TTP has infiltrated the security apparatus set up to fight the TTP. Witness the clip below titled Officials gunned down in broad daylight for hunting Taliban militants:
- “A gunman gunned down two Pak intelligence officers outside a roadside restaurant in Panjab; Pak officials killed in the attack were known for nabbing TTP & other militants – they were known for their expertise in investigating & solving complicated cases, … Associated Press reported …. officials told AP that one of the slain officers was the Director of the provincial counter-terror dept, which has played a key role in arresting Pak Taliban militants …. so far, no individual or group has claimed responsibility for the attack on Pak officers .. “
How did they know who the Director of counter-terror department was? How did they know he would be eating at a specific roadside restaurant?
The TTP seems confident enough (or foolhardy enough) to threaten to attack the Prime Minister & Foreign Minister of NaPakistan as they did mid-week:
After threatening to launch attacks into Afghanistan against sanctuaries provided to TTP, the Napak government mid-week proposed talks with the TTP:
Look at the map above and wonder about the composition of the NaPaki army? It mainly consists of Panjabis & Pushtuns. If the Pushtuns in the Napaki army are ordered to attack Pushtun areas either inside Napak or in Afghanistan, would they do it? Or would the Pushtun regiments refuse to fight their Pushtun brothers and actually turn on the Panjabis in the Napak army?
Look at the above map again. The pink area is Balochistan that wants out of Napakistan but there are too few Balochis to achieve that. And the yellow area between Balochistan & India already has a burgeoning movement to break away to a country called Sindhu-Desh analogous to Bangla-Desh.
Is there anything the Napaki regime can do? The old & proven tack!
4. Old & Proven escalation
What can a Napaki government do to re-establish its Islamic credentials and simultaneously get America & UN to come in? Execute a large terrorist attack inside India! Such an attack would probably force Prime Minister Modi to retaliate. That would fit the Rumsfeld dictum – “If you can’t solve a problem, make it bigger”.
The only trouble is that Indian response might be much bigger, one that might finally give PM Modi the opportunity to take back the 1/3rd of Kashmir currently occupied by Napak. India might even blockade the port of Karachi that is today’s lifeline of NaPakistan.
Frankly, the American & International response should be to seize the 5th largest nuclear arsenal the bankrupt Napaki regime possesses, as they did with Ukraine. Does any country in the world want to see TTP or the Taliban with nuclear weapons & F-16s that can carry them?
If you think this is far-fetched, listen to Imran Khan, the previous Prime Minister of NaPakistan say this in utter seriousness 6 months ago on June 2, 2022:
Though the above sounds as if events are running out of control, it is important to remember that NaPakistan has been through similar chaos before. None of the players, including the current NaPaki government, seems to have the capability to run the entire area. So it is possible that this current violence might settle down with an arrangement that gives space to each player via de facto areas of influence.
Perhaps we are naive. But naivete is an important defense against despair.
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