After the withdrawal of US-NATO forces from Afghanistan, the Taliban appear to be on a rampage in the strife torn country with the insurgent force capturing the exit points over Amu Darya to neighbouring Tajikistan and encircling border areas, major cities and strategic highways. As many as 13 districts fell to the Taliban in 24 hours last Saturday, with pressure on Kandahar, Badakhshan and Kunduz provinces.

While the Afghan security forces are putting up a brave fight, the Taliban, using captured American weapons and multi-terrain vehicles, are running roughshod over the Afghan people with eyes all set on Kabul. The situation has become more precarious as 2021 Taliban is different from the 1996 version as they are no longer an exclusive Sunni Pashtun force but has nearly 40 per cent elements from ethnic Afghan Tajiks and Uzbeks. Intelligence reports indicate that the Taliban even have a Shia commander as they want to project themselves as an all-inclusive Afghan force.

The internal assessment is that Taliban will remain a cogent force till the time it is capturing more territory in Afghanistan. The fault-lines within the group will start playing up if the Afghan Army puts up a strong resistance and force the insurgent group to brutal push over the lands traditionally occupied by the Hazara, Tajik and Uzbek people. Either way, Afghanistan is headed towards a civil strife with neighbouring Pakistan turning out to be a net loser in this war in the long term. While Pakistan-based terror groups may get more strategic space in Taliban ruled territories due to umbilical links between Rawalpindi and the insurgent leadership, there will be influx of refugees across the Durand Line of those trying to escape Taliban’s harsh interpretation of Islam and the accompanying changeover of Afghanistan from a republic to an emirate. Besides, the unstable situation created by Afghan refugees, Islamabad will be under constant pressure to deliver on its commitment to Washington on a stable Afghanistan. “Pakistan has refused to give permission to US intelligence to use its bases to conduct anti-terrorist operations in Afghanistan. But it has given shelter to the entire Taliban leadership in Karachi and Quetta. This clearly shows where the priorities of the Pakistan establishment lie,” said a Kabul watcher.

A victory for Taliban in Afghanistan also has serious security ramifications for India as top of the line US made captured weapons like sniper rifles, had held radars and shoulder fired missiles may find their way into Jammu and Kashmir to rachet up violence. Already, the Indian security forces have seized US made M-4 rifles from top Jaish-e-Mohammed and Lashkar-e-Taiba terrorists operating in Kashmir. Besides, rise of Islamic fundamentalism and its victory in Afghanistan will also create problems for India in the hinterland as well as the north-eastern states.

With Chinese PLA intent on putting India under pressure all along the Line of Actual Control (LAC), the rise of Taliban in Af-Pak region will force New Delhi to deploy army on its western borders. To cut a long story short, India will become the front-line state against terror if Taliban is not checked in Afghanistan.