The Indian consulate in Herat is attacked, but the identity of the assailants remains unknown as none of them are captured alive. A week later, Pakistani army posts in Bajaur Agency bordering the Kunar province of Afghanistan are also attacked and once again no one knows who is behind this attack as none of the attackers are taken prisoners. And with no terrorist group accepting responsibility for either of these attacks, everyone is once again relying on speculation. The Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai has claimed that he has irrefutable evidence that the Indian consulate attack in Herat was the handiwork of the Pakistan based Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) and thus, the finger of suspicion points at Islamabad. On the other hand, Pakistani authorities allege complicity of Kabul in the attacks on their border posts as they are more than convinced that it was the Afghanistan based Swat and Bajaur chapters of the proscribed Tehreek- e- Taliban Pakistan (TTP) who were responsible for this ghastly incident.
With all three countries claiming to be the ‘victims’ of terrorism, one would have expected the creation of some sort of a joint mechanism between New Delhi, Islamabad and Kabul to fight this scourge. However, instead of taking this obvious, logical and positive step, we find the three neighbours accusing each other of promoting terror. It is therefore really a comical sight to see how experienced and wizened leaders behave like children, both while vehemently denying allegations or in vociferously making accusations of sponsoring ‘cross- border’ terrorism. As a good measure and in keeping with the ‘holier than thou’ image of their respective countries, these leaders also ensure that they never forget to ‘strongly condemn’ acts of terrorism in each other’s country, expressing their grief and solidarity with the ‘victim’ nation and its people. One really wonders how the powers that be in New Delhi, Islamabad and Kabul expect us to be so naïve as to believe their denials and allegations- for if these three countries are indeed in no way involved in sponsoring terrorism in the region, then who is providing weapons, bombs, sustenance and sanctuary to all the terrorists who are fighting the mighty armies of India, Pakistan and Afghanistan? Surely it can’t be aliens!
So, let’s be realistic and face the harsh fact that today the terrorists in this region are no mere ‘pushovers’, but fighters par excellence and great survivours . After all, haven’t they been subjected to repeated aerial bombings, missile attacks, artillery barrages and yet endured? Isn’t it a fact that even large-scale ground operations by soldiers of well trained armies equipped with the most sophisticated weaponry have failed to subdue these terrorists? Haven’t all military operations against terrorist groups invariably ended inconclusively? Isn’t the casualty rate of security forces personnel involved in anti terror operations showing an upward trend? And this is exactly why it becomes all the more difficult to believe that none of these nations is providing any assistance or support to any terror group in the region. For if this was true, then another very pertinent question arises- can any armed group ever acquire the military capability and be able develop the infrastructure to withstand the repeated onslaughts of a conventional army without the active patronage of a nation state?
It was America who introduced the concept of the ‘good terrorist’ into the region by using ‘mujahideens’ to wage its ‘proxy war’ against the Soviet forces in Afghanistan. Doing this was not very difficult as the then President of Pakistan General Zia ul Haq was more than just forthcoming and had no inhibitions in turning the countryside into a veritable breeding ground for ‘mujahideens’. General Zia was so impressed by advantages of the American ‘good terrorist’ philosophy and he too raised his own private army of ‘mujahideens’ for doing in Indian administered Kashmir (IaK) what the Americans had done in Afghanistan. His plan of making India ‘bleed through a thousand cuts’ worked and the Indian army soon found itself fighting veterans who had gained immense combat experience in Afghanistan. All seemed to be going well till New Delhi spoilt the party by deciding to repay Islamabad in the same coin by creating its own band of ‘good terrorists’ to wreck havoc in Pakistan. Since General Zia had himself promoted the revival of obscurant Islamic ideology, for New Delhi to find ‘good terrorists’ who were more than willingly to wage war against the progressive Islamic state of Pakistan was not at all difficult.
Later, by his ill-considered decision to launch the Lal Masjid operation and adoption of a skewed anti-terror policy, General Musharraf himself unwittingly helped New Delhi in further enlarging the ranks of its ‘good terrorists’ who had taken upon themselves the ‘sacred’ duty of imposing sharia law in Pakistan. Kabul, which was silently observing these developments while bearing the brunt of terrorist activities unleashed by the ‘good terrorists’ of Pakistan too realised that ‘fighting fire with fire’ made good sense and organised its own group of ‘good terrorists’. Consequently, the region which originally had only ‘good terrorists’ fighting the Soviets in Afghanistan was soon swarming with well organised armed groups busy fighting their patron’s proxy war. While the sponsor nations obviously considered their band of terrorists to be ‘good’, the victim states understandably declared them ‘bad’ terrorists. And even as the three countries continue to pledge their consummate commitment towards eradicating terror and claim to have no truck with terror groups, their clandestine patronage of the terrorists whom they consider ‘good’ still continues!
Today, the situation in the region has become extremely critical as despite concerted military action, the terror groups are nowhere near extinction. Though the US has declared a ‘global war against terror’, it is no secret that its approach is heavily influenced by its security concerns for its own soldiers. Thus, while it is battling the Taliban in Afghanistan, it discreetly maintains an ambivalent attitude towards those terrorist groups that pose no threat to its forces. However, to keep up its international image of being the ‘crusader’ spearheading the ‘global war against terror’, America is exerting diplomatic pressure on New Delhi, Islamabad and Kabul by ensuring that they keep the acts of terror committed by their ‘good terrorists’ in the other countries within ‘acceptable limits.’ However, after America withdraws its troops from Afghanistan, the region would lose its sole ‘moderator’ and once this happens, the situation would only worsen.
Unfortunately, even though India, Pakistan and Afghanistan continue to reel under terror attacks, none of these countries seem to be willing to get over their medieval mindsets of ‘an eye for an eye’ and listen to the voice of reason. Consequently, an attack in Herat is followed by an attack in Bajaur and as this cycle of senseless violence continues, we find ourselves secretly rejoicing whenever our neighbour bleeds, even though a saner voice keeps asking- why are these countries hell-bent on following a path of ‘mutual destruction’? Pragmatically speaking, one would have expected that considering the common sufferings of its people due to terrorism and poverty as well as the tremendous mutual advantages accruing from cooperation in the fields of trade and commerce activities between these three countries, they would have automatically come closer. However, it is still not too late to make amends and with the changed power equations in India, Pakistan and Kabul (after the withdrawal of US forces), a rapprochement between the three is still possible. But, this can only be achieved if we all realise that in the ultimate analysis, there is no such thing as a ‘good terrorist’!