Pakistan first beneficiary of Taliban return

To analyse. One image was enough to sum up the shift in the balance of power and the preeminent place taken by Pakistan in Afghanistan. On September 4 in the morning, a photo circulated on Twitter, that of the head of the Pakistani secret service, the Inter-service intelligence (ISI) Faiz Hameed, freshly disembarked on the tarmac of the airport of Kabul. A cup of coffee in hand, dressed in civilian clothes, he is surrounded by a delegation of Pakistani officials. He is the first senior foreign official to return to the Afghan capital since the Westerners left. A journalist tries a question: “Are you going to meet with Taliban officials?” Are you confident in Afghanistan? “ The man is a bit embarrassed, a member of the delegation answers for him: “We are working for the peace and stability of Afghanistan. “ Faiz Hameed concludes the exchange: “Don’t worry, everything will be fine. “

Was the head of the Pakistani secret service in Kabul to influence the composition of the government, as analysts claim? One thing is certain: the return of the Taliban offers Pakistan an essential intermediary role, both as an actor in Afghan affairs and as an obligatory passage for foreign governments wishing to gain a foothold in Afghanistan. Above all, he assures him of the “strategic depth” that the Pakistani army has been seeking for years in its rivalry with India, the sworn enemy.

Contested border

Forty years ago, the ISI made Afghanistan the epicenter of its regional strategy, supporting, sheltering and training insurgent groups. Its objective was to contain a double threat. That of encirclement in the event of war with India, an ally of Afghanistan; and that of an erosion of its territorial integrity, because the border of 2,670 km with Afghanistan, drawn by the British and called the Durand Line, is contested both by the rulers of Kabul who have never recognized it, and by the Pashtuns who demand the reunification of this region shared between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Read the analysis: Pakistan’s shadow behind the Taliban’s advance in Afghanistan

The Pakistanis, traumatized by the loss, in 1971, of the eastern part of the country which will become Bangladesh, have always tried to stifle the Pashtuns’ demands for autonomy. To achieve this, they promoted the Islamization of the Pashtun populations in order to develop pan-Islamic solidarity and overcome ethnic or tribal logics, explains Adrien Schu, lecturer in political science at the University of Bordeaux. From the beginning of the 1970s, according to this specialist in Afghan-Pakistani relations, thousands of madrasas were built in Pakistani tribal areas which would later become the places of reception of the insurgents against the Russians and then that of the Taliban.

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