Pressure Tactic has little results

Political and diplomatic processes regarding the unrecognized Islamic Emirate continue to evolve.

Political and diplomatic processes regarding the unrecognized Islamic Emirate continue to evolve. On the eve, two solid conferences were held in Islamabad and Dushanbe, and the Afghan issue became one of the main topics. Besides, international and regional diplomats and Track II diplomacy or “back-channel diplomacy” representatives expressed statements that sounded like messages to the Taliban in one way or another. However, as the practice of recent years shows, criticism and pressure tactics against the leaders of the emirate do not work. At least neither diplomatic nor economic mechanisms have worked so far. In this context, there are two ways of dealing with the Taliban. The first is to continue the ongoing policy of diplomatic dance, pressure, and economic sanctions, expecting the regime to softly transform. This is a carrot-and-stick tactic. Fulfilling particular conditions for regime reforms, the Taliban will receive certain concessions from the international community in finance, including unfreezing Afghan sovereign holdings in Western banks and maybe negotiations on the recognition of the state in the long run. The second strategy is just being discussed on the sidelines, but it is still far from a real plan. It’s too early to mention it, but there may even be some plans for more drastic actions on the part of some regional forces.

At the same time, the reluctance of the great powers and non-regional countries to solve the Afghan problems can be clearly seen. Such statements and messages are heard from official diplomats and pundits. Almost all prominent actors in world politics from beyond South Asia and the Greater Middle East note that the issues of the Afghan state’s future should be settled by consensus between regional forces and the Afghans. The unconditional Taliban victory, in turn, demonstrated that such situations are insoluble without their participation. Nevertheless, the Emirate’s leaders do not seek to find a middle ground. This tendency is more evident, especially given the crisis between the Taliban and their years-long mentors and sponsors, the Pakistani military elite. The support of the Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan by the Afghan Taliban became a stumbling block. Pakistani Talibs, in turn, after the reincarnation of the Emirate, boosted its sabotage and terrorist activities. Pakistan has issued an ultimatum to the Afghan Taliban: Expel the Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP) extremist group from Afghanistan or face the consequences. Pakistan’s special representative for Afghanistan, Asif Durrani, repeated the warning, saying that the Afghan extremist group must “choose Pakistan or the TTP.” The Afghan Taliban denies sheltering the TTP, with which it has close ideological and organizational ties.

The history of the Taliban’s creation and the role of the Pakistani military in this process are well known and described in detail in academic literature and journalism. Moreover, after years, the Pakistani military, the Taliban, American diplomats and CIA agents, and many others have published thousands of interviews, articles, books, and memoirs in which all these cases were conveyed. Look at the memoirs of ex-President Pervez Musharaf, “In the Line of Fire. A Memoir”. (New York: Simon & Shuster, 2006): “We were the only country maintaining diplomatic relations with the Taliban and their leader, Mullah Omar. And this part, where a seasoned military and politician, who miraculously did not board the crashed Zia ul-Haq’s plane, asks quite deep questions, says: The ultimate question that confronted me was whether it was in our national interest to destroy ourselves for the Taliban. Were they worth committing suicide over? The answer was a resounding no. We had indeed assisted in the rise of the Taliban after the Soviet Union withdrew from Afghanistan, which was then callously abandoned by the United States. For a while, at the embryonic stage, even the United States approved of the Taliban. We had hoped that the Taliban, driven by religious zeal based on the true principles of Islam, would bring unity and peace to a devastated country.”(p. 200-202).

I will not undertake to predict how this conflict will be resolved. Indeed, Islamabad is in a grave situation. A friendly regime in Afghanistan has been a long-standing goal, and the Taliban’s victory has become their main success. However, terrorist activity on Pakistani territory has intensified, which is an apparent causation of processes in the Emirate. World powers and regional forces clearly expect influential regional forces to stabilize the Afghan problem. Time will tell how Islamabad will handle this problem, primarily created by its own hands. 

Georgi Asatrian
Georgi Asatrian
Georgi Asatryan, associate professor, Lomonosov Moscow State University and Plekhanov Russian University of Economics.