Terrorism has a link with the strategic culture of Pakistan. Very few know the story of Islamists of Afghanistan which started long ago before the emergence of Taliban to counter Soviet Union in 1979. Initially, these Islamists groups were first channelized in 1973, to encounter the modernist agenda of Dauod Khan. In 1978, Daud’s government was ousted by the communist’s movement amidst the Saur Revolution. Again, the Islamists group emerged in the length and breadth of Afghanistan to resist the communist’s movement.
The Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan to bolster the faltering communist regime in 1979. In early 1980, the rebel against the Soviet invaders and Afghan Army was started by the Islamists militant. The war, usually Known as Afghan Jihad ended with the escape of The Soviet forces and the emergence of the Taliban Government in Kabul in 1992. Now, various groups of Taliban indulged in fighting with each other for control of Kabul.
This was the year 2001, when the twin towers of the USA were attacked by an airplane and left horrible destruction and fear among citizens of the USA. The pentagon was blaming its previous aides who were ruling Afghanistan. Eventually, this time Kabul faced a powerful attack of NATO forces to take revenge for the 9/11 attack with the logistic support of Pakistan.
Pakistan bears a big cost for supporting America’s operation in Afghanistan as many insurgents groups emerged for terrorists activities in Pakistan who were unhappy because of its support for America.
It seems a simple story of Afghanistan’s insurgency and apparently reflecting, geopolitics, social and cultural rivalries of the country but Pakistan played a pivotal role in the whole series. Either the first assignment of the Islamists group in the start of 1970’s against Duad Khan or their second task to rebel against the Saur revolution, it was Pakistan which channelized them to come into action. So, the question is why Pakistan creates these instabilities. The answer is, to seeking strategic depths in Afghanistan have deep roots in the Strategic Culture of Pakistan.
Now, one must understand what strategic culture is. Proponents of strategic culture aver that the concept can explain the national security objectives that states formulate as well as the choices that they make to actuate these objectives.
National Security is described as the ability of a sovereign state to cater for the protection and defense of its citizenry. And strategic culture defines the basic elements by which the national security of any country is always at risk. To achieve its national security, each state formulates certain principles and chooses certain means by which it can achieve its goals considering the strategic culture.
Professor at Georgetown University, C. Christine Fair examined the books of Pakistan’s Ex- Army Generals and summed-up the following four elements of Pakistan’s Strategic culture.
1. Pakistan is an insecure and incomplete state.
2. Afghanistan is a source of instability (often in collusion with India).
3. India is opposed to the two-nation theory and seeks to dominate or destroy Pakistan.
4. India is a hegemon that must be resisted.
All four elements highlight that India is a big threat to the security and sovereignty of Pakistan and Afghanistan can be its ally to unstable Pakistan. These believes took Pakistan to seek strategic depth in Afghanistan. The main objective to gain this is to pave the way for the Pro-Pakistan government to stop India’s strategic depth or Pro-Indian Government which causes insurgencies in Pakistan.
Let’s have recap of Afghanistan’s story and see how Pakistan developed its strategic depth there.
Since the very inception of Pakistan, both neighboring countries have tense relations. 1948 onward when Afghanistan rejected Pakistan’s inclusion in the United Nations had exacerbated the situation.
Moreover, Afghanistan’s tilt toward the Soviet Union and the efforts of the communist Party of Afghanistan disquieted Pakistan’s military and civilian leadership too, committed to an Islamic ideology, also had increased the prevailing tension.
However, 1973 was the year when Pakistan started to channelize Islamists groups. In that year, Mohammad Daoud Khan ousted his cousin, King Zahir Shah, and expedited a more aggressive modernization campaign. He also began a brutal crackdown against Islamists, many of whom fled to Pakistan or Iran. Daoud Khan also threaded Pakistan, which was under the rule of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto by supporting the Baloch insurgency, rejecting the Durand Line, and supporting Pashtuns in Pakistan who were calling for a greater Pashtunistan.
Pakistan’s forward policy started relying on Islamist elements in Afghanistan opposed to Daoud Khan’s regime. They did not support Kabul’s territorial claims on Pakistani territory and opposed friendly ties with India. They were being trained in the FATA region of Pakistan. Between 1973 and 1977, Pakistan’s armed forces trained around five-thousand and reduced them from 50 groups into 7 groups to fight the Daoud Khan regime.
In 1978, communist revolution got strong opposition from the trained Islamists militants. Zia’s military regime again mechanized the Islamists group to counter the revolution. Invasion of Soviet forces in 1979 into Afghanistan was described as the operation of the USSR to gain rout towards warm water of Arabian sea. This time jihadists from Pakistan also were in action along with the Islamists of Afghanistan.
Hence, The Islamists groups of Afghanistan had been enjoying the support of Pakistan from their birth in the 1970s to 2000.
The relationship of the Islamists group and Pakistan winded up in 2001 as aftermath of 9/11 with the wake of horrible episodes of terrorism in Pakistan since the role of Pakistan in the war of terror was not welcomed by the insurgents in Afghanistan and jihadists group within Pakistan.
Now after the escape of America from Afghanistan and seizure of power by Taliban in Kabul, Pakistan is again getting shocks of terrorist’s activities. Security analysts are linking it with the new development in Kabul alongside opening the border and welcoming TTP militants. However, the long history of insurgencies in Afghanistan and Pakistan’s policy with the neighbor’s country demands serious concentration of Pakistan’s civil and military establishment to reconsider its Afghan policy. Pakistan must focus on creating a safe border, cultural and trade exchange but do support the reign which has mass supporters of people of Afghanistan rather than gaining any bandwidth through strategic depth.