The Taliban Northern Revival
By Brig Sultan Mahmud,Retd
03 July 21
There is a mystery in the way the Taliban have started to make gains in Northern Afghanistan which historically holds bad memories for them. Taliban thrust in their traditional areas of the Pakhtun belt however is much slower.To have taken over many districts without any major battle and to have reached the port of Bandar Sher Khan on the Amu Darya as well as Doshi at the entrance of the Salang Pass in Northern Afghanistan is surprising. It warrants a deeper look. If Dostum in Jawzjan and Ustad Atta Noor in Balkh are not resisting the Taliban then there is a greater game being played. Reports from Kabul point towards the fact that Khalilzad and the US were terribly disappointed at the level of corruption in the Afghan Government and by every important Afghan notable. A stage had arrived where over ninety percent of the funds given were never utilized but transferred abroad to personal accounts.It was impossible to work further at either at the government level or at the provincial level. Both Dostum and Ustad Atta were vehement in their opposition to any US-Taliban treaty. Khalilzad gave a clear warning, it is believed, of both serious consequences. Both showed little signs of backing down. It is here that an understanding between the Taliban and the US was agreed upon that the Taliban may push first in the North against both Dostum and Atta and remove their strength and influence. It was reportedly agreed that the Taliban would be allowed to take an additional over 80 Districts over the ones they already control as reward. It is quite possible that the US are looking for a buffer zone in areas upto the Amu Darya covering the borders of Tajikistan and China. They hope that all all major war lords in the North will be eliminated by the Taliban and expect the Taliban to return the favour. The US plans to use these borders in a hope to push ETIM fighters, with Talibans help into 'Godless China to help the thousands of muslim Ughiars who are living under life threatening conditions’. In other words nip the CPEC in the bud on Chinese soil. Whether the Taliban will push for a confrontation with China so early in their conquests is yet to be seen. There is no doubt that money and facilities to the Taliban have been provided by ‘outside sources’. The real game then is to deny China entry into Afghanistan for its OBOR/CPEC connectivity.
Peshawar based analyst M. Ishaq Khan feels that the ‘US /Kabul move is brilliant as it exposes Taliban front line commanders and their leaders in the field. With US high tech imagery and drone advantage, the Taliban will have no place to hide. It is like breaking an ant hill or disturbing a beehive to see them scatter in all directions. The Taliban may not have understood this grand strategy and could have been lured into an eventual trap. It does look too good to be true.’ He further believes that a full fledged civil war is anticipated. Local Militias are being raised to tackle the Taliban and to keep them at bay from nearing Kabul’.
It is strongly rumoured that the US has signed approximately 271 agreements with the Ghani Government that covers nearly all spectrum of available wealth in the raw form in entire Afghanistan. This is to again blunt any future agreements between Kabul and China if ever it takes place. The Taliban while bent on taking Kabul will be denied at all costs, Bamiyan and Panjshir will continue as safe havens. The Ghani visit to Washington in the last week of June 2021 is meaningful. An assurance was given that it is believed that the Taliban will not take Kabul. Ghani was given a life, however Ghani asked Washington to show its commitment to Kabul by targeting a few Taliban advancing warriors.The US for the first time since the Doha Treaty, carried out four drone strikes against the Taliban in the last week of June 2021 causing many casualties. This has cautioned the Taliban to rein in their exuberance for a period of time.
The Afghan Army is melting away in front of our eyes, District upon district is being blown away. Similar to what happened in 1996. The US has silently decided to leave the Afghan military to deal with the Taliban alone! Have also made it clear that they will not provide any air cover. However there is again a method in this retreat and surrender. ‘It is better to cede territory than get your soldiers killed’ is the phrase being advocated. This is working well. The US plan is to pitch the local militias against the Taliban and keep the Afghan Army as reserve. In that sense Dostam in Jawzjan, Atta in Balkh, Hazrat Ali in Laghman, Haji Almas in Ghorbund, Ahmed Masoud in the Salang Pass and Panjshir Valley, the Shomali Plains militia, the Hazaras of Muhaqqiq and Karim Khalili in Sar-e-pul and Bamiyan are expected to engage the Taliban for the years to come. The Afghan National Army will be shielded as planned. Kabul is in no danger of falling in the short term,neither will any other major city fall so soon.