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Who is Using the Taliban?

Who is Using the Taliban?

Monday, 29 January, 2018 - 13:00
Abdulrahman Al-Rashed
Abdulrahman Al-Rashed is the former general manager of Al-Arabiya television. He is also the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat, and the leading Arabic weekly magazine Al-Majalla. He is also a senior columnist in the daily newspapers Al-Madina and Al-Bilad.

More than 280 people were killed and injured in the Afghan capital when a suicide bomber detonated a booby-trapped ambulance, in one of a series of increasing terrorist attacks carried out by the Taliban. These major events will further aggravate regional disputes in Afghanistan’s surroundings, particularly with Pakistan. The situation is escalating to an extent that for the first time in the history of the two countries' relations, the US announced punitive measures against its ally Pakistan.

Is someone using Afghanistan and terrorism in the Indian subcontinent like it was used in Iraq and Syria?

There have always been rumors and media accusations that Pakistan supports the Taliban, but no one can prove it, at least not at the academic and media levels. Large US losses in Afghanistan and the rise of violence in Pakistan ruined the relations between Islamabad and Washington.

The US considered Pakistan a strategic ally for over four decades especially during the Cold War, and it was one of the countries that most supported Pakistan after its independence from India.

But it seems that the happy days have come to an end.

Pakistan’s domestic political situation has been miserable since the coup on Nawaz Sharif and the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, which all came during the chaotic developments in Afghanistan that affects and is affected by Pakistan.

I do not want to jump to conclusions amid the absence of proven facts and accuse Iran of being a key player there, but there’s plenty of evidence indicating just that. Iran’s security and propaganda presence is strong in Afghanistan and it’s becoming stronger and more influential in Pakistan. A lot has been said about Tehran’s relations with Taliban, which resembles its relations with al-Qaeda whose most prominent commanders still live in Iran.

Add to that, we must not forget Iranian confessions admitting to having a major role in what was called back then the Iraqi jihadist resistance against the US invasion of Iraq. Later on, it turned out there are relations between the Iran's Revolutionary Guards Corps and terror groups in Syria as part of the complicated conflict there.

Pakistan is besieging itself by not taking enough measures to reassure the international community that it is fighting the Taliban, which has become more violent and dangerous than ISIS and al-Qaeda. This does not deny the fact that, following Afghanistan, Pakistan is one of the countries that are most affected by terrorist groups. Accusations made by its rival, India, claim that Islamabad supports armed or separatist Islamist groups make the situation more difficult.

We knew that Qatar’s attempts to contain the Taliban will fail because Doha’s method in managing relations with extremist groups, like “Hezbollah” in Lebanon, Hamas in Gaza and even al-Nusra Front in Syria, is always based on buying temporary political positions with huge sums of money.

But, Doha's ability to change the situation through deals or influencing these organizations have always failed.

Qatar rushed to contact the Taliban when it heard about US negotiations with the Afghan organization. It opened an office for the Taliban in Doha and flooded it with money so it can be a mediator between the organization and Washington. As a result, Qatar succeeded in releasing Western hostages held by the Taliban, like it did with al-Nusra Front before, in exchange for huge ransoms in what looked like money laundering!

It’s only natural that political negotiations later ended in failure.

It’s undeniable that the Taliban is a terrorist group, but this does not negate the importance of its tribal and provincial relations in Afghanistan. Pakistan is still the most qualified state to resolve this situation, whether by force, political solutions or both. This is Pakistan’s only chance to get out of the bad situation it has reached today.

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