27 December 2013
D Suba Chandran
There has been a serious concern, at times even a threat perception, that after the American withdrawal in 2014, the Afghan mujahideen would enter into J&K, as they did after the Soviet withdrawal in 1989. How real is the threat? How relevant is the previous example to the contemporary situation in Afghanistan, Pakistan and J&K? Does the contemporary political and security situation in these three regions along with the attention of international community provide a space conducive for the Afghan mujahideen to enter (on their own) or being pushed (by Pakistan) into Kashmir?
Much of the Afghan mujahideen threat perception to J&K emanates from a perception that Afghanistan would unravel after 2014. In fact, it was the instability within Afghanistan in the early 1990s after the Soviet withdrawal in 1989, which made the country unstable. This instability across the Durand Line also left Pakistan with a huge refugee population including a substantial mujahideen residue. A section within the Pakistani Establishment and ISI saw this as an opportunity to support the militant struggle taking roots at that time in J&K in the early 1990s.
It was the opportunist use and abuse of the Afghans within Pakistan by the Establishment and its ISI which resulted in J&K witnessing the mujahideen. During that time, neither the mujahideen were infused with a jihadi spirit to establish a caliphate all over the region, nor did they want to fight for the cause of an independent Kashmir. They were used and abused by the Pakistani Establishment as mercenaries.
In retrospect, it would also appear that the pumping of Afghan mujahideen into J&K did not support what Pakistan wanted to do; in fact, it became counterproductive, as there was at that time and in fact even today a substantial section within J&K that would abhor what the Afghan mujahideen did to the social fabric at that time.
Second, is Afghanistan likely to be unstable after the withdrawal of international security forces (ISAF) after 2014? In this context, there is a mis-percpetion or cynicism that Afghanistan would collapse after the American withdrawal. Such a perception does not reflect the improved situation at the ground level. Today the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) are much better trained and equipped than they were in the early 1990s. In fact, this is the best force that Afghanistan could have had in the recent decade in terms of numbers, training, equipment and more importantly motivation.
On the other hand, ever since their inception, the Taliban today is perhaps at its weakest position in terms of numbers, second tier leadership, infrastructural support and motivation. Unlike the 1990s, there is no Taliban wave, that could sweep province after province. In fact, the Taliban is using suicide attacks and IEDs as a major strategy against the ANSF, rather than any coordinated conventional offensive. Clearly, the Taliban is on a defensive and is unlikely to run over the ANSF militarily after 2014.
The above does not mean the ANSF would succeed to completely remove the presence of Taliban from the Afghan soil. Taliban would still remain an important threat for Karzai and any future President; but this threat from the Taliban to the government in Kabul may not be as grave as it was in the 1990s. Afghanistan is likely to witness an ugly stability and not an all out civil war between every factions.