History of Afghan Crisis: the fall of Taliban regime and “War on Terror”

Saddam Hussain Samo edited
The fall of Taliban regime in 2001 and War on Terror

Taliban were successful in establishing their government in Afghanistan in 1996 after overcoming local militia and warlords. To gain power in the Non-Pashtun areas, located in the Northern Afghanistan, they also persecuted the local people in a barbaric way. For Pakistan, the formation of Taliban government was a great achievement because they were pro-Pakistani and anti-Indian. However, their government could not last more and was overthrown by the US after 9/11 incident in 2001.

Keeping in view the geo-political and economic interests of Islamabad, Pakistan was among the first countries that recognized the Taliban as the legitimate government in Kabul. On the request of Inter-service intelligence (ISI), Pakistan’s foreign ministry made an announcement. PM, Nawaz Sharif leaned about it when the news flashed across his television. “He was furious.” Recalled his aide Mushahid Hussain. “He said, ‘Who made that decision?’” ISI believed that Taliban were against India and would prevent the strategies of New Delhi to create cross border terrorism in Pakistan. Besides, the friendly government would unable them to carry out trade with Central Asian Republics (CARs). Not only Pakistan could solve its energy crisis in the easiest way by importing Gas from Turkmenistan via Afghanistan, but also improve its transit economy by providing the shortest route to Central Asian Republics to reach Arabian Sea for the trade. It was the reason that in October 1994, Pakistani security official contacted Mullah Omar for the safe passage of convey of trucks transporting goods to Turkmenistan. For Islamabad, Taliban were an important ally and would help it to achieve geo-political and economic interests in the region.   

The United States of America (USA) did not recognize the government of Taliban because of its gender policy and human rights violations. Taliban banned girls’ education and confined women to their homes. Besides, they persecuted other ethnic groups particularly Hazaras. However, the principal cause of their downfall was nothing else, but the presence of Al-Qaeda terrorist organization that carried out terrorist acts outside Afghanistan by using Afghan’s soil.

Osama bin laden arrived in Afghanistan in 1996 and was welcomed by the local warlords who had known him as a rebel philanthropist and occasional fighter during the anti-Soviet jihad. In August 1996, he announced so-called jihad against America and asked his followers to attack American and Israelis and cause them as much harm as possible. In August 1998, Al-Qaeda carried out bomb attacks against the US embassies in Nairobi and Dar ul Salam killing more than 200 people. This was among the most devastating attacks on American target. In the following years, both Nawaz Sharif and Musharraf asked Mullah Omar to expel Osama because they knew that his activities would put Taliban regime in jeopardy. Saudi Arabia also demanded the same. 

Taliban and Al-Qaeda were two different organizations and were very different in their aims and political and religious philosophy. Taliban formed the government within Afghanistan and were not involved in any act of terrorism outside Afghanistan. However, Al-Qaeda used Afghan’s territory to carry out attacks outside Kabul. Many senior Taliban leaders were also not happy with Osama bin laden and his Arab fighters for turning Afghanistan as a center of global terrorism. As per Osama bin Laden’s son, Mullah Omar asked Osama to leave Afghanistan. Omar told DG ISI Lt. Gen. Ziauddin Butt in 1988, “Osama bin laden is like a bone stuck in my throat.” Omar also disliked Osama because he knew that his activities would cause the US to invade Afghanistan. However, Taliban completely fail to get rid of Al-Qaeda and Osama bin laden. Many believe that it was because of Pashtun culture to provide utmost respect to their guest that Omar failed to force Osama to leave Afghanistan. After the passage of time, Osama succeeded in radicalizing Omar’s mindset.

Since the government of Taliban was against the national interest of the US, Washington was looking for the ways and means to get rid of it. Al-Qaeda activities provided it a solid ground. Robert Grenier, a former CIA official, writes in his book titled “88 days to Kandahar” that CIA, even before 9/11, tried to engineer a revolt within the Taliban ranks against Mullah Omar. For this purpose, some senior Taliban leaders were also given satellite phones, but Washington failed to achieve its ambition. The last setback was the 9/11 incident; when the passenger airlines of the US were hijacked and hit against the World trade Centre and one headed towards Pentagon. The US acted like an injured bear. On 11th September 2001, one Pakistani General said that the roof fell over our heads. He knew that the US would react harshly and their all efforts to bring friendly government in Kabul would go down the drain.

The US made its mind to invade Afghanistan to get rid of Al-Qaeda. Initially it put a demand to Taliban to handover Osama bin Laden. DG ISI, Lt. Gen. Mahmud went to Kandahar and asked Mullah Omar to handover Osama to the US to avoid being bombed down.  Mullah Omar, instead, asked for the evidence that 9/11 was actually carried out by Al-Qaeda. The US made a coalition with Northern Alliance and prepared for the war. Washington put the list of demands to Pakistan and Musharraf accepted all and joined global “War on Terror”. It annoyed Islamist. Musharraf said after he decided to cooperate with the US on Global “War on Terror” that Pakistan’s interests in Afghanistan had to be sacrificed to save even more important assets__ Nuclear weapons and Kashmir.

If Pakistan had not joined “War on Terror”, it would have been declared as state sponsoring of terrorism because almost all countries were on the same page. Besides, Pakistan would have lost the support of the US for Kashmir issue. It would play directly in the hands of India. Musharraf later received a phone call from the Secretary of State of the US, Colin Powell, who threatened Pakistan to be bombed back to stone age if Pakistan did not comply with the American demands.

In October 2001, the US, with the help of Northern Alliance invaded Afghanistan. Taliban dispersed and fled the country within no time. Thus, the regime of Taliban was overthrown by the US because they failed to get rid of Al-Qaeda and their Arab fighters who engaged in global terrorism.


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