Emerging Black Shadows Of Civil War In Afghanistan Post-Taliban Takeover

The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan is currently faced with the possibility of a civil war based on internal conflict between the factions of the IEA, possible civil war between the Taliban and International Terrorist Groups such as ISIS and potent resistance from the second generation of the anti-Soviet Mujahidin such as the National Resistance Front.

The Taliban’s seizure of power in mid-August resulted in an abrupt halt to most donor funds.. AP/PTI Photo

The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (not recognised by any country) is currently faced with the possibility of a civil war based on any or all of the following three scenarios:

First is a possible internal conflict between the factions of the IEA, secondly is a possible civil war between the Taliban and International Terrorist Groups such as ISIS. Thirdly is a possibly potent resistance from the second generation of the anti-Soviet Mujahidin such as the National Resistance Front.

There is a firm belief and possibility that Daesh will form an umbrella and then acquire more capabilities, resources, and geography. The growth of Daesh will provide an opportunity for the rise of the second generation of the anti-Soviet Afghan Mujahidin at present symbolised by the National ResistanceFront.

Any setback may cause an inter-Taliban blame game that may lead to factional fighting within the Taliban. Afghanistan suffers from many fault lines including but not limited to geographic, ethnic, religious, and tribal.

Following the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan, the victorious Afghan mujahidin commenced violence against each other along with one or the other of the above-mentioned faultlines.

Their infighting led to the emergence of the Taliban that in turn led to the US invasion of Afghanistan. The constitutional state that was built under the auspices of the US presence managed to keep all the above fault lines deactivated but failed to diminish the risks of reactivation. The constitutional state had significant achievements in state-building but not Somanyin nation-building.

The Taliban are not immune to falling prey to the new and traditional faultlines. Some of the most visible fault lines at present are geographical, religious, ideological, ethnic, tribal, power, wealth and lucrative positions.

Some of the fault lines are under the impact of the larger geostrategic, geopolitical, and geo-economic dynamics in the region. The Taliban are particularly prone to the geo-religious dynamics of the region.

Taliban Vs IS-K And Other Terrorist Groups

The second paradigm shift is a possible de-escalation of the conflict in Afghanistan between the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan and Daesh. This conflict had already commenced before NATO’s withdrawal from Afghanistan.

Daesh continues to become stronger, as the more extremist elements within the Taliban are resistant to the idea of giving up fighting. They want to continue fighting and are thus defecting in large numbers to Daesh.

Furthermore, to save their lives and to take revenge on the Taliban, many former ANDSF fighters are also joining Daesh. The foreign fighters that were embedded in the Taliban now want to export Jihad to other countries are disappointed with the Taliban’s stance of not facilitating terrorist attacks in other countries.

Many of these foreign fighters continue to defect to Daesh, thus further empowering the group. Another opportunity for Daesh is rampant poverty. If Daesh can pay and feed starving youth, then thousands of them will join Daish.

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Taliban And Its Alignment With Pakistan

Pakistan is at the centre of the regional dynamics in the context of Afghanistan. The country has been holding the key to both war and peace in Afghanistan since 1973, ever since Pakistan has been sheltering, training and financing various Islamic dissident groups against Kabul.

Afghanistan has also tried to reciprocate through support for Pashtun and Baluchnationalists inside Pakistan. However, Afghanistan has had limited success in its efforts to promote nationalists inside Pakistan.

But now for the first time in history, the Taliban government of Afghanistan acquired the ability to sponsor the religious dissidents of Pakistan led by the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). In other terms, for the first time in recent history, it is Afghanistan that can interfere with Pakistan’s affairs through are religious context.

Pakistan is the only country that publicly and widely celebrated the Taliban’s victory. The country’s military and religious establishments are excited to see the US and especially India out of Afghanistan.

The US intervention was key for India as it provided them with a huge opportunity to establish a wide and deep presence inside Afghanistan at Pakistan’s discomfort.

After the August 15, 2021, India is no longer present in Afghanistanintheformthatitwasduringthepast20years. Remembering the plane hijacking episode of 1999, India must be deeply concerned.

If the Taliban follow the policies of the 1990s, it will be the beginning of another proxy war. It is reported that a segment within the Taliban is already facilitating the smuggling of weapons left from the US to the Kashmiri insurgents.

The US-made weapon sare spotted in Pakistan is muggling markets in significant quantities. As a major strategic player, India may not react to this development with indifference. Their strategists may betray to confront Pakistan elsewhere including inside Pakistani territory.

India may attempt to strengthen the anti-Pakistani religious and separatist organizations that have suffered at the hands of the Pakistani military establishment.

On the other hand, a sensible faction of the Pakistani policy makers or policy influencers may already be concerned about the possibility of the Afghan Taliban turning the table around and using Pakistan as Afghanistan’s (IEA’s) sphere of strategic influence.

Some leaders of the Taliban have gone on record to say that they have scores to settle with Pakistan, referring to their arrests, torture and the handover of some Taliban leaders to the US.

The TTA has potent tools at hand if they choose to settle these scores. The most potent tool is the TTA’s influence over TTP. Some Taliban leaders are already mulling that the cost of obeying Pakistan is much higher than turning against that country.

It might give TTA a better reputation among the people of Afghanistan and in the region if they turned against Pakistan. The recent skirmishes along the Durand-Line where the Taliban destroyed parts of the border fences being built unilaterally by Pakistan since 2018 are a worrying development for Pakistan. If the Taliban receive better offers from Iran, Russia, and the

West, they may not take long to turn against Pakistan and settle some outstanding scores. Below thesurface, there are also discussions among the Deobandi scholars of South-Central Asia that the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan is a first step in building a new religious empire in this region.

This mentality will cause more trouble to regional countries, especially Pakistan where religious thought isdominated by the Deobandi School. Pakistani experts are increasingly concluding that there is no difference between the TTA and TTP, and that both groups are deeply integrated.

Although the Taliban’s relationship with Pakistan’s military establishment is unclear, there are the geo-religious dimensions of the Taliban-led ideological groups that makes Pakistani military establishment nervous.

For the time being, Pakistan is monitoring the Afghan Taliban through the Pakistani religiousestablishment, but the future viability of this strategy is unknown. The possibility of the Taliban beingdivided along the line of friends and foes of Pakistan is also high. The case of the Afghan mujahidin that divided along this line in the 1990s is a good example.

A broader shifting trend is Pakistan’s policy of the diversification of the country’s strategic relations. The country is trying to remain a strategic partner with China, US, UK, Russia, and the European Union at the same time.

The country also wants to simultaneously remain friendly with Saudi Arabia,the UAE, Turkey, and Iran. It will be difficult for Pakistan to keep hold of all these strategic relationsin an increasingly fragmented global order. Under these circumstances, it will also be difficult for Pakistan to unilaterally recognise the Islamic Emirate.

From an economic perspective, trade between Af-Pak is experiencing a sharp decline after theTaliban’s takeover. This is in contradiction with Pakistan’s expectations. It is increasingly apparent that Afghan traders prefer to trade with the Central Asian Republics over Pakistan. The level of trade between Af-Pakhad touched $ 5 billion in 2012. It dropped to $800 million in 2020. Since the Taliban’s take over thas reduced to unprecedented levels below US $500 million.

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China is increasingly becoming the country that can tilt the balance of power in favor or against the Taliban. China and the US had been in the process of shifting their geo-economic rivalry to geostrategic confrontation, mainly in the Pacific region but also in the sub continent and Central Asian States. The US is increasingly moving in the direction of asking blocs and countries to choose between the US and China.

While China is happy to witness the US withdrawal from Afghanistan, it is not comfortable with managing the consequences. Some pro-China analysts argue that the US left Afghanistan to trap China in a new war in Afghanistan, as was the case with the Soviet Union. However, so far China is careful not to over-step militarily into the “Graveyard of empires”.

If the Taliban entrench themselves in Afghanistan, extremism will spread over to Central Asia and toChina’s mainly Muslim region of Xinjiang. China is gradually realizing the complications associated with the Pak-Taliban nexus. The Taliban thought that China will be one of the countries to recognise Taliban’s regime with out look in gattering US’s stance. They also expected China to fill the economic assistance vacuum left by the US.

Both of those things did not happen. This is pushing the Taliban to believe that their priority should be recognition from the US, as that may open the doors for removal of sanctions, a matter on which China cannot be of much help.

Most of the Taliban’s senior leadership prefer to have close relations with the west rather than China, because they look at western countries as Christian countries which categorises them among the “People of the book”

With respect toIndiathe fear of the Taliban coming for terrorism in Jand K is still like a dark cloud. Time will certify the rumors’ regarding the possibility of infiltration by al-Qaeda and the Taliban. As of no conclusion was that let alone the Taliban, Pashtun, Sindhi or Balochi terrorist had yet ever been killed or caught in J and K.

All foreign terrorists were had been from Pakistan Punjab.

Moreover, Pakistan will be more worried about Pashtun nationalism, terrorism emanating from the erstwhile Federally Administered Tribal Area (FATA) and from across the Durand Line.

It is also confirmed from the sources that the terrorist and drug threats are still coming from Afghanistan’s territory, as well as the general situation in these areas in that country, are still a pressing problem for neighbouring countries I can state with regret that the situation has not changed after the Taliban came to power and the worst is likely to come.

Dr. Nishakant Ojha, Eminent Expert -Counter Terrorism (West Asia & Middle East)

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