By Bimal Prasad Mohapatra
Afghanistan has been in turmoil for last four and half decades. This unprecedented turmoil and civil war during such a long period has so far killed millions, who had nothing to do in the 20th Century Cold War between world’s two super powers and their aligned nations in which Afghanistan has been a hapless buffer. They destroyed victim nation’s socio-cultural environment and infrastructures, and economy beyond recognization, not possible to recover in next few decades even if attempts with right earnest are started now by both victim nation and trespassers together. Millions of Afghan nationals who have not yet seen their motherland as they were born and grew up and had been still living in refugee camps in inimical neighbours Pakistan and Iran in eastern and western border respectively. While Pakistan has territorial expansionist ambition as it does not accept British era drawn 2,430 KM long Durand Line dividing two neighbours, Shia majority Iran is incompatible with Sunni majority Afghanistan matching with century old traditional Arab Sunni-Shia rivalry.
As per 2018 UNHCR report, there are almost 2.5 million registered refugees from Afghanistan, the second largest refugee population in the world, and they comprise UNHCR designated the largest ‘protected refugee’ population in Asia for the reason ‘their lives may not be at risk, but their basic rights and essential economic, social and psychological needs remain unfulfilled’, reducing them to beastly living in refugee camps in hostile geographies.
Who should be blamed for this appalling state of affairs of such a large population (39 millions 2020 Worldometer UN data which is 2/3 size of UK population, part of NATO forces) of landlocked Afghanistan but packed with beautiful hills, rivers, lakes, plains, rich mines, civilization’s treasure such as monuments, caves, etc.? And this is not all. Afghanistan turmoil has fueled rapid spread of Islamic terror starting in 1980s to the entire region, and later in 2001, that went up to hitting the world’s most protected official building, The Pentagon, the headquarter of US Defence Department, and twin towers of New York’s World Trade Centre, killing total of 2977 people, which has been considered as world history’s deadliest terrorist act in the territory of world mighty super power in the distance US, the first in the scale of devastation since WW-II’s 1941 Pearl Harbor attack. The White House, the very foundation of Super Power authority, believed to be the fourth target, had narrowly escaped from the scheme of coordinated terror attacks, thank to the passengers who forced crash the plane before the same hit its intended target.
Since then Pakistan has been allegedly considered as terror factory of world. Who facilitated it to be so?
A visit to the history of Afghanistan tells the nation has been victim of the 20th century Cold War between the world’s two power blocks NATO and Warsaw Pact lead by the Democratic US and Communist USSR respectively fighting for expansion of their ideological geographies. Taking advantage of internal power struggles as seen in almost all nations, Afghanistan’s the then closed geographical neighbor from Warsaw Pact, the communist USSR, now defunct, intervened into the political affairs of hapless landlocked hilly nation and installed its ideological closest but unpopular politicians one after another as the heads of nation instead of help built consensus among warring regional satraps with sanction of UN Security Council. Finally, when its experiment of installing its puppets failed, USSR army invaded the country and occupied it in 1979. As if this was what the vested interest Pakistan had been looking for since long, it seized the opportunity providing launching pads in its territory to resisting war lords literally called Mujahideen from Afghanistan with financial and materials (war-gears) provisioning from NATO lead by the US. Before this development, less than a decade back, Pakistan had lost its territory East Pakistan, now called Bangladesh, in a war with India. Pakistan’s sole objective in providing base to Afghan Mujahideen was to get not only Western backing to build a network of terror which could be used against Soviet forces in Afghan in its western border but also against its regional arch-rival India in the eastern border with which it has also alleged territorial dispute since independence apart from taking revenge for defeats in three conventional wars.
Whether the US-Pakistan mated Mujahideen would have been successful in evicting Soviet Forces or not from Afghanistan, but the collapse of USSR in 1992 forced the quick withdrawal of latter’s forces pushing the nation in to complete anarchy which later taken over by Mujahideen openly crossing over the Durand Line from Pakistan with it’s intelligence and logistic supports. As soon as the Red Army withdrawal was complete and collapse of giant communist Soviet Russia, the NATO/West not only stopped backing the Mujahideen, who latter were called Taliban, but also completely ignored the affairs of South Asia where it has left a large number of trained terrorists with their terror manufacturing factories in virtual custody of vested interest Pakistan intelligence agency ISI. Later, Islamic hardliners from Sunni Arab countries under banner of Al-Qaeda, who were against the West in general and vociferously against US in particular, and also against their own country rulers for their having close association with the West and the US, joined the terror camps. Over a decade time, they grew to such a capability that they could wage war against the then world only super power developing the unconventional means difficult to suspect for attacks that caused huge devastation as glimpsed above within the US’s territory. In the daring coordinated attacks, thousands were killed without a single gunshot and without involvement of any army. Rarest so far in human’s living memory!
The above unfolding proved that terror mechanism promoted and developed targeting enemy, and at a distance geography, would not even spare its promoter and developer whatever mighty and at the distance they might be. It proved beyond doubt that terror boomerangs. Terrorists are Bhaswasura. Without knowing how to tame such a monster, developing them is nothing less than inviting deadly self-destruction.
After 2001 attack, the Uncle Sam(US) has almost sealed itself from any future attack terror attack using draconian means. But, is the US immune from any new and innovative attack which may not be conventional and unconventional it has so far exposed to?
Let us get back to the factory of Islamic terror left behind in the South Asia by the West. Pakistan, which, to fulfill its vested interest, allowed overtly itself to be launching pad of terror war against communism expansion on behalf of democratic power is now a victim of the same monster. Sectarian violence and corruption are rampant. No economic development, no MNC is ready to bring in new technology and capital in this age of highly globalised world of economic development. Its economy is in ICU, just surviving on borrowed money either from vested interest based in Arab World or Communist China which does have vested interest the kind erstwhile Soviet Russia had in South Asia. A trapped Pakistan is found ready to do anything for anybody.
Now, it is found Pakistan is playing to the hands of Communist China against both nations’ regional rival democratic India. Pakistan in the meanwhile has built terror training and export factory against India a la it has built the same against USSR in 1980s. Flow of terrorists from these camps to India’s bordering state J&K, into which Chinese PLA recently intruded, going on unabated, and their resulting attack on Indian security establishment which forced India to retaliate that almost plunged the two nuclear armed nations to conventional war but missed on logical ground as Indian retaliations were exclusively on Pakistan non-civilian and non-security establishment which are literally designated as non-state player establishments by the host.
Who is to be blamed for Pakistan’s present state of affairs in particular and South Asia in general?
In this given situation, the present occupant of The White House, Mr. Donald Trump, now bidding for second term, in order to keep his existing term pre-election promise, wants the US forces which has since 2015 ceded the combative assignment but is there to train Afghan forces while assumed as the stabilizing forces in the region, to withdraw on the basis of recently signed agreement with Taliban which virtually rules the entire non-urban territory of Afghanistan at gun points. This withdrawal might push Afghanistan and region where it was between 1992(Red Army withdrawal) to 2001(Terror attacks on US). And what next as the by-product of this withdrawal when poisonous snakes are still roving in impunity in Afghanistan and Pakistan, it is difficult to forecast now.
(Bimal Prasad Mohapatra is Assistant Professor in Bhubaneswar based Trident Group of Institutions. The views expressed are personal opinion of the author. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)