M Alam Brohi
The US is exercising its leverage on the Taliban to accede to its demand for an “Over the Horizon” facility to air lord over the region
The current precarious situation in Afghanistan carrying seeds of multidimensional crisis including famine, hunger, mass displacement of population, civil strife, anarchy, growth of terrorism, escalation of regional and international conflicts, adequately exposes the callous, heartless, and vengeful policy of the US-led west towards the innocent people of Afghanistan more than the Taliban regime.It also painfully reveals the lack of political and strategic will on the part of the regional countries including two major powers representing the emerging multi-polarity with vital national interests in peace and stability in Afghanistan to challenge the wrong approach of the West to save this war-ravaged country and the region from the brewing calamitous crisis.
The recent flurry of diplomatic initiatives witnessed in Moscow, Tehran, New Delhi, and Islamabad have not gone beyond clichéd press statements piously appealing to the international community for humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan and calling upon the Taliban to fulfill their commitments for inclusive governance, women rights, girls education and freeing their land from the jihadist groups. These initiatives failed to evolve a consensus to positively engage the Taliban in the region with a view to influencing their future policies by political mainstreaming, economic connectivity, and strategic cooperation. The announcements of piecemeal financial assistance by the UN and certain regional countries can address the social and economic misery in Afghanistan for some time but would fail to avert the looming catastrophic crisis. All indications suggest the objective of the West’s vengeful policy is to compound the difficulties of the Taliban in governance by withholding Afghanistan’s assets and deliberately pushing the country into a chaotic condition to trigger anti-Taliban riots for regime change ala Syria and Libya.The West is playing with fire that would engulf the entire region.
The West would not remain beyond the flames of this fire. Through this ominous approach, the US and its allies are hoping to enhance their leverage on the besieged rulers of Kabul. They are, by default or design, striking a severe blow to the Taliban’s ability to stem the growing strength of ferocious militant organizations including IS-K in the country which, as testified by Colin Kahl, Under Secretary of Defence to the Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs can acquire the capacity to pose threats to the US within 6-12months. One wonders in bewilderment how the US leaders can have such an adversarial policy towards the Kabul regime in the presence of a brewing terrorist threat.
The scourge of terrorism kept surfacing in Afghanistan despite a strong presence of US and NATO forces and so-called democratic and inclusive regimes in the country for the past two decades threatening the neighboring countries and the Western world as well. The IS-K is avowedly an affiliate of ISIS consisting of its remnants. After its mother organization was subjected to a crackdown by the US, the IS-K found a new sanctuary in Afghanistan and kept wooing other militant groups including the TTP and Arab, Uzbeks, and Uighur remnants of Al-Qaeda under the nose of the strong US intelligence network and the Afghan National Security Forces. During the chaotic withdrawal of the US from the country, the IS-K, in one of its deadliest suicide bombings near the Kabul airport, killed over 170 Afghans and 13 US soldiers. Since August to this day, IS-K has carried out over 60 attacks on Shia mosques and hospitals.
As late as November 2, it attacked Kabul’s military hospital killing 25 people including a senior commander of the Taliban namely Hamadullah Rahmani. Its recent attacks in other cities have killed scores of innocent people.Emboldened by the adversarial US policy towards the Taliban regime, the IS-K has reportedly intensified efforts to strengthen its ranks by enlisting the disgruntled elements of Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, Balochistan Liberation Army, East Turkestan Islamic Movement, Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, the Afghan national army, and panjsheri insurgents. While militants of different hues are swelling the ranks of IS-K, the US-led West has tied the hands of the Taliban regime by starving it of necessary cash to pay state employees and stem the rapid spread of poverty and hunger in their country. This raises many questions about the designs of the US and its allies given the worsening security situation in the region. The US is exercising its leverage on the Taliban to accede to its demand for an “Over the Horizon” facility to air lord over the region.
The Taliban have been resisting US demand for this facility for the simple reason that it violates their country’s sovereignty. Apparently, the ‘over the horizon’ facility would serve multi-purposes other than monitoring and attacking the movement of the militant organizations. The prime purpose is to maintain the US dominance in the region and beyond enhancing its strategic leverage against Iran, China, and the Central Asian region where the West is wary of the growing Chinese and Russian influence.The Taliban have made it clear that they have the capacity of defeating and eliminating the IS-K without any external help. However, the West is reluctant to trust the Taliban’s capacity or it holds back because of the strategic consideration outlined above.
This gives credence to the assumptions that the US wants to use the IS-K as an instrument to advance its strategic interests in this region as ISIS was allowed to grow in strength as long as it was advantageously used to confront Bashar ul Asad regime in Syria and counter the Iranian influence in Iraq. Interestingly, the IS-K is not listed with the US as an entity of particular concern whereas the Taliban are very much listed as such. President Donald Trump’s administration cracked down against ISIS only when it grew into a monster losing perennial threats to the US strategic interests. Libya, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan are still tottering under one crisis after the other in the backdrop of the wrong US policies in the Middle East. Are we destined to witness a sorrowful repeat of such callous policy in Afghanistan? Apparently, it seems so to the utmost peril of the regional states.