Afghanistan at risk of becoming haven for Islamist extremists, Pakistan warns

Afghanistan at risk of becoming haven for Islamist extremists, Pakistan  warns
Pakistan’s national security advisor has warned that, without international assistance, Afghanistan will be an ungoverned space, from which Isis and al-Qaeda can plot attacks

Afghanistan is at serious risk of imploding as a state and once again becoming a haven for lethal Islamist terrorism if the international community turns its back on the Taliban, a senior Pakistani security official has warned.

The Taliban, which seized power after a swift and successful military offensive, needs engagement and assistance, said Moeed Yusuf, Pakistan’s National Security Advisor. The alternative, he stressed, will be ungoverned space, which will be filled by Isis and al-Qaeda plotting and carrying out attacks in the country, the region and beyond.

Pakistan has been widely accused of feeding and watering the Taliban and other violent Islamist groups like the Haqqani Network in sanctuaries across the border. The first foreign public figure to visit Kabul after the Taliban takeover was Lieutenant General Faiz Hameed, the head of Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence agency (ISI) which, it has been claimed, has been the chief sponsor of jihadist groups.

Mr Yusuf, writing in The Independent, maintained that the claims Pakistan played a “double game” were unfounded. He continued: “the reality is that since 2001, Pakistan has been the principal victim of the war in Afghanistan. We have suffered over 80,000 casualties and more than $150 billion in economic losses, with over 3.5 million of our own people internally displaced at the height of the terrorist onslaught inside Pakistan”.

The fall of the Ashraf Ghani government proved how disconnected the Afghan political hierarchy was from the public, said Mr Yusuf. “Ashraf Ghani, and regional spoilers like India, created false narratives aimed at masking the reality that international efforts in Afghanistan lacked legitimacy in the eyes of the Afghans”, he said.

The government announced by the Taliban, a few days after Lt Gen Hameed’s visit, is comprised overwhelmingly of those associated with Mullah Omar’s regime of 20 years ago or their families. It is all male and all Pashtun, with other Afghan communities like the Tajiks, Uzbeks and Hazaras excluded. Those closest to the Pakistani security establishment, like the Haqqani Network, are said to have benefited the most in the new power structure.

“Pakistan’s expectations of the new government are identical to those in the West,” said Mr Yusuf. “We have repeatedly called for a government that caters to and protects the rights of all Afghans while ensuring that Afghanistan’s territory is not used for terrorism against any country.”

President Joe Biden’s hasty withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan followed by the collapse of Afghan forces and chaotic attempted exodus by thousands trying to escape the Taliban, has drawn severe criticism both within the US and among its allies.

“U.S. President Biden’s decision to withdraw troops and end the international military presence in Afghanistan marks the logical conclusion of a war that never had a military solution,” Mr Yusuf added.

A number of countries have pledged a total of more than $ 1.1 billion in food aid at a UN conference to address pressing problems facing Afghanistan. A number of others say they will wait and see whether the Taliban honour pledges on human rights and curbing terrorism before deciding on aid and around $ 10 billion of Afghan money remain frozen at banks abroad, mainly with the US Federal Reserve.

But if the international community walked away from Afghanistan now it “will inevitably lead to a security vacuum that will allow Isis, Al Qaeda and other international terrorists to thrive once again. Neither of these remained remain confined to Afghanistan or the region last time around. It will be foolish to think that the entire world will not be affected again.”