Within one month of Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan and a retreat by the US and allies after two decades, the country has had a 33-member all male government that looks least promising to work for the welfare of the people. It’s a hurriedly formed cabinet with a good input from Pakistan’s ISI. This was evident as the ISI chief Lt Gen Faiz Hameed had air dashed to Kabul for this. He held discussions with Taliban supremo Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar. It’s clear that the ISI is calling the shots in Afghanistan and the Imran Khan government seems to be sidelined in dealing with the new Taliban.
It’s a signal that Taliban in future, is unlikely to heed any policy linked advisory from the Pakistani Foreign Ministry and instead listen to the diktat of the deep state. This is a dangerous trend.
Faiz Hamid has extracted a specific assurance from the Taliban that Indians wouldn’t be allowed to use the Afghan territory for targeting Pakistan. A spy agency playing a role in dabbling in the political affairs of a neighbor so openly is a new thing, though not in Pakistan. With complete control of Taliban other than in the Panjshir valley, ISI is ensuring its role as a de facto ruler.
Regular Pakistani Army was involved in securing the Panjshir valley in the north, is also no secret.
According to the UN, Afghanistan will face severe food shortages and it already had the highest levels of malnutrition amongst the children. Neither Taliban government nor is Pakistan interested in such basic issues facing the people of Afghanistan. There is no pressure from any international quarters to highlight the omission of women from the cabinet. Taliban will feel emboldened because of this glaring indifference of the world towards its women. The future of the women in Afghanistan looks bleak.
It’s clear that ordinary Afghans are not happy with the Taliban. In the weeks after the takeover, sporadic protests have occurred in many cities including Herat. The trend stretched to anti-Pakistan protests in Tehran; demonstrators were denouncing the Taliban and Pakistan’s support to it. The Afghan women in particular are deeply disappointed because of the curbs imposed by the Taliban on their freedom and its impact on their education.
The appointment of Sirajuddin Haqqani as Interior Minister confirms that he is the appointee of Pakistan’s ISI and would parrot only what his mentors say. This has serious security implications for India. Haqqani and the ISI are a deadly combination posing threat to the Indian security interests. Had Pakistan done any introspection, it would know that the same Taliban will turn out to be its Frankenstein one day. ISIS(K) and Al Qaeda are ruthless players and they can transcend Pakistan’s border to unleash massive violence in Pakistan. The Islamic radicals are waiting for the right opportunity to strike. Auckland , New Zealand saw a spate of at least six knife attacks last week from a Sri Lankan ISIS-inspired ultra . We don’t know how many more may spring surprise with similar lone wolf attacks . Pakistan shouldn’t be happy that it being a Muslim majority state it will remain immune to Islamic terror groups. ISIS and the disgruntled Talibanis can easily hit soft targets within Pakistan. So Pakistan needs to watch out.
In the meantime, India saw a flurry of activities when Russian NSA Nikolai Patrushev held extensive discussions with Indian NSA AK Doval on Afghanistan and he was impressed with the Indian outlook of the security situation. The UK Secret Service (MI6) chief, Richard Moore and CIA head William Burns also held similar discussions with Doval. India is playing a serious role in shaping the world’s strategy in dealing with the spillover effects of the Afghanistan situation. It goes without saying that the Taliban-ISI nexus needs to be severed at the earliest through diplomacy or operationally in the interest of peace in the region.
(The writer is a retired IPS officer, security analyst and former National Security Advisor to the Prime Minister of Mauritius. Views are personal)