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Saturday December 04, 2021

Taliban’s re-emergence in Kabul: Situation for Pakistan in mid-90s was no different from today

September 10, 2021
Taliban’s re-emergence in Kabul: Situation for Pakistan in mid-90s was no different from today

ISLAMABAD: The situation today for Pakistan vis-a-vis Kabul, the Taliban and Washington is not much different from the mid-90s when the Taliban were about to capture Kabul, declassified US documents reveal, acknowledging Pakistan’s “legitimate” concerns as a neighbor about the “continuing conflict” in Afghanistan.

“Whatever influence Pakistan has with the Taliban should be used to persuade them to act in responsible ways such as freeing the Russian air crew and observing basic human rights,” the US confidential document, declassified in 2004, says.

Just like how Afghanistan’s territory has been used numerous times against Pakistan since 9/11 and how Karzai and Ghani in recent years blamed Pakistan, the document talks about a “Moscow-Tehran-New Delhi” axis supporting Burhanuddin Rabbani, under whose regime (before Kabul’s takeover by the Taliban) Pakistan suspected Kabul of having been involved in bombings and assassinations in Peshawar.

Following the collapse of the Soviet-backed Najibullah regime in 1992, the document shows the US appreciating Pakistan’s efforts to get the Afghan resistance groups to agree to an interim governing arrangement. However, after the nine major Afghan parties, who had accepted a government led by Burhanuddin Rabbani and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar but later it could not be formed owing to Rabbani’s continuation as president “despite the lapse of his legitimacy”, the Taliban movement emerged in late 1994. Rabbani, according to the document, had continued as president, even though he controlled only a fraction of Afghanistan.

“Rabbani believes that the Taliban are entirely a tool of Pakistan,” the document said, adding, “Pakistan has given material and tactical support to the Taliban, but the Taliban have clearly demonstrated their independence of mind. Although the Pakistanis continue to support the Taliban, they privately admit they do not want to see the Taliban in power in Kabul.”

“The Taliban, a movement of Afghan religious students trained in Pakistani religious schools, emerged in late 1994. The Taliban helped to realize some of Pakistan’s hopes for free commerce through Afghanistan by opening roads, disarming local warlords and brigands, and ending the practice of illegal ‘toll’ collection. Promising peace and stability in areas under their control, the Taliban were generally welcomed by the Afghan people, long wearied of war and the continued fighting between the Afghan factions.”

The document also talked about how during Rabbani’s rule the Pakistan embassy in Kabul was burnt and the ambassador was severely beaten by a mob. “As Rabbani has sensed losing his grip on power, his party has intensified its verbal attacks on Pakistan through its media and the UN. Relations are at an all-time low. Since Herat fell to the Taliban, Pakistan has been assiduously working with the Afghan factions, including the Taliban, to get them to oust Rabbani from Kabul and establish an interim government composed of all the main factions.”

On the other side, according to the document, “The Iranians, Russians and Indians have intensified their support for Rabbani; Tehran and Moscow have increased the flow of weapons and ammunition to Kabul.”

In the US view, “The Pakistanis do not have a well-conceived end-game for their policy of supporting the Taliban and opposing Rabbani. However, they are beginning to be concerned both with their failure to put together a Taliban-centered alliance against Rabbani and what they see as the emergence of a ‘Moscow-Tehran-New Delhi’ axis supporting Rabbani.”

The document acknowledged that Pakistan had long been concerned about the stability of Afghanistan as the country had profound influence on Pakistan’s own stability and prosperity.

“Afghanistan’s activities in drug and arms trafficking are shared on the Pakistani side of the border, particularly in the NWFP. The lawlessness and lack of social control spawned by Afghan narcotics, drug money and the arms culture pose a serious threat to Pakistan. Recent bombings and assassinations in Peshawar, the NWFP’s capital, have been linked to Afghans. Pakistan also suspects that the Kabul regime may be behind some of these incidents.”

After discussing these issues, the document talks about the US policy of seeking peaceful emergence of a broad-based government representative of all Afghans. In its ‘Talking Points’, the US document says:

-We (the US) share Pakistan’s concern over the current impasse in Afghanistan and its hopes that progress can be achieved on moving forwards towards a political settlement.

- We wish to work closely with you (Pakistan) and other governments to enhance the prospects for success of the UN mission.

- We recognize that Pakistan has legitimate concerns about the continuing conflict as do Afghanistan’s other neighbors.

- Whatever influence Pakistan has with the Taliban should be used to persuade them to act in responsible ways such as freeing the Russian air crew and observing basic human rights. - - Everyone must work towards an end game for Afghanistan that envisions a future for the country beyond the time when Rabbani and Masood leave Kabul.

- We would welcome a visit by your (Pakistani) Foreign Minister and others to Washington to discuss Afghanistan.