The decision by the U.S. Government to extend the period of deployment of their troops in Afghanistan had been quite predictable after Taliban’s “summer offensive“ turned into an all out war on the Afghan state. Unlike their suicide attacks for creating terror and hit and run tactics against military targets to register their presence during the last few years, Taliban took it upon themselves now to destroy urban centers around which the modern Afghan state has emerged. They started their wanton destruction from Kabul but gradually expanded it to other cities. North of the country was focused for military operations before large scale attacks in the south to deny security depth to Afghan security forces and to establish sanctuaries for Central Asian terrorists. Destroying important bridges and blocking main highways was a logical extension of this policy of strangulation. These attacks were launched in every nook and corner of Afghanistan so that the Afghan state security apparatus is forced to spread itself too thin. Taliban felt no hesitation in filling their ranks by Chechens, Uzbeks, Arabs and TTP fighters during their latest offensive in Afghanistan. Interestingly they believe that they can afford to be part of an international terrorist syndicate and also be recognized as a legitimate stockholder in the Afghan peace process. It is hardly surprising to find that the Afghan government side is reluctant in resuming the dialogue.

As far as Taliban are concerned all the aforementioned features of their ideology and strategy are hardly new. Any systematic study of their two decades plus war in Afghanistan will clearly reveal that their fight has been mainly aimed against the Afghan state rather than against any government. They basically want to demolish the modern state and impose their own version of Sharia, which they practiced during their politico military ascendency in 1990s and there is no indication of a change of heart on their part. The myth of their existence as a “national resistance“ against foreign troops is also a mere concoction. They fought for long years against fellow Afghans before there was even a single foreign soldier on Afghan soil. Actually they were the ones who not only kept foreign fighters in Afghanistan whom they had inherited from the previous Mujahideen government but they also welcomed new comers from other countries to join them. Basically it was their reckless policy that turned Afghanistan into an international battlefield. Of course the U.S. and the European powers had made their own contribution in the crises by first making huge investments in promoting extremist militancy during the Afghan war and subsequently by putting their back on Afghanistan after the withdrawal of Soviet troops. But the neglect or blunders of other countries can’t absolve Afghans of their own responsibility for keeping peace in their country.

Be that as it may all of these developments have every thing to do with Pakistan for obvious reasons. Unfortunately brand of Taliban fighters has been closely linked with Pakistan’s Afghan policy and can be traced back directly to the proxy wars fought in Afghanistan in 1990s. It is true that other regional players also backed horses of their own during that period but no one turned their Afghan allies into this type of albatross around their necks. Some of our leaders had publicly claimed credit for bringing the movement of Taliban into being at that time for protecting what they described as Pakistan’s interests in Afghanistan. As if that was not enough, in an interview some time ago, former President General (R) Pervez Musharraf justified Pakistan’s support for Taliban after 9/11 against what he dubbed the pro-Indian policies of the former Afghan President Hamid Karzai. So the regrouping and launching of Taliban after 9/11 is confirmed by no less a person than the former head of state who also happens to be the former COAS.

In 2014 after the presidential elections in Afghanistan and particularly after the approval of National Action Plan (NAP) on December 24, 2015 by the political and state leadership of Pakistan there was a genuine expectation that Pakistan has finally decided to jettison the Taliban based Afghan policy that was a baggage from the Cold War. The opportunity to have a friendly Afghanistan was quite visible and the high level engagement between the two sides generated a lot of optimism about the peaceful future. It seemed that ultimately realization has dawned in Islamabad that Pakistan is going to befriend Afghan nation as a whole instead of supporting a group that is hell bent on destroying modernity in all its forms. All these hopes were dashed to the ground when Taliban, after knowing about the death of their leader Mullah Mohammad Omar, not only ruptured the dialogue but also went into an extra ordinary aggressive mode. But the way Afghan Taliban could gather in big numbers for the succession ceremonies of their leadership at the outskirts of Quetta and not anywhere inside Afghanistan has brought the point home that the Taliban albatross is still intact. There is a real danger of the flaring up of a new round of extremist insurgency in the region. War is not only raging in Afghanistan but it is also still devastating FATA Pashtuns. If it could reach Karachi yesterday what could stop it from traveling down country tomorrow? It goes without saying that if we don’t learn from the past experience we are actually opting for reliving it. We have burnt our fingers in the past and we can burn our hands this time round. How can we go for building economic corridors or gas pipeline with this kind of insurgency based inside our country?

This is the time for rethinking our Afghan policy. This is the time for breaking the albatross holding our neck, pushing us into isolation and keeping us backward. Can the Prime Minister call an APC also involving the real movers and shakers of our Afghan policy to reconsider the country’s options on Afghanistan? We can take a fresh start with a new policy. We need not go to Washington, London or Paris for finding a solution. We can go straight to Kabul with fresh ideas. Let me quote the English translation of Pashto couplets written by prominent Afghan poet Suleiman Laiaq and addressed to our own prominent poet Ajmal Khattak; “Every drop of rain that falls over Hindu Kush comes to your Attock and Abaseen (Indus). There is no other way out here (in Kabul). Every thing that moves here will reach you just like our rivers“.