Afghanistan after Rabbani

Despite the lack of evidence in Rabbani's murder, Western analysts, commentators term it as Haqqani handiwork.

Lt-gen R Asad Durrani September 26, 2011

I do not know who killed Professor Rabbani, the former president of Afghanistan. If someone had taken responsibility it would have helped — even though at times credit is claimed on ulterior grounds. A few reasonably known factors may, however, help make a tentative assessment about who might have done it; more importantly, what follows next.

Asking Ustad (the teacher) Rabbabni, a Tajik, to head the High Peace Council to start a peace process with the Afghan resistance was wise. It was a signal to the predominantly Pashtun militias that the non-Pashtun North was also on board. Indeed, not everyone in the north, or in the south, was. Some, like Dr Abdullah Abdullah, a former Foreign Minister, believed that talking to the Taliban was futile. Some others stood to benefit from the status quo. Though possible, it is unlikely that anyone of them was behind the assassination.

The Taliban appear to be the main suspect and may have had some motive as well. Besides being old adversaries — they removed the Rabbani led government in 1995 — some of them feared that Ustad’s efforts to reach out to them were aimed to split the movement. If it was, therefore, a Taliban sponsored act, it was extremely foolish. Since only a broad-based agreement ensures peace and stability in Afghanistan, eliminating Rabbani who once led the largest multi-ethnic party in the country, makes reconciliation amongst diverse Afghan groups even more difficult than it normally would be.

Long before the US conceded that the Taliban had to be engaged in a dialogue, the late president had publicly opposed the use of force against them. Yet another factor that made him an ideal interlocutor for the Taliban was his insistence that there could be no peace in Afghanistan till the occupation was vacated. His opposition to the ‘strategic agreement’, reportedly being negotiated between Washington and Kabul to grant the former, the right to maintain operational basis beyond 2014, was well known.

That places America on the ‘whodunit’ list too. Admittedly, there is no circumstantial evidence that there was a hidden Yankee hand. Their desire to pin the crime on the latest emerging superpower, the Haqqani network, however, was all too evident. Almost all Western analysts and commentators, after conceding that the evidence was lacking, could not help blurting out that “it looked like” a Haqqani handiwork. (Reminds me of a pre-Mumbai terrorist act in India, when many experts from the other side warned against jumping to conclusion, but then suggested that it was the “Lashkar” as in the LeT.)

For most of us, this nitpicking is superfluous. We already know the perpetrators: the ones we hate the most. What must, however, concern us deeply are the likely developments post Rabbani. That it would take quite a while before the intra-Afghan dialogue could resume, assuming of course, that it had started in the first place, is no big deal. Afghans take their time. It is the argument that Afghanistan was best served by another Durand Line — this time along the Hindukush — which we now must take more seriously.

Our main argument against a possible North-South divide in Afghanistan — besides none of its neighbours relish the prospect — has always been that all Afghan factions were passionately nationalist. One is not sure if such noble sentiments survive all odds. The late colonel Yahyah Effendi, an accomplished historian in his own right and whose views I value more than the current cartographic strategists, had started smelling a rat more than a decade ago.

The Soviets toyed with the idea when their withdrawal was imminent. Mujahideen dissuaded them. If the Americans, in view of their bases located north of a convenient divide, were also thinking about it, I wonder if we in the region are giving some thought on how to best scuttle this design.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 27th,  2011.


Yow Afghan | 10 years ago | Reply Afghanistan has had its turn of balkanization in 1893, now Afghans pray that this time pakistan fell prey to the imperialists. These days Balkanisation of pakistan is very much in the news, while that of Afghanistan is never that much popular.
Abbas from the US | 10 years ago | Reply

The US is not leaving Northern Afghanistan nor Northern Iraq completely. Period. From the US point of view a nuclear armed Pakistan where the Nuclear button is always under the control of the Pakistan Army is less dangerous, because the Pakistani Army high command making decisions will always be composed of rationalists.

A Nuclear armed Iran is considerably more dangerous. The Iranian Mullahs took the longest time to accept armistice with Saddam's Iraq after the war developed into a no win situation for both protogonists, because the religious beliefs of the Mullahs forbids them to accept rational choices when it comes to compromise.

At this point the choice that Iran has, even if they share interests with the Taliban in seeing the US end its presence in Afghanistan, is either to accept a negotiated government in Kabul that would be possibly be overrun by the Taliban. Or keep supporting its current allies that comprised of the Northern Alliance and accept a defacto partition that would leave the US with its bases in Northern Afghanistan.

However a North South interim divide from Iran's point of view also leaves a civil war on the doorsteps of Pakistan. Keeps the Pakistani Army focused on the US bases there. And the US would still be Pakistan centric at least in Afghanistan rather than turn their attentiion to Iran.

If this scenario was thought thru by Iranian intelligence than it is quite possible that the killing of Ustad Rabbani may have been carried out at the behest of the Iranian spooks and not the US as the General implies. The method used would still point to an execution implicating the Pakistani intelligence.

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