While geopolitical developments and the Covid-19 pandemic pushed terrorism down South Asian countries’ priority list, its spread has continued. The Taliban’s return had a relatively limited impact, though the Pakistani Taliban kept up its insurgency and evidence emerged of Hindutva’s global presence.
Jihadists such as Isis-K are taking rhetorical aim at China’s expanding economic footprint, rather than its treatment of Uygurs. Following the US pull-out from Afghanistan, the Taliban regime’s silence on Uygurs and ties with China have left a vacuum for Isis-K to fill.
Attacks against Chinese nationals in Pakistan have tested bilateral ties, with Beijing pushing for a crackdown on terrorism. Added to Islamabad’s security worries is a dispute over payments to Chinese power companies, which threatens to disrupt infrastructure projects and fuel economic strife.
The suicide bombing in Karachi carried out by a woman puts a new twist on a series of attacks on Chinese interests. Educated, middle-class young people taking up the fight in major cities shows Pakistan must see the issue through more than a security lens.
Imran Khan’s visit to Moscow as Russia invaded Ukraine has riled the West, but why is Pakistan building ties with its Cold War enemy? Islamabad says it won’t join a bloc, but US courting of India and China’s rising influence is making it harder to maintain balanced relations between rival powers.
China faces some difficult decisions as the US and Nato withdrawal removes buffers against Islamic extremism and sources of stability. Rather than put boots on the ground, China’s approach must focus on moderating Taliban behaviour and improving border security.
A US base will be deeply unpopular in Pakistan and stress ties with its neighbours. Critically, it will produce a new generation of militants in Pakistan.
The decision for an unconditional US withdrawal is creating a triumphant jihadist narrative, enthusing groups across South Asia with deep al-Qaeda ties. With Isis degraded and the Taliban weakened, the post-US Afghan power vacuum is ripe for exploitation.
Afghanistan is Biden’s immediate foreign policy challenge, with options risking either the Taliban peace deal or decades of fragile progress. A continuation of Trump’s strategy would leave an ascendant role for the Taliban and a stable political order.
Al-Qaeda and Isis are using Covid-19 to forge legitimacy and draw more people to their violent causes, while right-wing extremists and white supremacists step up racist violence. Governments need to start preparing their defence
Baloch separatists view Chinese investment, including the US$62b China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, as exploitation of local resources, while Pakistan’s support for militant proxies has kept the terror threat alive
The political skills of Pakistan’s new government are being put to the test. Islamabad must ensure progress on its belt and road projects with China, and still win Washington’s support to get an IMF loan and stay afloat