Faiz Hameed’s Unfulfilled Victory Dreams

By: Ali Sajad Mawlaee

In early September 2021, General Faiz Hameed, the former head of Pakistan’s Inter-Service Intelligence (ISI), made a surprise visit to Kabul in order to resolve the dispute concerning the formation of the Taliban cabinet. General Hameed declared that the purpose of his journey to Afghanistan was to evaluate the security situation in light of the events of August 15, 2021, and the Taliban’s return to power; however, the primary objective of this trip was to settle the tension between the Taliban regarding the formation of their cabinet.

When asked about the future of Afghanistan, Hameed smiled and said, “Everything will be alright.” On September 4, 2021, the Pakistani newspaper Dawn also ran a headline that read, “Everything will be alright.” Initially, Pakistani strategists and policymakers were pleased that the Taliban had come to power in Afghanistan, as the government and the faction aligned with their interests had taken control. Many Pakistanis referred to the coffee that General Hameed was holding in the lobby of the Serena Hotel in Kabul as “victory coffee”.

Pakistani strategists believed that the presence of the Taliban in Afghanistan would be beneficial to them, as it would reduce the challenges they faced in relation to Afghanistan. They viewed the Taliban’s presence as a victory, as it diminished India’s presence in the region and Afghanistan. This was a cause of concern for Pakistani policymakers, as Ashraf Ghani’s government had a positive relationship with India. In Rawalpindi (headquarters of the Pakistan Army), it was thought that by utilizing the influence of the Taliban on the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), this “rebel” group could be brought to the negotiating table, thus decreasing insecurity in the northern regions of Pakistan.

The Calm Before the Storm

Imran Khan and his diplomatic team worked hard to gain international recognition of the Taliban, and seemed content with the new state of affairs in Afghanistan. However, danger was looming. During the early months of the Taliban regime, Khan’s government and the Pakistani army were able to use the Taliban’s influence to negotiate a ceasefire with the TTP. However, experts believe that this ceasefire was not beneficial to Pakistan, as it only served to strengthen and arm the TTP. Taking advantage of this opportunity, the TTP formulated new objectives and devised a plan to launch attacks against the Pakistani army.

In summary, the group was strengthened following the announcement of the termination of the ceasefire by the TTP. Subsequently, the group intensified its attacks in Pakistan, with the most devastating attack being the assault on the Police Mosque in Peshawar, resulting in over 300 fatalities and injuries.

It appears that Pakistani strategists have made a misjudgment in their support of the Taliban and the establishment of a ceasefire with the TTP, and are now facing the consequences. The intensity of attacks by the TTP is not a new phenomenon, as they had orchestrated numerous assaults against Pakistani military forces between 2010 and 2013. However, the current situation in Pakistan is far more precarious due to the flash floods of the previous year, unprecedented inflation, international debts, and the heightened political tension between Khan and the current government. This surge in attacks has weakened the country’s army, as it does not have the financial capacity to launch large counterattacks.
After the Taliban gained control in Afghanistan, the number of attacks in Pakistan rose drastically, causing great concern among Pakistani policymakers. Pakistanis had anticipated that the security situation would improve with the Taliban‘s arrival; however, the security situation in Pakistan has shifted and, contrary to their expectations, the number of attacks has grown.

On the contrary, the Pakistanis believed that they had limited India‘s access to Afghanistan; however, according to the report of the Pak Institute for Peace Studies (PIPS), the Taliban have close ties with India, and there are speculations that India will transfer the Afghan embassy in New Delhi to the Taliban. The institute has reported that Indian diplomats are training Taliban diplomats, which implies that India is returning to Afghanistan‘s political arena in a calculated manner and has a relationship with the Taliban. If India‘s relations with the Taliban become stronger, Pakistan‘s only advantage in Afghanistan will be diminished.

If this scenario comes to pass and Pakistan is unable to manage the new developments, it will be defeated in Afghanistan and suffer severe consequences. Attempts by Pakistan to reduce attacks in the North and NorthWest regions of the country by supporting the Taliban have had the opposite effect, and if India strengthens its relationship with the Taliban, it will be a further setback for Pakistan‘s strategy. Despite the recent pressure that Pakistan has put on the Taliban and the appointment of their allies to the group‘s cabinet, the situation is still far from what they had hoped for.

According to the recent report from PIPS, the country‘s strategy towards the Taliban has been unsuccessful. Overall, the number of attacks has risen by 73% since the Taliban took power, and the number of fatalities has increased by 77%.

This report indicates that there has been a considerable rise in assaults in the two border provinces of Afghanistan, which is directly linked to the circumstances in Afghanistan. Not only is the TehrikiTaliban Pakistan (TTP) profiting from the present situation, but Balochistan‘s separatist groups have also conducted considerable attacks against the Pakistan Army.

Everything Is Not Okay

Contrary to what General Hameed declared in the lobby of the Serena Hotel in Kabul, all is not well. As the government of Pakistan is preoccupied with its internal matters, the Tehreeke-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) forces are roaming close to the outskirts of Islamabad, posing a grave danger to the security of the nation‘s capital. Now that the circumstances in Pakistan are worsening, it appears that the cup of victory has become unpalatable to General Hameed and the security crisis in Pakistan has become more complex than before.