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The US-led foreign troop withdrawal will create a sense of euphoria among the Taliban in Afghanistan and the TTP-led militants in Pakistan. -File photo by AFP
The US-led foreign troop withdrawal will create a sense of euphoria among the Taliban in Afghanistan and the TTP-led militants in Pakistan. -File photo by AFP

PESHAWAR: An official strategy document on counter-terrorism by Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has warned that victory by the Afghan Taliban will further boost the morale of the Pakistani Taliban and it is erroneous to believe that militancy in Pakistan will end automatically with the withdrawal of foreign forces from neighbouring Afghanistan.

The assessment, contained in KP’s Home and Tribal Affairs Department’s 35-page ‘Checkmating Terrorism: A Counter-Terrorism Strategy’ document has gained currency in recent times. Participants in back-to-back meetings to mull formulation of a counter-terrorism policy last month pressed Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to take civil-military control of the Afghan policy to pre-empt the fallout of post-US withdrawal from Afghanistan.

“I think, there was an agreement,” Khalid Aziz, head of the Regional Institute of Policy Research and Training, who attended one such meeting, said. “Exit (of foreign forces) does not mean the cause of action will disappear (for our militants). There will be a new push for the enlargement of influence in Balochistan, KP and Fata.

“Our miseries begin with the withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan. The prognosis is bad but this is what it is. This is the writing on the wall.”

Prime Minister Sharif was also cautioned against embracing the militants’ talk-for-peace offer on face value. “Don’t let your fingers burn,” Mr Aziz quoted a participant of the meetings as saying. He noted that Prime Minister’s Adviser on National Security Sartaj Aziz’s statement in Kabul that Pakistan did not have favourites in Afghanistan was a reflection of the realisation dawning in Islamabad.

It is not known if the all-powerful military establishment that continued to direct Pakistan’s Afghan policy since the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan also holds the same view. At a background meeting with media early this year, a senior security official tried to push home the point that the Afghan Taliban would look towards Kabul once they became part of the political dispensation, and the Pakistani Taliban would start looking towards Islamabad, implying that the nexus between the two ideological twins would sever once foreign troops left Afghanistan.

But some government officials warn that while Pakistan seems to be preparing itself for a possible civil war and chaos in Afghanistan in the absence of a political settlement in the post-US withdrawal scenario, there is still no understanding about the likely implications for Pakistan if the Afghan Taliban gain full or partial control in their country.

“A part of the common discourse on the issue to which a substantial portion of our intelligentsia, political leadership and ‘other stakeholders’ subscribe is that militancy would cease in Pakistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa once foreign troops leave Afghanistan and militants (in Pakistan) would then lay down arms to lead normal lives,” says the 35-page paper.

“This is a fallacy. It will not happen and it is not difficult to understand why,” says the document prepared by the Home & Tribal Affairs Department. It was approved by the ANP-led cabinet but ironically remains unimplemented.

The Afghan Taliban enjoy ‘strategic depth’ in Fata and the Pakistani militants because of the ideological, material and coordination linkages with the Afghan Taliban have acquired strategic depth in Afghanistan, the document says. Attacks from across the border by Pakistani militants enjoying shelter there are a case in point, it says.

The US-led foreign troop withdrawal will create a sense of euphoria among the Taliban in Afghanistan and the TTP-led militants in Pakistan for their perceived triumph in forcing foreign troops to leave.

“Why would the Afghan Taliban provide strategic depth to Pakistan-based militants is not difficult to understand? Ideologically, Taliban do not recognise state boundaries. For them it is Darul Hurb vs. Darul Islam and there are no boundaries within Darul Islam and “fighters in the way of Allah” are to be welcomed.

That the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan – an umbrella organisation of the Pakistani militant groups – takes its relationship with the Afghan Taliban seriously and it was evident recently when it sacked its chief spokesman Ihsanullah Ihsan for making statements against the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.

The document says that the Afghan Taliban would be bound to help Pakistani militants due to numerous ideological, ethnic, religious and financial linkages developed between them for decades and the support that was extended to them both in men and material terms in their struggle against foreign forces’ presence in Afghanistan.

“Wishing the militants away would not make them disappear,” Azam Khan, the principal architect of the strategy document and secretary of Home & Tribal Affairs, cautions. “With the departure of the US troops, the TTP and its multiple partners will pursue their ‘jihad’ with renewed vigour under the banner for setting up a true Islamic Caliphate in Pakistan.”

“There is no on-off switch button. You can’t unplug Pakistani militants from their ideological battle-hardened brethren from across the border,” Azam Khan maintains.

The already well-trained and organised with specialised wings for finance, training, operations and justice, Pakistani militants would surely replicate the successful tactics of the Afghan Taliban in their struggle against the Pakistani state and the democratic dispensation which they deem un-Islamic, it says.

The document warns that hostile agencies would also like to exploit the situation. “That the waters have become quite murky thereby enabling foreign intelligence agencies to fish in these troubled waters, compounding the matter further to the peril of the Pakistani state, is a logical manifestation of facts on ground in the areas.

“We find ourselves in a complex situation. Wisdom demands that we prepare ourselves for the worst,” Home Secretary Azam Khan said. “The strategy document was prepared after long and hard analysis of the aims, tactics and modus operandi of the militants minutely. We have put forward concrete steps to counter the same. What we need is a whole state machinery response of which law enforcement is just one element. And this cannot happen without KP and Islamabad joining forces.”

A former security official warns that Islamabad did not take into its calculus the possible fallout on Pakistan of the Afghan Taliban’s partial or total triumph in Afghanistan. “We tend to have short memories. We have forgotten that it were the Afghan Taliban that had allowed our sectarian outfits to run training camps in Kargha to the south of Kabul and in Khost and had given shelter to their top leaders,” he recalled.

Comments (17) Closed

bangash Jul 25, 2013 07:11am

PTI believes that with the withdrawl of foreign troops all terrorist violence in Pakistan will come to an end. So I guess any real counter-terror strategy will have to wait until 2018.

Milind Jul 25, 2013 07:34am

What an analysis quite interesting and well prepared. But on the whole article i did not see ray of hope and true that even worst sc

Concerned Jul 25, 2013 07:58am

Of course the Taliban (there is really only one) on both sides of the border will use the US and NATO withdrawal to proclaim victory and turn their attention to strengthening their hand in both Afghanistan and Pakistan. If you were the Taliban which would you desire more, Afghanistan or Pakistan? I have never understood how Pakistan could think things would be otherwise. Your behavior to your supposed allies, the US, UK, and the rest of the NATO force has been disgraceful. Pakistan has worked hard to make itself more and more vulnerable to to the Taliban and their allies. To an observer it has looked like an ever more powerful death-wish has taken hold of the country and its leaders. A nation rushing joyfully to suicide. No one seems to have the will to stop it.

Benazeer Abbas Jul 25, 2013 09:19am

Very sane approach but quite late now.

Ahmed Jul 25, 2013 11:19am

A very thought provoking article. The fact that Pakistani and Afghanistan's Taliban share the same ideology i.e. Establishment of an Islamic Emirate, cannot be ignored. It's hard to believe that the Afghan Taliban would simply disconnect from their ideological brethren in Pakistan, to focus on development in Afghanistan. The Taliban is a battle hardened group, with scores of people who have known nothing but wars, all their lives. Settling down peacefully, is something they might not be used to.

Anuj Jul 25, 2013 12:34pm

The Pakistani establishment has only one real sword arm which can fight the TTP.

The Army.

The army seems to , even now, be noncommital, and wishes to create a separate power structure for itself and maintain it's perks and pelf. And it's relations with the good taliban so to say.

If this view of the army changes, a lot can change, otherwise anywhere from a low intensity war on western borders to armageddon on Pakistani streets, is set to hit the nation. The Army has to finally wake up and stop it's hibernation on esatern borders or in fighting imaginary battles which shall not happen with nuclear balance. The question is - can it? The new COAS induction will be an indication too.

Wasif Jul 25, 2013 01:38pm

Finally, an someone is talking sense about the grim realities of the taliban problem in pakistan

ALi K Jul 25, 2013 03:13pm

This report by these experts is a slap in the face of PTI for their policies on the war on terror.

Irfan Baloch Jul 25, 2013 07:28pm

TTP & LeJ will turn Pakistan into Syria and the "good" taliban will join their brothers in faith & ideology to convert Pakistani state into a Caliphate where community will be allowed to live which is currently being persecuted & murdered by them

Pakistan army is the reflection of the people of Pakistan & it has lost hope of defeating the Taliban. our political leadership already has its business interests in Middle east & west so it has nothing to loose it will just depart on its private jets.

Anoop Jul 25, 2013 07:34pm

Well, this was known for a while.

We, Indian bloggers and commentators, have repeatedly warned of the folly of pursuing the indirect support to the "good" Taliban. Not just that, we have also urged, along with the Americans to attack North Waziristan, the safe havens for the "Good" Taliban.

I think its a case of too little, too late.

Pakistan will have another problem to deal with - NATO will fix the failures in Afghanistan squarely on Pakistan, saying they have, by not taking control of their Territory have allowed Taliban a Safe Haven. Even if this doesn't happen to such a drastic extent, Pakistan will lose all favour currently enjoyed by it for being an important supply and exit route into Afghanistan, like the IMF package.

Pakistan faces Taliban on one side, International Isolation on the other.

ali ahmed Jul 25, 2013 08:10pm

PTI already handed power in KP to Jamat-e-Islami

Osman narejo Jul 25, 2013 09:00pm

@ALi K: I think it is now late to think of a strategy which will be counter to one we have assiduously worked on over last 35 years. During this time we were busy in the caves of Tora bora while India and china were putting in place the structural foundations to become super powers, which they have become now. All this had huge opportunity cost which we will pay in the next 5 to 10 years!

shyam Jul 25, 2013 09:02pm

Result of lies, denials and bigotry from day one. Indians too will suffer the same fate if they put too much faith in lies only it will take a longer.

Adnan Jul 25, 2013 10:05pm

@Anuj: I don't agree. Outside tribal areas,The real sword is the police which is not doing it's duty, or it is not trained and equipped to do so. Otherwise it was hard to hide and attack inside citlies. The military can only help, it is always the second option.

Adnan Jul 25, 2013 10:19pm

The article only underlines one danger, no solutions,no strategies, no other possibilities. What we need is seriousness to tackle the issue and diligent police and intelligence work to counter the terrorism. As a nation we are not serious in tackling the terrorism. Look at all the musicals after an attack! As if the deaths were of an enemy. With such mindset, we will not get any where.

Nasik Elahi Jul 26, 2013 03:26am

Millitancy is like the AIDS virus infecting the Muslim world. It thrives by adapting its virulent tactics across different regions, sectarian and policy divides. Effective therapy can only begin when the pernicious disease is recognized by all sectors of society as the common threat.

wazir Jul 27, 2013 11:51am

A very clear state policy with support of all stake holders will be needed to counter this fall out of foreign forces exit from Afghanistan. A well thought out, well directed, understandable, short term and long term policy with set out goals for each responsible body of the state should be carved out for implementation. Coordination between all security organizations will be the key for success. The people of the country should be kept aware.