Afghanistan: Subverting Is Easier Than Ruling

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April 27, 2022: In 2021 the Afghan Taliban, with the help of Pakistan, regained control of Afghanistan. Pakistan believed it had achieved a degree of control over Afghanistan they had long sought, with trusted Afghans occupying key positions in the new IEA (Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan).

This has not worked out as Pakistan expected, with growing violence inside Afghanistan becoming a major problem for Pakistan and Iran. Currently IEA security forces are confronting Pakistani special operations forces entering eastern and southern provinces to capture or kill TTP (Pakistani Taliban) leaders. The Pakistani troops are supported by artillery and air strikes that often kill Afghan civilians. In the east Iran is moving armor units to the border to confront Afghans guarding heroin smugglers traveling into Iran. The drug smugglers have been a problem for over two decades and long-ago turned the Afghan/Iran border into a combat zone. Since the IEA took power, the violence here has escalated. Throughout Afghanistan there are outbreaks of activity by armed Shia militias and their 1990s Northern Alliance allies, now reassembled as the NRF (National Resistance Front).

This escalating chaos in Afghanistan is responsible for is directly responsible for the 30 percent increase in Islamic terrorism related deaths in Pakistan compared to 2020. So far, 2022 appears headed for twice as many Islamic terrorism deaths in Pakistan. This is not just about what is going on in Afghanistan, some internal problems in Pakistan play a role. This is all about the Pakistani military managing to terrorize or influence enough politicians and political parties to give the military control of the government without a coup. That control is running into trouble because misbehavior by the military is seen as responsible for the mess in Afghanistan.

This all began when Pakistan stepped up and provided bases for the Afghan resistance to the 1979 Russian invasion. After that Pakistan gained a much greater role over internal Afghan affairs. This is much resented in Afghanistan, mainly because of how Pakistan got involved in the Afghan civil war in the 1990s. The Russians left in 1989 and two years later the Soviet Union collapsed. The pro-Russian Afghan government soon fell because Russian subsidies disappeared after 1991. Pakistan then invented the Taliban, using young Afghan religious school faculty and students in Pakistan refugee camps to defeat all the other factions and create a pro-Pakistan religious dictatorship. The Taliban almost achieved that goal by providing sanctuary for other Islamic terror groups as long as these foreigners assisted the Taliban with its continued fight to gain control over all of Afghanistan. That appeared to be working, until late 2001 when Taliban support of al Qaeda (and the September 11, 2001 attacks) brought in active American support for the northern factions still holding out against the Taliban. That led to the American-supported IRA (Islamic Republic of Afghanistan) government. Since 2001 continued Islamic terrorist violence, still supported by Pakistan, has left nearly 150,000 dead in Afghanistan and Pakistan. About a third of the dead were civilians with most of the rest being Taliban and various drug gangs. A third of the dead occurred in Pakistan, which began using Islamic terrorism to fight India in the 1970s and eventually found that the Islamic terrorists were getting out of control and killing lots of Pakistanis. Afghans have always been religious, but not fanatic and Afghans blame Pakistan for letting the Saudi financed Islamic radical (Wahhabi) missionaries set up schools in the refugee camps during the 1980s and indoctrinate a generation of Afghan kids that Islamic terrorism was the solution to everything. The Afghans know that a lot of Islamic radicals have been running Pakistani military intelligence (ISI) for decades and cannot be trusted to do what is best for Afghanistan. The ISI is now under fire in Pakistan because of all the Islamic terrorist violence caused inside Pakistan and meddling with the elected Pakistani government.

The Taliban once more took over in August 2021 and formed the IEA. Despite the presence of known Pakistani agents in key government positions, there was more anti-Pakistan violence coming from Afghanistan than when the U.S. backed IRA government was in charge. Afghans are also acutely aware that their country has been at war since the late 1970s when Russian backed Afghan communists tried to start a revolution and establish a strong central government in an area that had never tolerated one. The communists were followed by a Russian invasion, drug gangs, an Islamic revolution, civil war and Pakistan seeking to take control in the 1990s with their Taliban. That led to the American invasion and Pakistan continuing to support the drug gangs and Taliban while assisting the U.S. in its “war on terror.” Many Americans saw Afghanistan as hopeless and just wanted to just leave. The problem was that leaving meant Afghanistan was at the mercy of Pakistan, Iran and Russia, as well as all the drug gangs, Islamic terror groups and numerous Afghans who oppose the drugs and all the outside interference. The drugs and Islamic terrorism are still major exports. The West can leave Afghanistan but the ills of Afghanistan won’t leave the West. This is even more visible in Pakistan.

IEA-run Afghanistan is more tolerant of Islamic terrorism than the IRA and tolerates the presence of the TTP that seeks to impose a religious dictatorship on Pakistan. The IEA appears to have made a similar deal with ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant), or some of the ISIL factions in Afghanistan, because the number of ISIL attacks in Pakistan have increased this year and these attacks are often coming from ISIL factions based across the border in Afghanistan. The Pakistani military apparently underestimated the degree of anti-Pakistan attitudes among IEA leaders and Afghans in general.

Pakistan’s role in the Taliban gaining control of Afghanistan is now portrayed by the international community as a criminal act in support of Islamic terrorism as well as protecting the world’s main source of heroin. Foreign nations are slow to recognize the new IEA government. Initially, not even Pakistan did so because being first to recognize the new government would be a further admission of guilt for the role Pakistan has played in making it happen. Pakistan, like several other Islamic nations, has established unofficial diplomatic relations with the IEA via the use of “diplomatic missions” where the people working in these missions do not have diplomatic or any official recognition.

The IRA is still recognized as the legitimate, if powerless, government of Afghanistan. The IRA has no income and cannot maintain all the foreign embassies they established. Some countries are turning former IRA embassies over to the IEA without officially recognizing the IEA. This includes Russia, Pakistan, Iran and China. In Iran some consulates have come under attack because of the increasing violence in Afghanistan against the Shia minority.

Pakistan also finds itself under attacks by IEA security forces because of an unresolved border dispute, as well as the TTP. Both Afghanistan and Pakistan now have more violence on their Iranian borders because of drug smuggling and separatist rebels in Pakistan. Iran is also angry at the new Afghan government because of increased attacks on Afghan Shia. The Taliban victory that Pakistan made possible is seen more and more as a mistake because Afghanistan has become a major problem for Pakistan and a growing problem for other nations.

The IEA has an urgent need for an organized, disciplined force to deal with its escalating internal security problems. This includes Islamic terrorist groups who see the IEA as an enemy rather than an ally and provider of sanctuary. There are also problems with some ISIL factions. A larger threat is posed by the non-Pushtun (Tajiks, Uzbeks and Hazara) resistance groups, and a growing number of Afghan Taliban factions that oppose Pakistani efforts to control the IEA. In many ways the IEA faces more internal resistance than the original Taliban government did from the mid-1990s to late 2001. The American intervention after September 11, 2001 allowed the non-Pushtun Northern Alliance to go on the offensive and drive the Taliban out of the country by the end of 2001.

Neighboring countries, with the exception of Pakistan, believe the IEA will collapse after a few years because of internal unrest and growing poverty which most Afghans will note is in sharp contrast to the previous two decades when per-capita GDP nearly tripled. Under the IRA massive foreign aid took care of most government expenses and that led to a lot of foreign investment. This foreign aid and investment averaged over a hundred billion dollars a year since 2002 and, even though most of it was not spent in Afghanistan, there was enough being spent in Afghanistan to keep the IRA government in power and the GDP expanding, living standards increasing along with life-expectancy.

The IEA ‘s security forces aren’t large enough to deal with all the local unrest and the only source of help is the Pakistani military. The heroin cartels are a major source of income for the Pakistani military because the Pakistani generals provide export routes for most of that heroin via the port of Karachi and several major airports. Then there are the vital chemical imports needed for the conversion of opium to heroin. There are twice as many Pushtuns in Pakistan than Afghanistan and in 2022 these Pakistani Pushtuns are getting organized to oppose the Pakistani military and its control over the elected Pakistani government and the unelected IEA in Afghanistan. Because of this, getting troop reinforcements from Pakistan is not a practical solution to the inadequate size of the IEA army and security forces.

April 23, 2022: In the east, on the Pakistan border (North Waziristan), Afghan gunmen, apparently TTP, fired on a Pakistani border post and killed three soldiers

April 21, 2022: ISK ( Islamic State Khorasan), the local ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) affiliate, took credit for several attacks against Afghan Shia since yesterday that left 61 Shia dead and over a hundred wounded. Bombs were placed in Shia mosques and set off durig prayer services.

April 20, 2022: The new IEA courts are using Sharia law to punish those who drink or sell alcohol (flogging) stealing (chopping a hand or foot off) and capital crimes result in public executions (often a beheading). Some criminals are sent to jail for short periods. Women are sometimes flogged or just beaten by religious police.

April 19, 2022: Afghanistan is once more a sanctuary for Islamic terrorist groups, as long as they do not carry out attacks inside Afghanistan. Despite that, ISIL groups like IS-K survive in Afghanistan even though they regularly carry out mass killings of Afghan Shia and even use Afghanistan as a base for similar attacks in Pakistan.

April 18, 2022: Pakistan warned the IEA in Afghanistan that if Islamic terrorists attacks in Pakistan by groups operating from Afghanistan, did not halt there would be serious economic consequences for Afghanistan. At the same time, Pakistan is believed responsible for the large UAVs being seen in Khost and Kandahar provinces as well as over Kabul. These UAVs have attacked TTP bases and leaders in Khost province and may do the same in Kabul or Kandahar, where a lot of the heroin production takes place.

April 17, 2022: Western nations that previously contributed a lot of aid to Afghanistan have halted that aid until the IEA allows women and girls to return to schools and universities.

April 16, 2022: In northwest Pakistan the army used helicopter gunships and artillery (rockets) to attack TTP camps in Afghanistan (Kunar and Khost provinces). TTP casualties were not disclosed, but Afghanistan reported that there were 47 dead and many wounded, including women and children. The Afghan IEA government protested, as Afghan governments have been doing for a decade.

At the end of 2021 the IEA threatened Pakistan because of resumed use of rockets and artillery fire from Pakistan into eastern Afghanistan (usually Kunar province) against TTP camps. Pakistan has been doing this for years. The deposed (in mid-2021) IRA (Islamic Republic of Afghanistan) government would contact Pakistan and the Pakistanis usually apologized and said they would halt the attacks. The attacks kept happening. Back in early 2019 the IRA government sent the UN a letter complaining about nearly a decade of similar Pakistani border violence. The Afghan letter detailed incidents from 2012 to early 2019 in which Pakistani troops fired 28,849 rockets, mortar or artillery shells into eastern Afghanistan. Much of this firepower is directed at Kunar province and has been going on since 2010 in an effort to hit real or suspected TTP bases there. These incidents increased to the point where the Afghans began keeping track of them in 2012. Since then, this violence has killed or wounded nearly 300 people that the Afghan government knows about. The shelling occurs against rural areas that are often unpopulated so it is unclear if the Pakistanis have hit many Pakistani Taliban. The Pakistani government propaganda insists that these Taliban Islamic terrorists are based in eastern Afghanistan and regularly cross into Pakistan to carry out attacks. The 2019 letter to the UN detailed how the situation was getting worse and that in 2018 there were 161 of these incidents that involved at least 6,025 Pakistani projectiles landing in Afghanistan. The letter pointed out that several elected Pakistani leaders have pledged to halt these border violations but those pledges are ignored by the Pakistani military. There was a large scale (neatly 200 shells and rockets) Pakistani attack in late 2019 but since the UN was notified and the Pakistani habit of cross border attacks became news, there have been fewer of these Pakistani attacks, and they have not stopped, even as the Pakistan-backed IEA government replaced the elected IRA one. The Pakistani military is also sending its missile armed UAVs to look for TTP leaders living in Afghanistan and kill them. The TTP bases in Afghanistan are real but Afghan governments are not willing to find and attack them if only because the TTP are usually guests of local tribes that agree with the TTP that the Pakistanis are hostile to Pushtun people who dominate both sides of the border. The IEA, like the IRA before it, is demanding that the UN do something about the Pakistani attacks.

April 14, 2022: In northwest Pakistan (North Waziristan) seven soldiers were killed when ambushed by Islamic terrorists. Four of the attackers were killed. No one took credit for the attack but it was believed to be TTP (Pakistan Taliban). There was another clash in the area, leaving one soldier dead. So far this year Pakistani forces have killed 128 Islamic terrorists in clashes near the Afghan border. Nearly a hundred Pakistani troops have been killed.

April 12, 2022: Renewed attacks on Afghan Shia caused Iran to threaten support for an armed Afghan Shia resistance manned by the thousands of Afghan Shia who served as mercenaries in Syria. Some still do, because the Afghan mercs were the best fighters and demanded higher pay than Arab mercenaries. These armed Shia fighters would work with their 1990s Northern Alliance allies, which has reassembled as the NRF (National Resistance Front) and is planning new operations. That alone may be more than the new IEA (Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan) government can handle. Some of the NRF leaders are sons of successful Northern Alliance commanders. Iran threatens to provide more support to the NRF than they gave the Northern Alliance.

April 11, 2022: The IEA announced that it encouraged foreign investors to visit Afghanistan and visas would not be a problem. Few foreign investors are interested given the increasingly unstable and violent environment in Afghanistan. The IEA is particularly eager to have Chinese investors operating in Afghanistan. China said it would encourage that if the IEA did something about the heroin and other drugs produced in Afghanistan and exported to neighboring countries, including China as well as worldwide. The IEA agreed and issued a decree banning farmers from growing poppies, the plant that produced opium, which is further processed into heroin. The farmers, mainly in the south (Helmand province), ignored the decree, pointing out that poppies were the most profitable crop they could produce and the heroin cartels had more firepower than the IEA. Just another reminder to be wary of Taliban promises.

Money talks. Farmers can obtain 7-15 pounds of opium per acre (8-17 kg per hectare), t o create the opium which is refined into heroin. The farmer is paid about a thousand dollars per acre for the opium. But the value of that opium increases fifty times once it is refined into heroin and sold in foreign markets . Most of that increase goes to middlemen (refiners, smugglers and distributors). Most of the increase in value occurs once the heroin gets out of the country, but that still makes the opium and heroin trade the biggest single segment of the Afghan economy. Efforts to stop the flow of acetic anhydride, the chemical needed to turn opium into heroin, into Afghanistan failed. Used in many industrial and medical applications, there is no company in Afghanistan with a legitimate use for acetic anhydride. It was believed that all you had to do was stop any acetic anhydride coming into Afghanistan. This did not work because the acetic anhydride came from Pakistan and that supply was protected by the Pakistan military, which also assisted with exporting the heroin. The Pakistani military was one of the “middlemen” that made a lot of money from the Afghan heroin. Up until 2021 the Taliban made several hundred million dollars a year protecting heroin production. IRA officials stole much of the billions of dollars in foreign aid for destroying poppy crops. The IEA can either tax the heroin cartels to produce more income that the Taliban received to spend money they don’t have much of in an effort to shut down poppy production. In Afghanistan, trying to bring down a government is a lot easier than trying to be the government.

 

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