There are no shortages of Western opinions about the future of Afghanistan as the Taliban terrorist forces, led by the Haqqani network, have fully taken over the capital. A major decision-point now faces the dozens of nations in the NATO-plus coalition that aided the Afghan people via the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. Do these nations continue to support Afghans directly, support Afghan resistance groups, or engage with the Taliban occupation forces? It is clear, as predicted, that Pakistan, Russia, and China will be very comfortable working directly with the Haqqani-heavy Taliban regime that Pakistan has supported for decades. What is the future of Afghanistan? No one can be sure, but here are two views on what comes next.

I spoke to a long-time colleague about the possibilities he sees in the future of his nation; we first met in 2002 when he was the first Afghan officer selected to attend CGSC in the USA. LTG Farid Ahmadi, the former commander of ANA Special Operations Command was in a hospital in Turkey when the Taliban invasion and occupation took place. He watched from afar as the special operations leaders he trained and mentored fought the Pakistani-backed Taliban/Haqqani militia. He was saddened to watch them fight so bravely, and then be ordered to surrender by the government of Afghanistan.

General Ahmadi warned, after decades of fighting terrorists in Afghanistan, that he is sure there will be future attacks in the West plotted and controlled from Afghanistan. He sees this generation of Islamists even more devoted to the Khawarij worldview shared by groups like ISIS and AQ. They mean it when they say everyone will submit to their ideology or be killed. The beheadings, forced marriages of children to fighters, and torture of journalists in the last few weeks ought to be enough to convince fence-sitters about the Taliban network outlook on human rights.

LTG Ahmadi believes that the second fall of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan is a certainty. He laid out for me the role Pakistan played in the occupation of Afghanistan, and why he thinks the Taliban will fail to hold power in Afghanistan due to their inability to stop human-rights abuses. Ahmadi believes the cruelty of the Taliban will be its undoing as the society advances of the last 20 years have made a generation of Afghans unwilling to bend the knee to the Taliban ideology of total submission to a religious leader.

Pakistani Flirting with Terrorist Support Sanctions

Farid notes that the Pakistani game in Afghanistan will backfire because the Taliban are still tightly connected to AQ and other terrorists, the Taliban are human rights violators, and the Taliban will tire of taking orders from Pakistan. In his view that means nations will have to add the Taliban to their terrorist blacklists and that means Pakistan will not get full international recognition for their puppet regime in Kabul.

General Ahmadi explained that the Pakistan ISI chief Gen Feyz Hamid performed three main tasks on his recent visit to see his terrorist forces in Kabul. “First, he finalized the Taliban terrorist cabinet of the regime. Second, he brought his intel-military teams and dispatched them to the Panjshir to better coordinate airstrikes with the Pakistani air force against national resistance front (NRF). Finally, he coordinated the deployment of 5,000 terrorist fighters, now armed with U.S. weapons, that will go to Kashmir in the coming weeks.”

At the same time in Pakistan Islamabad is facing a resurgence of Taliban Islamist activity after the fall of Kabul. Incongruously, Pakistani Foreign Minister Qureshi is lobbying constantly in his role as Taliban Shadow Foreign Minister to get the international community to recognize the Taliban terrorists in Kabul. Not to be left out the Pakistan military is also lobbying for the Taliban to get international recognition for stealing Afghanistan. The Pakistani National Defense University in its role as a strategic propaganda tool in just one month published 47 articles in favor of the Taliban.

Afghanistan Roadblocks and Opportunities

Ahmadi notes that the power struggle between all three of the Taliban groups, “Mullah Yaqob, son of Mullah Omar, the “Haqqani Movement” and the group under Qatar’s administration,” will likely undermine any efforts to establish an inclusive government. This will further hamper international efforts to provide safe passage for Afghans wanted to leave, and ensuring human rights protections and providing aid to the 37 million Afghans now suffering under a terrorist regime.

On the likelihood of a resistance coalition becoming a nation-wide entity LTG Ahmadi realizes that without outside support from some anti-terrorist nations the struggle will be long and there are no guarantees for success. He does not think it would take much support to harness the Afghans anger and to begin to recapture cities and provinces as quickly as the Taliban bought their surrender. Ahmadi noted that the Afghan diaspora plays a key role in convincing international partners to support Afghan freedom.

General Ahmadi explained that there are opportunities for Afghans and other nations to divide the Taliban fighters due to the current hardline behavior of some of the leaders. He relayed that his recent conversations with Taliban mediators in Baghlan, Badakhshan, Takhar, Samangan, Mazar, Parwan and Kapisa, revealed a weakness. When the PakISI leaders and hardline Taliban leaders called upon Northern Taliban fighters to conduct human right violations and war crimes in the Panjshir, “some fighters after seeing the war crimes stood against their Taliban leaders.”

General Farid Ahmadi ended our conversation by saying Afghans must unite to remove the Taliban regime and then prepare to reinstall a more inclusive post-Taliban government. He warned that Afghans should be wary and not be fooled by incompetent past Afghan leaders again. Many have noted that Afghan unity is the key to ending the violent and destructive Pakistani adventures in Afghanistan, so far, no Afghan has been able to lead the others towards such unity.

How This Ends

At this moment, Pakistan holds a strong short-term position. They can help the Taliban regime blackmail the rest of the world to gain recognition of the current terrorist-run governing apparatus. If the world fails to give the recognition that Pakistan desperately wants, then the Taliban will refuse to release the Western and Afghan hostages they now hold. But this leverage is only good in the short-run. If the Taliban block food, economic opportunity, and women’s education, they just might be providing Afghans with the unifying issues they need to overthrow the terrorists in Kabul.

As I have stated for years, only Afghans know how this battle for power will end. Egotistic Pakistani leaders have created another crisis that might harm Pakistan more than the Afghan people by the end of the decade. The battle is now underway to see if the Taliban get recognition as a government or a terrorist group. Pakistan will then be labeled as either a supporter of a new government, or a newly recognized terrorist group. The stakes could not be higher for Afghans and Pakistanis.

 

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Jason spent 23 years in USG service conducting defense, diplomacy, intelligence, and education missions globally. Now he teaches, writes, podcasts, and speaks publicly about Islam, foreign affairs, and national security. He is a member of the Military Writers Guild, works with numerous non-profits and aids conflict resolution in Afghanistan.