For years Pakistan supported radical elements in Afghanistan, first the loose alliance of the mujahedeen against the Soviets and then the Taliban. We called them our strategic assets and turned a blind eye to their atrocities in Afghanistan, because as long as they were on the other side of the border, why should we worry? Post 9-11; Pakistan decided to side with the US against its former allies and the chickens came home to roost in 2004, the year in which the Afghan War spilled over into Pakistan with a wave of suicide bombings. Unfortunately, 8 years and hundreds of Pakistani martyrs later, we still refuse to believe that this war is very much our own.
It’s common to see people arguing about Pakistan’s role in the War on Terror. Some maintain that the Taliban are going after Pakistanis just because we sided with the US, that this is not our war and that the Taliban and Al Qaida, if left alone by us will stop targeting our countrymen. I don’t understand how people justify this argument in light of what happened in Swat; because the attempt of the TTP to set up a shadow government in the region was certainly more than just revenge against Pakistan for siding with the US. The Taliban were already running a parallel justice system in the area, enforcing their own version of Shariat and had the army not intervened, we might now have been recognizing the independent Caliphate of Swat.
Everyone agrees that the Americans should withdraw from Afghanistan, but it’s silly to think that all problems will magically disappear as soon as they leave. The US may or may not come to an agreement with the Taliban before withdrawing, but it’s highly improbable that any peace treaty will carry much weight with either the Taliban or the heavily armed warlords after the Americans leave; in all probability, a civil war like the one after the Soviet War will follow the American departure. There’s a lot of talk about preparing the Afghan army for an eventual takeover, but I think it’s pretty clear to everybody that the only thing propping up the Afghan Government is the presence of American troop. Take that away and the house of cards collapses.
It is naive to think that the TTP will just disband when the Americans leave, or that they will just pack up their bags and march over to Afghanistan. There can be no doubts that the Taliban and Al Qaida wish to export their version of Islam to neighboring countries, in any case they do want to expand their influence and frankly, Pakistan is ripe for the picking. Even now, the state is hard pressed to exert any control in the tribal areas, indeed, sometimes one wonders if they are a part of the country at all and also, many Pakistanis are receptive to the Taliban ideology. In addition to this, they say that Al Qaida has infiltrated the Pakistani military. If that’s true, as it seems to be in light of the attack on the Mehran Base last year, we can hardly expect Al Qaida to give up everything and just leave Pakistan alone after the US withdraws. Considering the current instability of the country and the growing power of extremist religious organizations, the Taliban and Al Qaida are a very real threat to Pakistan. And unless we wish to be ruled from Kabul, we must fight, regardless of whose war it is.