In the worst case scenario for Pakistan, if the Taliban is completely defeated and evicted from Afghanistan, Pakistan will nave to contend with approximately 30,000 to 40,000 fully armed and trained militiamen on it soil, including about 5,000 Arabs who are either fugitives from justice in their countries or have chosen to disclaim their national identities and now claim to belong to a sovereign Pan-Islamic nation.
Lack of success in the early resolution of the present imbroglio in Afghanistan will have adverse repercussions for India.
Though the US strikes have been carefully calibrated tc ensure that ordinary Afghans are not targeted and a major humanitarian catastrophe is averted, there will still be a fairly large exodus from Afghanistan. While most of these refugees will tend to migrate into Iran, Pakistan and the Central Asian Republics (CARs), some of them will eventually trickle into India. The number of Afghan refugees in India already number about 50,000 and India can ill afford another major influx.
The fall of the Taliban will impel Pakistan to divert at least part of the retreating militiamen to India so that they do not indulge in enforcing their peculiar brand of fundamentalist Islam in Pakistani territory. The diversion of 1,500 to 2,000 additional trained fighters into Jammu and Kashmir will require the Indian Army to induct an additional 20,000 to 30,000 troops to stabilise the situation as the empirical ratio of Army troops to militants to maintain a semblance of normality is 20:1. Also, though Indian Muslims are predominantly secular, some fundamentalist leaders are bound to exploit inflamed sentiments and riots may break out in the traditional trouble spots of Ahmedabad, Hyderabad, Bhiwandi and Aligarh, among other towns in northern India.
Handing over power to the Northern Alliance by itself is not acceptable to most of the contenders as the alliance is not truly representative of the ethnic composition of Afghanistan. It comprises mainly ethnic Tajiks and Uzbeks and has almost no representation from the dominant Pashtun community. Even if the alliance military commanders are able to engineer some defections and add some Pashtun warlords to their coalition, they will be few in numbers and will lack the authority to represent the proud Pashtun community. Hence, the US and its allies are working towards installing a grand coalition of national reconciliation led by the former King Zahir Shah after Kabul is liberated. King Zahir Shah, who appears to have given his consent to return as a titular head of state, is widely expected to convene a loyal ‘Jirga’ (Supreme Council), to decide on the structure of a new government.
All the elements comprising the newly constituted United Front and the deposed government of Burhanuddin Rabbani, which is still recognised by the United Nations (UN) as well as India, are likely to be accommodated in the grand coalition. Once Kabul comes within reach of the United Front, more Pashtun warlords can be expected to defect to it, giving the Front adequate Pashtun representation. The UN will have to play a major role if the new coalition is to succeed in governing Afghanistan effectively and in supervising the dismantling of deeply entrenched structure. The economic reconstruction of Afghanistan will have to be carefully planned and systematically executed so that the Afghans can be gradually weaned away from the present Kalashnikov and madrasa culture supported by a poppy-dependent economy to more productive and less destructive means of livelihood.
However, the United Front is unlikely to be able to drive the Taliban militia out of Afghanistan completely without substantial help from US ground troops. As the US is unwilling to commit its troops to large-scale conventional operations. all indications are that the Taliban is likely to remain in control of its strongholds around Kandahar and the areas of Jalalabad and Khost where the close proximity of a porous border with Pakistan and the strong support likely to be provided by the sympathetic Pashtun population of NWFP may help it to hold out for a long drawn civil war.
In the worst case scenario for Pakistan, if the Taliban is completely defeated and evicted from Afghanistan, Pakistan will nave to contend with approximately 30,000 to 40,000 fully armed and trained militiamen on it soil, including about 5,000 Arabs who are either fugitives from justice in their countries or have chosen to disclaim their national identities and now claim to belong to a sovereign Pan-Islamic nation. As these virulent hordes prepare to take revenge, they will further pollute the already Talibanised Pakistani polity and give a fillip to the nascent separatist movements in NWFP and Baluchistan. The MOM may also exploit the situation to its advantage and create disturbances in Sind.
Pakistan may find itself facing a major internal instability – civil war situation – which its divided army will be unable to control. Some analysts have put forward the alarmist view that Pakistan may even break up. However, the likelihood of a Civil war is slim and the US and its allies will not allow the stability of a nuclear-armed Pakistan to be seriously undermined. Pakistan is likely to be faced by a long spell of instability on its Western border due to the active presence of large numbers of armed Taliban militiamen and the support that the Pashtuns in particular, — are likely to provide. However, demands for. the formation of Pakhtoonkhwa will become more strident and there may be widespread unrest in Baluchistan and Sind.