Pakistan’s National Security Adviser, Moeed Yusuf, was quoted by the Sunday Times as saying, or rather warning the West, that the Taliban regime must be recognized immediately or risk making the same mistakes that led to the 9/11 attacks.
Pakistan’s National Security Advisor pointed out that “If the mistakes of the Nineties are made again and Afghanistan abandoned, the outcome will be absolutely the same - a security vacuum filled by undesirable elements who will threaten everyone, Pakistan and the West.”
In fact, there is some relevance to the Pakistani official’s statements, particularly with regard to the expected outcome of a security vacuum in Afghanistan. The influence will affect both Pakistan and the West. But the issue is not limited to these two parties, but to the rest of the world.
Terrorism no longer targets only one country or nationality, and it is difficult to predict its geographic ranges. Regardless of the credibility of evidence and reports of Islamabad’s relationship with the Taliban, Pakistan is also paying a heavy price for extremist and terrorist activities.
It does not tolerate new waves of asylum across its border with Afghanistan due to the end of air evacuation flights, the expected collapse of living conditions and services, and the strong possibility of a humanitarian crisis if the situation in the country continues. In addition, Pakistan is still home to some 3 million Afghan refugees.
Pakistan is virtually intolerant to a humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan. Logic therefore suggests the importance of managing its movements and developing its policies in this regard without resorting to threats or agitating other scenarios that Islamabad knows full well are highly sensitive to Western capitals.
The Sunday Times reporter says in her report that Pakistan might be happy to see a movement that it helped create and gave safe haven to in Afghanistan. This is absolutely true because it is a strategic victory for Pakistan. But more important than this victory is the management of the aftermath of the takeover.
This is not the Taliban’s first experience governing Afghanistan. If the movement has learned from past experiences, so has the world. So Pakistan should handle the issue differently rather than just bullying and warning.
It is remarkable, for example, that Pakistan is absent from the Taliban-world dialogues at the present stage, despite its genuine fears of further chaos in its neighborhood. It is fully aware that the world community will not take responsibility for mistakes made, whether in Afghanistan or elsewhere.
The British newspaper notes that Pakistan has launched a public relations campaign to get the world to know the Taliban and start working with them. That seems accurate. In this case, however, the rules of action must include pressuring the Taliban to make real structural changes so that their behavior, not their words, conforms to international laws and conventions.
This is the only way to convince the world to accept the Taliban, as no Western capital can forget the experiences of the recent past and make a rapprochement with the Taliban without an international orientation with collective acceptance of the movement. The truth is that it is strategically in Pakistan’s interest for Afghanistan to come under a regime close to Islamabad.
So they have to move seriously and more effectively in two directions in parallel. In other words, it’s not just about convincing the world to accept the Taliban.
It is also about developing a clear, thoughtful, and precise roadmap and practical steps for the Taliban leadership, including as advice and guidance to build confidence in the world. Engagement, the Pakistani intelligence chief said in his remarks, is the path to a better future for Afghanistan for the Taliban as well, not just the world.
Warning of the grave consequences of the Taliban’s failure to be internationally recognized is not enough to convince the world to accept them. The world is not the same as it was in 1996 when the Taliban took power. As a matter of fact, the security vacuum has become a widespread phenomenon touching many countries and regions.
Terrorist organizations now have many footholds on different continents. The approach to building peace and stability in Afghanistan must therefore be to find common ground and seek points of convergence.
Dr. Salem AlKetbi is a UAE political analyst and former Federal National Council candidate