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FATA and NWFP Taliban India Security

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Any opinions, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of UK Essays.

Published: Mon, 19 Feb 2018

CHAPTER – I

INTRODUCTION

“A host of wandering Talib-ul-ilums, who correspond with the theological students in Turkey and live free at the expense of the people…….”

– Winston Churchill, 1898[1]

1. The present ongoing conflict in Pakistan’s tribal belt and in Afghanistan has serious security implications for India. The Mehsuds, Wazirs and Afridis were the tribals used by the Pakistan Army in 1947-48 to attack the state of Jammu and Kashmir, leading to occupation of what is now called the Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK). The Pakistan Army again used them before and during the war of 1965. Zia-ul-Haq used them for suppressing a Shia revolt in Gilgit in 1988[2]. The same elements were again used to infiltrate into Kargil, leading to Kargil War.

2. If the US and other NATO forces fail to prevail over these Terrorist Tribesmen in the Pakistan-Afghanistan tribal belt, these tribesmen, fresh from their victories in that region, would move over to Kashmir to resume their aggression against India. What we are now seeing in Kashmir is the beginning of the end of one phase of the aggression involving Terrorists of the 1980s vintage. We might see the beginning of a new phase involving better-trained and better-motivated Terrorists of the latest stock.

3. The tribal belt of Pakistan and Afghanistan was the chess board of the ‘Big Game’ played between colonial powers. The British established ‘Durand Line” demarcating the tribal areas which could not be governed. The British encouraged raising and maintenance of militia in FATA and NWFP, so as to thwart the Russian designs in South Asia, especially India[3]. The area was kept as a buffer to the Russian empire which had reached up to modern Uzbekistan.

4. The militia tribesmen of FATA and NWFP, after the departure of British from the subcontinent, were utilised operationally for the first time by Pakistan in 1947 against India. This strategy highlighted the advantage of utilising non state actors as means of aggression. The tribal invasion of 1947 resulted in occupation of approximately 35% of J & K by Pakistan.[4]

5. Approximately 70,000 tribesmen attacked India in 1947 and were driven back up to LOC till ceasefire agreement in 1948[5]. These tribesmen after the attack dispersed back into tribal areas of FATA and NWFP. The tribal populace thereafter supported and participated in the resistance movement confronting the Soviets in Afghanistan. The Soviets withdrew from Afghanistan in 1988, and full attention of these insurgent tribes was shifted to India. The existence of these elements in the FATA and NWFP was not given due consideration by India till late 1980’s when insurgency erupted in J & K. In past, the tribal militia had no name, but now to keep pace with the media and generate support, the tribesmen have assigned names/nomenclature to their organisations; the most prominent nomenclature amongst all of them being the Taliban[6].

6. The Taliban is an ideology which majority of insurgent groups find easy to imbibe. The various warring tribes in FATA and NWFP have come under a common umbrella of Taliban ideology in recent years. The main cause for this mass acceptance of Taliban ideology is due to large influx of Al-Qaida operatives post US led “War on Terror’.[7]

7. The resurgence of the Taliban and ongoing CI operations by Pakistan army, along with deteriorating situation in FATA and NWFP has major security implications for India. The proximity of North Indian frontiers to the conflict zone coupled with the current insurgency in J&K, the need of the hour is to redefine security policy and take speedy initiatives to put effective deterrent in place.

METHODOLOGY

8. Statement of Problem.

Considering the continued aggressive attitude of the tribesmen from FATA and NWFP in the past towards India, their reorganisation under Taliban leading to current conflict in Pakistan may result in renewed and increased threat to the North Indian frontiers. The paper seeks to highlight that the Taliban are a threat in being for India’s security.

9. Hypothesis.

There is an urgent need to identify the critical vulnerabilities of the Taliban and identify additional security initiatives that need to be undertaken by India.

Justification of the Study

10. The threat of Taliban from FATA and NWFP to North Indian frontiers has been underestimated. The tribes in FATA and NWFP have existed as militia and mercenaries for over 100 years; however they have been given nomenclature/name like Taliban only recently. The first organised offensive of these tribesmen into India was in 1947 to annexe the state of J & K. Thereafter, since 1990 these tribesmen have infiltrated into J & K state as foreign mercenaries / terrorists fuelling insurgency.

11. Considering the continued aggression and threat from the tribesmen from FATA and NWFP since independence of India, there exists a knowledge gap with regard to their origins. Relatively little research has been directed towards exploring their transformation into an umbrella organisation – the Taliban, probably because of the obvious difficulties with studying a covert organisation. The absence of a logical explanation for the existence of these aggressive tribesmen as mercenaries and militia has complicated the threat evaluation process. This study describes the Taliban phenomenon, elaborates upon their strengths and weaknesses. The study endeavours to predict the Taliban’s future strategic course of action and recommends measures to counter their strengths and exploit their weaknesses in order to design a formidable CI/CT effort. The Taliban have emerged as front runner terrorist outfit in the troubled FATA and NWFP. The study of their ideology will also provide inputs towards their grand strategy and objectives. All these inputs will enable correct assessment of security threat to India and aid in development of strategy to counter this menace. The thesis may also be of interest to field operatives, helping them to understand their adversary.

12. Scope.

The history bears the testimony to the vulnerability of Indian sub continent to invasions from North Western Frontiers. The rise of Taliban in FATA and NWFP of Pakistan, their reorganisation and rejuvenation is of grave concern to India, which cannot be ignored. The paper focuses on the history, ideology and overall grand strategy of Taliban highlighting the impending threat to India and way ahead.

Method of Data Collection

13. The data for this paper has been collected primarily through secondary sources, the books available in the library. Some material has also been garnered from various college lectures. Periodicals and papers written by famous socialists and historians have also been referred to. Bibliography is placed at appendix A.

14. Tertiary sources include various articles compiled and published from time to time by renowned authors in various reference books and articles available from the internet.

Organisation of dissertation

15. It is proposed to study the subject in the following manner:-

(a) Chapter – I: Introduction. This chapter describes the purpose of the thesis and the statement of problem. It argues the need for developing a broader understanding of the Taliban in order to develop a better approach to deal with counterinsurgency and counter-terrorism efforts in the North Western frontiers.

(b) Chapter – II: The Problem Genesis. This chapter covers the historical perspective of the problem. The chapter brings out the circumstances leading to the genesis of the Taliban phenomenon.

(c) Chapter – III: The Taliban Organisation. Chapter III focuses on the structure of the Taliban. The chapter analyses their formal and informal layout and operational mechanisms. The leadership and decision-making processes of Taliban will also be highlighted to assess the motivation and beliefs of Taliban operatives to give a better understanding of their recruitment and human resource processes.

(d) Chapter – IV: Analysis of Taliban. Chapter IV analyses the strengths and weaknesses of Taliban utilising the Commander’s Estimate of Situation method. The Strategic and Operational Objectives are derived from research. These are analysed to determine strategic and operational Centres of Gravity. Finally critical vulnerabilities are determined, which will be utilised to develop Indian Course of Action to tackle the Taliban menace.

(e) Chapter – V: Taliban Threat – An Indian Perspective. This chapter brings out the national opinion on the existence of Taliban threat. The chapter highlights the vulnerabilities of India and its borders and the threat in being.

(f) Chapter – VI: Recommendations and Way Out. The final chapter gives a way out for overcoming the emerging Taliban threat. The chapter will suggest recommendations for planning effective CI/CT strategies to counter the Taliban strengths and exploit their weaknesses.

CHAPTER – II

THE PROBLEM GENESIS

“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.”

– Sun Tzu[8]

1. Introduction. The study of background leading to genesis of Taliban will help in identifying the patterns of past actions of Taliban and aid in analysing current behaviour. This chapter will cover various aspects of Taliban history, highlighting the influence of ancient tribal warrior culture, the invasion by USSR leading to rise of Mujahideen[9], relevance of Madrassas[10] and their religious ideology, civil war following withdrawal of USSR forces, Rise of Taliban, the downfall of Taliban and current insurgency in the Afpak region. [11]

History

2. Throughout the history invaders have tried in vain to overpower the Pashtun dominated region of Afpak. The first recorded invasion of this region was by Alexander in 326 BC, thereafter a number of armies appeared on the scene including those of Persian Empire, Huns, Turks, Mongols, British, Russians and recent ones being the US troops[12]. The conquerors were either defeated or absorbed into the tribal culture of the Pashtuns thereby maintaining the independence of the region. Despite the apparent ease in conquering the Pashtun areas, no outside power has ever been able to completely subdue it. The tribal and military orientation has shaped the culture and outlook of the area. As Johnson writes, “A Pashtun is never at peace, except when he is at war.”[13] The people of this region have therefore for centuries been inclined to reject any form of strict authority even at the cost of discord and insecurity.[14]

3. The “Great Game” in nineteenth century shaped the current political landscape of the region. The Pashtuns had their first encounter with modern military power through three Anglo- Afghan Wars in 1839, 1878 and 1919[15]. Both Russia and Britain desperately tried to get a foothold in Afghanistan, but were unable to gain headway. Finally both parties agreed to create a buffer in shape of Afghanistan between their zones of influence. The international boundary known as Durand Line was drawn between British India and Afghanistan in 1893[16]. The Pashtuns continued to maintain strong ethnic and family connections across the international boundary. The British accorded the tribes on other side of border a semi – autonomous status that was maintained after creation of Pakistan in 1947 in the form of FATA[17].

4. The Pashtun areas on both sides of Durand Line continued to exist peacefully till 1973, when Zahir Shah’s four decade rule ended. The instability after his departure resulted in emergence of Communist ideological People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan and it finally overthrew government in 1978. The Communist reform package, which included drastic changes in land ownership, new taxes, compulsory education for women, and participation of women in non-traditional roles in society, was resisted by traditional and orthodox religious elements of Afghanistan, led by the Mujahedeen of Afghanistan. As Larry P Goodson commented “These reforms struck at the very heart of the socio-economic structure of Afghanistan’s rural society; indeed, their sudden nationwide introduction, with no preliminary pilot programs, suggest that this was their real purpose.”[18]Finally, Soviet Union deployed troops in Afghanistan in December 1979 to aid their communist ally against the Islamic militias and to counter the threat of radical Islamist power along its soft underbelly of the Muslim majority Central Asian republics. The Soviet involvement led to increased Mujahedeen resistance and calls for jihad.[19]

5. The ten year occupation resulted in Soviet 40th army loosing 13,883 personnel, plus 650 more in affiliated units. Despite heavy investments in men and material the Soviets were not able to gain unopposed access. Therefore after a long and costly counter – insurgency effort the Soviet Union withdrew its forces from Afghanistan in Feb 1989, leaving a Communist Government headed by Najibullah.[20]

6. The exit of Soviet forces was followed by a civil war which resulted in overthrow of Najibullah’s government in April 1992. The defeat of the communist government revealed the differences in the fractured alliances of Mujahedeen parties[21]. Each faction had its leader or warlord in a geographical region of the country with aspirations for power. In – fighting broke out among the warlords leading to widespread looting and rapine. This strife between the warlords and a war weary population set the stage for the radical ideas of the Taliban to so easily take hold in Afghanistan. “The Taliban mythology cites their creation as a reaction to the injustices that were perpetrated during the mujahedin era of Afghan politics.”[22]

7. The cadre of the Taliban emerged from the Pashtun refugee camps. It was there, in some of the Madrassas, that a selectively interpreted version of Islam, Wahabism[23], influenced students (talib) to adopt an ultraconservative approach to social issues and politics[24]. Despite differences with the fundamentalist religion espoused by the Taliban, the people gathered behind them because of promises to deliver peace by eliminating the menace of the warlords and narcotics. This tradition and the aura of a righteous religious student on the quest for peace gave students immense rapport with the Pashtun people. The popularity of the Taliban rapidly spread and they experienced continued success in consolidating power.

8. On 10 Nov 1994 Taliban seized Kandahar, the organisation gained religious legitimacy among the Pashtuns when their leader, Mullah Muhammad Omar, wore the sacred cloak of Prophet Mohammad in public and declared himself Amir Al-Mu’minin (leader of the Faithful)[25]. This event can be considered turning point in the Taliban movement for providing it a charismatic leader, who could thereafter take advantage of the tribal religious sentiments of Pashtuns.

9. After the control of Kandahar, the Taliban progressed in quick succession and by 1997 controlled 95% of Afghanistan. The Taliban established order in Afghanistan, but it was of a fearsome medieval kind. The Taliban’s government policy had become well known. Women were rendered anonymous, refused work or education. Justice was implemented by Islamic law. Television, music and photographs were banned. Gradually, the Taliban led by Mullah Muhammad Omar lost support of international community and afghan populace due to very strict enforcement of its version of Islamic law. Mullah Omar during his reign in Afghanistan interacted with Osama bin Laden and Taliban hosted Al Qaeda training camps.

10. The attack on United States of America on 11 Sep 01 by Al Qaeda operatives and the Taliban’s refusal to extradite bin Laden led to launch of Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF). The operation resulted in rapid fall of Taliban and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan. The majority of Taliban fighters dispersed back into Afghan society, while its leadership went underground. [26]

11. In the Pakistani border areas with Afghanistan, the FATA and areas of NWFP, the tribal populace had supported the Taliban movement since its inception. The populace in these areas has been at odds with the Pakistani security forces since its independence.

12. The current problem of insurgency in Pakistan has roots in the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, when FATA was used as launch pad for Mujahedeen sponsored by Pakistan and U.S. These areas turned into hotbed of terrorism, which was further fuelled by Madrassas, continued supply of modern weapons from U.S and heavy influx of Afghan refugees. Once the Soviets were ousted from Afghanistan, majority of foreign Mujahideen settled in FATA and NWFP. The radical elements in FATA and NWFP supported the Taliban after commencement of Operation Enduring Freedom. Therefore Pakistani government became a target for its crucial support to OEF. Pakistani troops are heavily committed to FATA and NWFP, currently over 1, 00,000 troops are deployed to counter pro – Taliban terrorists[27]. On 14 Dec 07, the Taliban “movement” in Pakistan coalesced under the leadership of Baitullah Mehsud to form an umbrella organization called Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP)[28], having allegiance to Mullah Omar.

Environment

13. The Taliban is an organisation and therefore dependent on environment. The environment in which they operate places constraints and also provides for opportunities. The major components of environment are discussed below.

14. Physical Environment.

The most important environmental factor is the physical terrain in which the Taliban operate. The terrain in Afghanistan, FATA and NWFP is very harsh and mountainous covering an approximate area of 270,000 sq miles. The harsh and inaccessible mountainous terrain is conducive for insurgent activities. The area also has inaccessible spaces which are governed by tribes that allow terrorists freedom of manoeuvre[29], while it makes organised conventional military operations ineffective and expensive in terms of troops and resources. The rugged geography has embodied the regions culture, which has remained unaffected by time.

15. Culture.

The culture is most important factor concerning the situation. The culture of area depends greatly on Pashtunwali code of honour that predates Islam and is specific to the Pashtun tribes.[31] The Pashtunwali is the traditional norm by which people of Pashtun tribes are expected to conduct themselves. A Pashtun must adhere to the code to maintain his honour and to retain his identity. If one violates this code they are subject to the verdict of Jirga.[32]

16. Religion.

The religion is another pillar of the Taliban, Afghanistanis are 99 % Muslim, consisting of 80 % Sunni and 19 % Shia[33]. In Afghanistan, Islam has been mixed with pre-Islamic beliefs and tribal customs of Pashtunwali[34]. The Taliban transformed the tradition to ultra-conservative interpretation of Islam. The basics of this ideology stem from Madrassas founded during the Soviet – Afghan war. The increased influence of Saudi Arabia lead to Madrassas shift to orthodox Islam which looks to “follow Salafist model and thoughts”[35]. The attraction of Salafi movement is rooted in its ability to provide a domain in which a resistance identity is created through discourses, symbols and everyday practices. Within this the members are required to organise themselves into small tight-knit communities that stand distinctly apart from open society. To some extent it can be identified as a sect, demanding complete loyalty, unwavering belief and rigid adherence to a distinctive lifestyle.[36] However as written by Rashid “The Taliban represented nobody but themselves and they recognised no Islam except their own.” The majority of Afghanistan’s populace did not traditionally follow this interpretation of the religion but had to contend with its enforcement during the Taliban reign.[37]

17. Ethnicity.

The ethnic breakdown of Afghanistan and Tribal areas of Pakistan is as follows[38]:-

Ser No

Tribe

Percentage

(a)

Pashtun

42

(b)

Aimak

4

(c)

Tajik

27

(d)

Turkmen

3

(e)

Hazara

9

(f)

Balochi

2

(g)

Uzbek

9

(h)

Others

4

Table – 1

18. The Pashtuns have a majority in the Taliban Organisation, with minimal participation of other tribes. As a result during the Taliban rule and ensuing insurgency other tribes were targets of attacks. The coalition of northern tribes (Turkman, Tajik and Uzbek) made up bulk of the northern alliance troops that allied with US troops to overthrow Taliban in 2001.

19. Pashtun Tribal Breakdown. The Pashtuns are further sub-divided into several tribes and sub-tribes spread throughout Afghanistan and Pakistan. The Pashtuns in Pakistan are larger in number than those of Afghanistan and are mostly concentrated in FATA and NWFP. These tribes are interconnected in a complex interplay of obscure genealogies, mythical folklore, historical alliances and conflicts, which makes it very difficult to differentiate and draw lines between the groups. However, there are five major tribal groups of Pashtuns in Afghanistan and Pakistan. These are the Durranis, Ghilzai, Karlanri, Sarbani and Ghurghusht, with Durrani and Ghilzai as the most influential (Figure 3).[40]

20. Since 1747, the Durrani tribal confederation has provided the leadership within the Southern Pashtun areas. The trend started with Ahmad Shah Durrani, when he founded the monarchy. Ahmad Shah is considered the founder of modern Afghanistan because he was able to unite the factional tribes. The present President of Afghanistan is also from Durrani tribe. The traditional folklore connects the Durranis with the Sarbani tribal group.[41]

21. The Ghilzai tribal group, which is concentrated in the eastern Afghanistan, has historically been an arch-rival of the Durranis. Some of the important leaders of Taliban today, including Mullah Omar belong to this tribal group.[42]

22. The Karlanris are the third largest group of the Pashtun tribes and are referred to as the hill tribes. They occupy the border areas between Pakistan and Afghanistan in Waziristan, Kurram and Peshawar.[43]

23. The Sarbani are divided into two major geographically separated groups. The larger group is located north of Peshawar, while the smaller one is scattered in northern Balochistan. This group because of their links with the Durranis are considered part of the traditional aristocracy of Pashtun tribes.[44]

24. The last major group is Ghurghusht. These are settled throughout northern Balochistan.[45] Some factions of this tribe can also be found in NWFP.

Resources

25. The primary sources and assets available to Taliban are religious militant outfits, human terrain[46] or manpower and opium trade. The analysis of Taliban resources can be carried out by determining the availability and quality. The religious militant outfits include Al Qaida and similar sectarian organisations. The Al Qaida provides vital support to the Taliban organisation. The support of Al Qaeda provided the Taliban cause legitimacy in a multitude of intercontinental terrorist organisations. The Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden pledged his support to Mullah Omar, the leader of Taliban. Al Qaeda provides Taliban with assistance in form of financial support, manpower, technology (high end weapons) and training.[47]

26. The other strong supporters of Taliban include Tehreek-i-Nifaz-i-Shariat-i-Muhammadi (TNSM), which is active in the FATA and Swat regions of NWFP. [48] There are other supporting insurgent groups from central Asia like Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) and Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM).

27. Few of the Madrassas in the Pashtun belt propagate radical version of Islamic ideology and therefore are convenient recruiting grounds for Taliban. The Leadership of Islamic movement has fallen in the hands of Pashtuns as they were able to oust Soviets. Since the Madrassas had played important role in Anti-Soviet Jihad, these institutions acquired reputation of both as recruiting grounds for Mujahidin and centres of learning.[49]

28. Human terrain. The human terrain [50] is most important asset for the survival of Taliban. There are approximately 28 million Pashtuns in Afghanistan and Pakistan. This large pool of Pashtuns provides recruits, support personnel, money, weapons and an intelligence network to aid in waging insurgency.

29. The Pashtuns have been amenable to Taliban, as they do not dominate the Kabul administration. The Pashtun mistrust of the government was further heightened by inability of Afghan Transitional Administration, as it could not protect Pashtuns from human rights abuses from the warlords and insurgents since fall of the Taliban government.

30. The people and recruits of Taliban after the fall of Kabul remerged with the local populace, providing outstanding and real time intelligence. With more than two generations of war-hardened inhabitants to select from, the Taliban recruited experienced fighters who know the terrain and can survive harsh environment. In addition a large amount of ordnance, weapons and ammunition, which were stored by Mujahedeen during Afghan -Soviet war; have fallen into the hands of Taliban. The human resource factor cannot be a permanent asset for Taliban due to the power struggle between the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan (IROA) and Taliban.

31. Drug Trade. As per the western accounts, the revenue from drug trafficking and Opium trade in Afghanistan can be considered as an asset for Taliban organisation. The Afghanistan with its increased dependence on revenue from Opium trade has turned into a narco-state.[51] The record of 2006 Opium harvest was estimated at over $ 3 billion.[52] The following years estimates are even higher. Afghanistan currently produces 93 percent of the world’s Opium trade and half of Afghanistan’s GDP depends on the Opium trade.[53] The share of Taliban from the flourishing opium trade is not available. However, it is established that Taliban capitalise on the drug trade by taxing the farmers, landowners and drug traffickers.

32. Historically, on assuming control of Afghanistan, the Taliban agenda was to eliminate Opium trade[54], but now it has become essential for their survival[55]. The Opium serves three main purposes for Taliban:-

(a) It provides the populace an illegal economy to operate outside the umbrella of government, to the detriment of Kabul. The drug traffickers and the Taliban mutually support each other with weapons, personnel and funding in a concerted effort to destabilise the current legitimate Islamic Republic of Afghanistan (IROA) government.

(b) It provides necessary funding for the insurgency.[56]

(c) It is primarily exported to the west (affects the western society), especially Europe, where 90 % of heroin supply comes from Afghanistan.

Other Environmental Factors

33. The other environmental factors that affect Taliban are the regional players in the South Asia, NGOs and Humanitarian agencies and presence of Coalition forces, which include Pakistani and Afghani soldiers.

34. Regional Players.

The regional players directly influence the Taliban as they have direct bearing on the overall political scenario affecting the movement. The area of influence of Taliban stretches across Central Asia to the Indian Subcontinent. This area is of immense strategic importance, its components share historical roots, affinities and enmities having overbearing influence on interrelationships and domestic issues. Most of the Afghanistan’s issues considered as domestic are more likely regional in character.[57]

35. Pakistan.

The direct involvement of Pakistan in Soviet-Afghan war, in support of Mujahidin, along with United States of America and Saudi Arabia has created a complex legacy that is affecting Pakistan even today because of continuous turmoil and violence linked to the issue. Pakistan has critical interests in Afghanistan’s stability because of close economic and cultural links. The stable Afghanistan provides for economic opportunities for Pakistan, as it ensures access to resource rich Central Asian region. The stability will also ensure stability in Pashtun dominated western Pakistan, where at present Taliban presence is destabilising the entire FATA and NWFP.

36. Months after the official beginning of Operation Enduring Freedom, Al Qaeda and Taliban militants poured over Afghanistan’s border into Pakistan and found refuge in FATA. The region home to more than 3 million Pashtuns was an ideal sanctuary. The tribes native to FATA adhere to the pre-Islamic tribal code of Pashtunwali, which by custom extends assistance to strangers who request protection. By spring 2002, less than a year after the initial invasion of Afghanistan, that sanctuary became even safer after President Bush decided to pull most of America’s Special Operations Forces and CIA paramilitary operatives off the hunt for Osama bin Laden, so they could be redeployed for a possible war in Iraq.[58] All of these factors greatly alleviated pressure on the remaining Taliban and Al Qaeda forces. Between spring 2002 and spring 2008, militants were able to consolidate their holdover north-western Pakistan. Baluchistan’s capital, Quetta, is home of the Taliban’s main Shura or council.[59] The Taliban’s overall leader, Mullah Mohammed Omar has found refuge in the city.[60] The support of Pakistan to Taliban is considered essential till they gain strong foothold in Afghanistan. However few western writers contend that the Taliban have already taken control of 10% to 20 % of area in Afghanistan, and therefore no longer require sanctuary in Pakistan. The ISI has already drawn distinction between extremist groups focused on destabilising Pakistan and those primarily concerned with war in Afghanistan. On ground, the Taliban based in Pakistan (TTP) have taken allegiance to Mullah Omar, the supreme Commander of Taliban. Also Pakistan being a strategic partner of coalition forces, the pressure to cleanse the Taliban sanctuaries is mounting.[61]

37. Iran[62].

The proximity of Iran with Afghanistan has not resulted in cultural affinities, except in Herat area. Iran never gave importance to Afghanistan until Soviet invasion. Iran’s primary focus was on the Persian Gulf region. Afghanistan is today strategically important due to concern that other powers might take advantage of weak state to menace Iran. The Iranian belligerence with Taliban is resulting from their Sunni outlook and prosecution of Shia minorities. At present Iran is interested in expanding its economic role in Afghanistan. A stable afghan state is beneficial to Iran in long run, so it opposes a Taliban led insurgency. However, there have been reports of Iran supporting the Taliban covertly.[63] Iranian actions may be due to close relations of IROA with United States of America. Because of US-Iranian incompatibility, the Iranian long-term strategic interests are in jeopardy due to sustained US presence in Afghanistan. Therefore, Iran may manipulate Taliban insurgency to its own advantage.[64] If this situation materialises, the Taliban may be able to overcome some key shortfalls (like advanced anti-air weaponry, guided missiles) and gain inroads into Shia groups in Afghanistan (mainly Hazara tribe).

38. Soviet Central Asian Republics.

The former Soviet Central Asian Republics also influence the current situation. Their ethnic ties with the non-Pashtun northern Afghanistan minorities have made them oppose the Taliban due its pro


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