Dual Game of Daesh in Afghanistan

Monday, December 28, 2015

Pir-Mohammad Mollazehi
Expert on Indian Subcontinent & Middle East Issues

Recent developments in Afghanistan during past days and weeks have taken two opposite directions. On the one hand, after visits by Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and Chief Executive Officer of Afghanistan Abdullah Abdullah to Pakistan, their participation in the "Heart of Asia - Istanbul Process" ministerial meeting, and their negotiations with Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Chief of Army Staff of the Pakistan Army General Raheel Sharif, new hopes raised about resumption of peace talks between the Taliban and the national unity government of Afghanistan. On the other hand, escalation of military operations by the Taliban in Zabul and Helmand provinces has intensified security crisis in Pashtun-inhabited regions of the country, so that, the governor of Helmand province warned that if military reinforcement is not sent by the central government, this important province may fall into the hands of the Taliban. Both developments have put governments of Afghanistan and Pakistan in a precarious situation. There are two outcomes to these developments, which may have long-term effects:

1. Increased scope and intensity of differences and tensions between Pakistan and Afghanistan; and

2. Facing the national unity government of Afghanistan with an internal crisis.

These two issues are important in that they can practically stop peace talks between the two sides, which had been stalled after negotiations in the city of Mary failed and the second round of Mary talks were not held. This is important in that following the death of the Taliban’s former leader, Mullah Mohammad Omar, and the crisis of leadership in the group, which divided it into two opposing poles, that is, the Quetta Shura, led by Mullah Akhtar Mansour, and the Afghanistan Islamic Emirate led by Mullah Mohammed Abdul Rasul, peace talks had taken on more speed. In addition to putting a brake on these talks, the above two issues can also lead to a tangible rise in tensions and misunderstandings between Pakistan and Afghanistan. In his effort to change Afghanistan’s policy and become more inclined toward Pakistan, Ashraf Ghani is faced with a reality that is described in Afghanistan as the “dual policy of Pakistan.”

Key figures in Afghanistan believe that promises given by Nawaz Sharif and general Raheel are nothing but deceit, bringing as example the intensification of war in Helmand and Zabul provinces, which they claim are instigated by Pakistan’s army intelligence, the ISI, through strengthening of the Taliban. This is why the national unity government has been accused of acting as the fifth column of the enemy to pave the way for increased presence and influence of the Taliban.

Forming a new political current known as the “Protection and Stability” by Mohammad Younis Qanooni and Mowlavi Sayyaf, whose inauguration statement put special emphasis on these two issues, not only faces the government with an internal challenge, but is also important in that it pursues two major goals:

1. Forcing the national unity government to fulfill its commitments for holding the Loya Jirga meeting, changing the constitution and reviving the premier post instead of the chief executive officer; and

2. To stop pursuit of peace talks with the Taliban through Pakistan.

If these developments in Afghanistan are considered along with the recent agreement to build an energy line from Turkmenistan to India, which crosses through Herat, Farah, Helmand and Qandahar regions of Afghanistan toward Pakistan and through Pakistan’s Quetta, Karachi, and Multan toward India, and if military operations of the Taliban in Helmand, Zabul and Qandahar regions are taken into account, the question that would arise is what ethnic line is followed under Taliban religious cover to occupy these regions, where the TAPI pipeline is going to cross? Is it the case that as perceived in Kabul, inclination of the national unity government toward Pakistan and expecting Pakistan to bring the Taliban to the negotiating table means that the plan offered by General Petraeus for east and south of Afghanistan and ceding Pashtun regions to Taliban has been put into gear? Although some analysts may consider this as a pessimistic view, in the front row, if not at the center, of this viewpoint are Younis Qanooni and Mowlavi Sayyaf, who hail from Tajik and Pashtun ethnicities, that is, two most important ethnic groups in Afghanistan. Both of them have clear jihadist background and have been playing an essential role in time of jihad and expulsion of the former Soviet Union from Afghanistan.

It is widely believed that non-Pashtun ethnic groups have doubts about Ashraf Ghani’s policies and his attention to Pakistan. Since his promises for amending the constitution and creating ethnic balance in power have not been fulfilled, ethnic groups now believe that ethnic monopoly on power may once again come into play through foreign support in Afghanistan and the project to make the Taliban a partner in power is along the same line. It is a serious issue that the “Protection and Stability” current has been able to draw attention from some jihadist groups, because it is a sign of forthcoming developments in Afghanistan. In the eyes of non-Pashtun ethnic groups, this issue is so important that Abdullah Abdullah, who represents Tajik, Uzbek, and Hazara ethnic groups in the national unity government, has been accused of passivity and inaction and that he is not serious in following up on their demands and agreements. Right or wrong, such a view can bring Afghanistan to the verge of a historical development, which can determine political future of the country.

Now, part of the political and media elites in Afghanistan have serious doubts about the future outlook for peace and stability in the country. They believe that emergence of Daesh in parts of Afghanistan, especially in mountainous provinces in the east, including Nangarhar, where Daesh has launched its caliphate radio, is part of a more dangerous project, which seeks to divide Afghanistan among radical Islamist groups. Such a plan cannot be implemented without attention to the United States’ strategic goals and through effective cooperation of Pakistan in South Asia and Central Asia.

Daesh is seen as a new factor and fresh force with powerful ideological and caliphate-based motivation. It is believed that if Daesh loses its caliphate in the Middle East as a result of the resistance shown by Iran and Russia with the help of governments in Iraq and Syria, and the Lebanese Hezbollah movement, the group may decide to transfer its caliphate to the east and to the so-called Greater Khorasan. Proponents of this view maintain that in this case, Daesh will have new capacities to enter rivalry-based equations of global powers and even if it fails to get support of the West, it will not be suppressed by it as well, because it can take action against Russia in Central Asia, Chechnya, and Dagestan, against China in Xinjiang province, and possibly against Iran in the eastern parts of the country.

Efforts made by Daesh to be present along borders of Afghanistan and the Central Asia and its possible entry into Fergana valley region, which has been a focus of attention for the radical Islamist current since 1991, is justified according to this viewpoint. If there is any streak of truth in this view that Pakistan is following a dual policy in Afghanistan and will not cease until it has achieved its strategic goals in that country, then hoisting the flag of Daesh and replacing it for the white flag of the Taliban can be part of this project. This will also conform to the division of labor between the Taliban and the national unity government in Afghanistan and will be also in line with promises given by Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. However, peace with the Quetta Shura does not necessarily mean an end to the war in Afghanistan, because Daesh and the Taliban’s splinter group led by Abdul Rasul, which has pledged allegiance to Daesh, will continue the aforesaid dual game.

Key WordsDaesh, Afghanistan, Dual Game, Ashraf Ghani, Abdullah Abdullah, Pakistan, "Heart of Asia - Istanbul Process", Nawaz Sharif, General Raheel Sharif, Peace Talks, Taliban, National Unity Government, Military Operations, Zabul, Helmand, Security Crisis, Pashtuns, Mullah Mohammad Omar, Mullah Akhtar Mansour, Afghanistan Islamic Emirate, Mullah Mohammed Abdul Rasul, Mollazehi

Source: Iranian Diplomacy (IRD)
Translated By: Iran Review.Org

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*Photo Credit: Alyoum News

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