Taliban and regional situation

Dr. Jamil Ahmed Khan

The writer is a former ambassador, senior analyst and international affairs expert.

Afghanistan has a strategic role in regional and global affairs which is why many countries especially the United States would retain their interests despite the withdrawal of troops. The landscape in the war-ravaged nation is gradually shifting as the Taliban continue to assert power. The insurgents now claim controlling over 85 percent of territory and are facing little resistance as they advance.

The Afghan forces have air support and have launched strikes to repel attacks. The Taliban have started targeting air force pilots trained by the United States. This is the only advantage the Afghan government has over the Taliban but now pilots fear for their lives over any reprisal attacks. The Taliban continue their advances and could take full control of the country within few a weeks, not months.

The Taliban are eyeing control of the country but they should keep in mind the changing scenario in the last 20 years. The world will only recognize them if they maintain human rights and violations against women’s rights, children and denying education to girls will be unacceptable. This will also violate international laws in accordance with the UN Charter and severe action may be taken. The Taliban have realized they would be shunned on the global stage and financial aid would be stopped.

US President Joe Biden has made it clear that the Afghans have to chart their own future. If a Taliban government is indeed formed, many countries including the US will recognize it. Iran recently held talks with the Taliban, while Russia has previously brokered talks. The Taliban have agreed to adhere to the deal with the United States. The Taliban have no option but to comply with the Doha agreement. They have accused the Afghan government of not releasing captives and other clauses in the peace deal.

Given the situation, there will even more pressure on Pakistan to ‘Do More.’ National Security Adviser Dr Moeed Yousuf has also mentioned any more expectation from Pakistan is excessive. US Defence Secretary has clarified that the Taliban must be influenced by international forces. This is an indication that the US still wants Pakistan to play its role in reaching a settlement in the country.

Afghan Foreign Minister Hanif Atmar has also set his sights on Pakistan, saying they can help them in every possible way. This once again means ‘Do More’ and the pressure on Pakistan is clear now.

Pakistan needs to improve its policy on the matter. We need to end this perception and stick to our position or else we could face difficulties going forward.

It is not easy for Pakistan to remain neutral in the Afghan situation. We would certainly face difficulties from the IMF, World Bank, FATF, and even from the global powers. The US would have an excuse that Pakistan is not cooperating and instead support the Taliban. This could lead to sanctions which could worsen the economic situation and create trouble for our manpower in Gulf States.

The Taliban have reiterated they will not allow Al-Qaeda to operate from Afghan soil and will drive them away. The Afghan foreign minister has claimed the presence of ISIS and other terrorist groups and said they can increase their operations in both countries.  These statements show that the situation could threaten the region in the future. Russia, China, and Iran have all focused on this single point and have agreed that if such terrorist elements remain in Afghanistan, they could cause problems for their countries and the region.