With 2014 less than six months away and the American withdrawal from Afghanistan along with it, many are wondering what is in store. One place we might find a clue is Iraq. After all, this is the location of the most recent American invasion, occupation, and withdrawal and, as with Afghanistan many blamed the violence on the American occupation. It has been two years since President Obama withdrew American forces from Iraq, so what does the country look like now?
While many of us have been distracted by what’s going on in Islamabad, it’s what is happening in KPK that we should be paying close attention to if we want a glimpse of what the future holds. Events this week increasingly point to a terrifying future for Pakistan if we don’t stop and think about our national security strategy and whether any militants are really “ours” or “theirs”.
The Foreign Office responded immediately by summoning deputy head of the Afghan Mission in Islamabad, Musa Arifi, to the Foreign Office where the Afghan diplomat was told that the government of Afghanistan should take appropriate measures to prevent recurrence of similar incidents in the future.
The next day it was reported that TTP admits having safe haven in Afghanistan. Presumably the Foreign Office will now demand that Afghanistan eliminate militant safe havens on their side of the border. It will be interesting to see if they respond that TTP are not attacking Afghanistan and they have their hands full fighting their own Taliban militants.
The latest events also belie the increasingly accepted propaganda that Afghan Taliban are ‘freedom fighters’ who are waging war against occupation and mean no harm to Pakistan. If NATO really is losing the war in Afghanistan, then this means that the TTP safe havens are being allowed not by foreign occupiers, but by the Afghan militants. In other words, the ‘good Taliban/bad Taliban’ narrative is a lie. Why does no one ask why Jalaluddin Haqqani doesn’t take out Hakimullah Mehsud? Different militant groups may operate under different leadership and have different objectives, but they are all operating under the same extremist ideological umbrella, and in the long term they all want the same thing – forcing all of us to live under their medieval form of rule…or die.
This future is not inevitable, however. We can change course, but we can’t do it alone. We can prevent this future by facing the fact that just like the Americans use of jihadi proxies ended with the militants turning on them, we cannot trust any militant group to be our ally either. We don’t have to pretend that there are not serious problems with US strategy in Afghanistan, but we should also not pretend that an American failure will be a Pakistani success.
In 2014, the Americans will be gone. The Taliban will still be here. Will we continue pretending that Taliban are not bombing schools? Will we continue ignoring the killing of Shias? Will we continue to hide our heads in the sand and ignore the fact that these extremist militants are attacking our own culture and religious heritage?
Instead of US giving harsh statements about militant camps on the Pakistan side and Pakistan giving official protests about militant camps on the Afghan side, US and Pakistani generals should be sitting down together and developing a strategy for eliminating militant camps on BOTH sides. It may not be what we want to hear, but after this week, saying “this isn’t our war” isn’t going to cut it anymore.