Pakistan’s announcement that it will seek the expulsion of over 1.5 million Afghan refugees in the next 30 days is being tacitly justified by Trump’s tweet and channels his zero-tolerance stance towards immigration from “terrorist”-prone states, but it also represents the employment of reverse-“Weapons of Mass Migration” in pushing Kabul closer towards the edge of collapse and consequently filling the Taliban’s rank of supporters.
Trump is going to soon regret what he tweeted about Pakistan on New Year’s Day in accusing it of “giving safe haven to terrorists”, since Islamabad is poised to hit Washington with an asymmetrical counterpunch that it surely won’t forget.
The Pakistani government just announced that over 1.5 million Afghan refugees must leave the country within the next 30 days, a plan that it’s been working on for a while but which just received a fresh impetus and internationally-acceptable justification with Trump’s tweet.
Had it not been for the American President’s zero-tolerance towards immigration from what his administration labels as “terrorist”-prone countries, which crucially includes Afghanistan for substantial and not political reasons (as the latter relates to Iran’s inclusion and Saudi Arabia’s exclusion), then Pakistan would have risked drawing heavy pressure from the State Department on exaggerated claims that it’s “violating the human rights” of the refugees.
Trump, however, said that Pakistan was “giving safe haven to terrorists”, and since the US formally regards Afghan refugees as being too much of a potential security hazard to allow into its own country, it’s forced to accept Pakistan’s expulsion of 1.5 million of them on the implicit basis that they also constitute a serious terrorist threat to the state such as the one that the President just tweeted about.
This isn’t at all what Trump meant when he issued his tweet, nor the reaction that he was expecting, but by cleverly exploiting the President’s own policies at home and the suggestion he was making towards Pakistan abroad, Islamabad found a creative way to asymmetrically strike back at Washington.
Not only could Pakistan soon rid itself of actual terrorist sleeper cells and societal malcontents who have long overstayed their welcome in the neighboring country, it will also be catalyzing a series of cascading crises for Kabul through the employment of what can be described as reverse-“Weapons of Mass Migration”.
To briefly explain, Ivy League researcher Kelly M. Greenhill introduced the concept of “Weapons of Mass Migration” in 2010 to describe the ways through which large-scale population movements — whether “naturally occurring”, engineered, or exploited — impact on their origin, transit, and destination societies, theorizing that this phenomenon can have a strategic use in some instances.
Of relevance, the influx of millions of Afghan “Weapons of Mass Migration” into Pakistan since 1979 had the effect of destabilizing the host country’s border communities and eventually contributing to the spree of terrorist attacks that have since claimed over 60,000 lives in the past 15 years, but now the large-scale and rapid return of these “weapons” to their country of origin will also inevitably destabilize Afghanistan.
The landlocked and war-torn country is utterly unable to accommodate for what amounts to a roughly 3% increase in its total population in the next 30 days, especially seeing as how the Kabul government exerts little influence beyond the capital and has no sway in the approximate half of the country that’s under the control of the Taliban.
The US-backed Afghan government is already failing its citizens as it is and that’s why so many of them have either joined the Taliban or sympathize with it in the first place, so the odds of the returned refugees successfully reintegrating into their homeland’s socio-economic fabric and becoming “model citizens” is close to nil, meaning that it should be expected that the vast majority of these 1,5 million people will more than likely come to side with the Taliban than Kabul and consequently make the country much more difficult for the US to control.
In essence, what Pakistan has done is throw Trump’s tweet right back at him by using it as the internationally plausible pretext for initiating this long-planned move that was originally predicated on solely apolitical security-centric domestic interests but has now pertinently come to embody geostrategic contours by powerfully turning the tables against the US in Afghanistan through the employment of reverse-“Weapons of Mass Migration”.
Andrew Korybko is an American Moscow-based political analyst specializing in the relationship between the US strategy in Afro-Eurasia, China’s One Belt One Road global vision of New Silk Road connectivity, and Hybrid Warfare.