A new axis of terror is emerging in the Af-Pak theater with the convergence of interests between Pakistan, China and Turkey. The Taliban are ready to play ball with the trio. There is no more smoke screen.
Pakistan has abandoned any pretense of being a good ally of the West despite the need for a US safety net on a host of issues that directly impact its fragile economy. This became clear towards the end of June when Prime Minister Imran Khan and his finance minister Shaukat Tarin canceled their IMF bailout commitments. And Imran Khan traveled to the city saying his centrist Pakistani government Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) (PTI in Urdu means Pakistani Justice Movement) would not give US forces any basis. In the same breath, he declared Osama bin Laden a martyr and ruled out any criticism of China’s treatment of its Uyghur Muslims.
The Afghan Taliban have since downplayed China’s concerns about Uyghur Muslims, who trace their religious influence back to Karakhanid, a Turkish stronghold that ruled Central Asia eight centuries ago. Beijing’s concern is that under Taliban rule, Afghanistan will become a hub for the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM), which is leading a Uyghur insurgency. We will no longer allow Uyghur separatist fighters from China (Xinjiang). Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen said in a widely circulated interview much to the relief of Chinese supremo Xi Jinping.
Shaheen admitted that some Uyghur militants had previously sought refuge in Afghanistan. However, he promised not to host them. China has also heard such assurances from Pakistan, but has seen little action to control the movement of Uyghur militants between the Pakistani-Afghan border region and Xinjiang via the Karakorum highway built by the Chinese for their missions. hit and run. For the uninitiated, this highway goes through Gilgit in Pakistan held in Kashmir.
The Taliban can be as deceptive as their bosses, who successfully deceived Americans during the war on terror. Well, China can hope to leverage its financial power against any likelihood of the Taliban breaking the promise; such hope, even after his Pakistani experience, reveals his inability not to look beyond his nose.
Turkey is integrating into the new axis for various reasons. President Recep Tayyip Erdoan has become the helmsman of the Islamists in his quest to take over the leadership of the Muslim world. He has become a darling of Communist China by targeting Uyghurs who have taken refuge in his country. Erdogan hopes to take over the security of Kabul airport in order to protect it from Taliban influence in the days to come. This will be the first step in extending Turkish influence to more territories in Afghanistan where Turkey has been present as part of NATO forces. It is another matter, whether realistic or imaginary.
Clearly, it is China, Pakistan’s iron brother, and not Turkey, that seeks to fill the growing vacuum in Afghanistan. He is ready with money and weapons that the Taliban may need in case the nationalist forces try to put down his expansion into the country.
The three Turkey, China and Pakistan look to Afghanistan mainly for its metals, minerals and other natural wealth. Iran could also close ranks with them at some point to secure its diplomatic and economic territory.
The Taliban are acting smart in courting these nations. The new Afghanistan, as it reinvents its Taliban wheel, will need investments that can come from Turkey, China, and even Iran. The need for skilled labor will be met from Pakistan.
It is relevant to recall that the Taliban began their journey in Afghanistan to establish the new caliphate from the madrasas of Pakistan with Saudi money and CIA weapons. And they had run their Afghan affairs after 9/11 from a base near Quetta; this is the Quetta Shura (Council).
Significantly, also near Quetta is an air base that the Americans use for their air operations in Afghanistan. One of these operations had expelled Osama bin Laden from his refuge not far from the capital Pak.
Despite denials from both sides, the operation was mounted with the Pakistani army in the loop. As stated at the start, Imran Khan clearly describes Osama as a martyr. It is also a signal to Islamists of all stripes back home to rally to his leadership.
From media reports, it is clear that Pakistani leaders – military and civilian alike – are barely hiding their joy at the turn of events and the discomfort they have caused their great rival, India. The talkative Minister of the Interior, Sheikh Rashid, called the Afghan Taliban a good Taliban. He should know them since he ran terrorist camps in his farmland outside Islamabad. He rejoiced at the embarrassment of India. ISI leader Faiz Hameed, a manipulator chosen by Army Chief Bajwa to be his master’s voice, took a step forward; and India’s reported investment ($ 4 billion) in Afghanistan is sinking.
There is no need for a Peter Vidal to say what the Taliban rule will be. It will be bad for Afghanistan and Pakistan. When in command before September 11, the Taliban pushed the country back centuries. Even now, in areas where they have influence, they ruthlessly apply their primitive mindset.
Pakistan will do well to remember that the Taliban do not recognize the Durand Line between the two countries. So much so that the dream of strategic depth may remain a pipe dream for Pakistan. And then there is the danger that the Taliban will claim the Pashtun-speaking areas of Pakistan itself.
US Special Representative for Afghanistan Zalmy Khalilzad appears to be forecasting a troubled time for the war-torn country. He says that while the United States ends its military engagement in Afghanistan, its commitment to the country remains. Well, that means the United States will continue to provide financial and other assistance to Afghanistan. Historically, the money donated has not worked wonders in Afghanistan. It won’t do now.
The scene can only change if the nationalist forces are helped to rise up and challenge the Taliban. Many sections of Afghan society have already immersed themselves in the new war that has begun to unfold. Alone.
A wake-up call to the Good Samaritans of the World to rally to their support.
And check out the new axle in its wake.
Fabien Baussart is the President of the CPFA (Center for Political and Foreign Affairs)
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