Asian Insider Podcast: Pakistan, Taliban playing dangerous game

People shout slogans during a protest against Sweden and the Netherlands, in Kandahar, Afghanistan, 25 January 2023. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

Synopsis: Every fourth Friday of the month, The Straits Times’ US Bureau Chief Nirmal Ghosh presents Asian perspectives of Asian domestic issues and international relations.

After 20 years of war, in August 2021 the United States became the most recent superpower to be seen off by Afghanistan. After the US withdrew, the Taliban, whom the United States had kicked out in 2001 after the 9/11 attacks, swiftly seized power again. But since then, the Taliban has challenged the status of the Afghan-Pakistan border and given haven to the anti-Pakistan insurgent group, Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan, TTP, which has killed thousands of Pakistanis and wants to establish a Taliban-style Sharia state in Pakistan. 

In this episode, to explain the complicated knot in that volatile region, Nirmal Ghosh hosts Javid Ahmad, a non-resident senior fellow with the Atlantic Council South Asia Center, and former ambassador of Afghanistan to the United Arab Emirates; and Bill Roggio, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracy and editor of the foundation’s Long War Journal. 

Highlights (click/tap above): 

2:35 The TTP is a classic case of reverse insurgency

4:50 Many believe the Pakistani military is in a pre-war stage with the TTP

5:30 Pakistani state, elites seek “strategic depth” within Afghanistan, against India – and continue to support the Afghan Taliban

7:20 The risk from Al Qaeda to the region and the US is very great; the Taliban is not abandoning Al Qaeda

13:10 The Taliban, or Afghans in general, have nothing in common with China

16:10 The wheel of jihad keeps on turning – and could turn into a major problem for the Pakistani state

21:17 Washington should diversify its approach toward the Taliban 

Produced by: Nirmal Ghosh (, Ernest Luis, Hadyu Rahim and Fa’izah Sani

Edited by: Hadyu Rahim and Fa’izah Sani

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