Monday, June 1, 2009

Do the Taleban Pose a real Threat to India?

By Abdullah Muntazir

Indian Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, has said the Taleban can attack India during the upcoming Lok Sabha (lower house of the Indian parliament) elections. The Indian media had previously published reports that the Taleban had reached (occupied) Kashmir and are poised to enter India from there. It therefore needs serious attention, analysis, and understanding, whether the Taleban really do pose a threat to India or whether Indian statements and media reports are in reality a pretext to pave the way for further Indian interference in Afghanistan’s affairs.
The evidence which I offer in support of this contention is that the Taleban have never carried out any armed activity outside Afghanistan, nor have they ever hinted of having such an intention either. I must also mention here that I do not assign
any weight to Baitullah Mehsud’s assertion of attacking Washington for two reasons. It is doubtful in the first place if such an announcement was ever really made, and secondly, if there is any truth in it, then it seems to be a reaction to the allegations by the Pakistani media that ‘he is America’s man’. In fact, in response to repeated allegations by the Pakistani media and government agencies, even the US has launched a couple of drone attacks against him to play down accusations that he has American backing. In this light therefore, Baitullah Mehsud’s pronouncements seem more like an attempt to shore up his standing and repute. Moreover, Baitullah Mehsud’s claim also appears ludicrous because he claims responsibility for the attack on the police training center in Lahore on the one hand, while simultaneously asserting it to be revenge for American drone attacks on the other, as if the US drones had been taking off from the police training center in Manawan.

If one takes a look at the Taleban’s resistance movement, one observes that they have clearly confined and concentrated all their attention and energies to activities within Afghanistan, although, in the past few years, they have emerged as a potent and persuasive force in Pakistan’s tribal areas too, especially more so recently in the Swat and Malakand areas. This has also been noted by Fareed Zakaria, international editor of the prominent American news magazine, Newsweek, wherein he says that the Afghan Taleban want to establish a state based on the body of Islamic Laws called the Shariah in Afghanistan, and that they have absolutely no concern with armed activities on the international level. He gives the example of the 9/11 events, in that not a single member of the Taleban was involved in those events. The fact remains that Mullah Umar had no knowledge of the planning of the 9/11 attacks and this operation was purely an Al Qaida venture. In fact, the Taleban had declared after the 9/11 events that if they are furnished with proof that Al Qaida was really responsible for these events, they are prepared to put them on trial in a Taleban Shariah court.

The Taleban would never have made such a statement if they had considered the 9/11 attacks to be justified. It is also worth noting here that the Committee formed by the United Nations Security Council through its Resolution 1267, now called The Taleban and Al Qaida Sanctions Committee, was basically formed solely against the activities of Al Qaida. The Taleban was included in the committee’s name later on when they had refused to hand over Usama bin Laden under repeated American demands. And all this had happened prior to the 9/11 events.

After the 9/11 events; whether it were the 7/7 events in London, or the Madrid train blasts; the Bali hotel bomb blasts, or the Mumbai train blasts, or the recent events there; there is not a single incident anywhere in which the Taleban have been found to be involved. This is because the Taleban do not have the same style of warfare as Al Qaida or other groups which operate on an international level. It has been a hallmark of the Taleban style of warfare from the very beginning that they always try to conquer a piece of land and then establish their own style of administration there and to persuade the people of that area to follow their system and laws.

The Taleban had hide in the mountains for some time after the fall of Kandahar by the US led coalition and initiated a guerrilla war against their enemies. Yet, as soon as they achieved some success, they entered the cities and rural areas and took control. According to one UN report, they now control and have enforced their laws and system in 105 districts of Afghanistan while Afghan government admitted a few days ago that Taliban have established their control in 10 out of 26 provinces and 156 districts of Afghanistan. The Pakistani Taleban have also followed exactly the same methodology in the tribal areas of Pakistan. They first took over control of Waziristan; then followed it with raising their flags in Bajaur and Mohmand Agencies, and they are now advancing towards other areas, such as Buner, after consolidating their control of Swat and Malakand areas.

Not only is the Taleban’s modus operandi different to that of Al Qaida and other militant groups, but it is also a fact that no global strategy exists in the Taleban’s agenda, and all their attention is focused on confronting Nato and Allied forces in Afghanistan. Mullah Umar is allegedly put off by the attacks on Pakistani forces and he would like the Pakistani Taleban too, to concentrate all their energies against the Americans. On the other hand are the Pakistani Taleban who, although it is true, have entered into some sensitive accords with the Pakistani government, yet their attention too, is chiefly focused entirely on maintaining control of the areas they hold. They obviously neither have the time, nor the interest, nor do they care enough about India to turn their attention towards it.

In fact, the most significant thing that I would like to share with my readers is that the Pakistani Taleban and the Al Qaida splinter groups connected with them are thinking in completely the opposite terms to the Indian claims. The fact is that the Pakistani Taliban and their associates call the freedom struggle in Kashmir as ISI’s war, and label various groups fighting against Indian occupation of Kashmir, such as Hizb-ul-Mujahideen and Lashkar-e-Taiba, as ISI’s minions and lackeys. It is apparent that holding such a belief the Taleban would never subscribe to align themselves with any war which they consider to be wrong, and which they believe is being waged by people they do not trust, and whom they consider are allied with their enemies.

Reports have also surfaced in the Pakistani media that the Taleban want to target the leadership of jihadi groups which are active in occupied Kashmir. In fact, there is a fundamental ideological difference between the two sides which makes it impossible that these two would ever be reconciled in Kashmir. That crucial fundamental ideological difference is that the groups active in Kashmir consider any armed activity within Pakistan to be un-Islamic, whereas the Pakistani Taleban on the other hand consider the ‘jihad’ by these groups in Kashmir as un-Islamic, and regard them as ‘allies of the Americans’ and paid ISI lackeys. It is therefore unimaginable that the Taleban would join this struggle as long as this elemental chasm remains.

The truth is that the entire current hullabaloo about the Taleban by India is essentially a part of the American great game, the core objective of which is to gradually tighten the noose around Pakistan’s nuclear assets. Such statements by India are in fact merely a ploy to gain membership of the proposed American Af-Pak Contact Group. Pakistan’s security establishment is fully aware of the motives behind the American theory of ‘a common enemy’ and they are taking the appropriate steps to safeguard Pakistan’s security. What really needs to be done is that the Pakistani media must not become an unwitting ally of the American media war, and instead, to step up their efforts in uniting the nation against its ‘common enemy’.

The writer is an expert on regional security issues and militancy


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