By Jai Kumar Verma*
Pakistan pursues the policy of “strategic depth” whereby it wants to convert Afghanistan into a client state. Its Inter Services Intelligence (ISI), which controls several terrorist outfits in Afghanistan, enhances the terrorist activities when it feels that the Afghan government is not following its diktat or becoming close to India. ISI uses the Taliban to dislodge the lawful government and, if feasible, to establish a government of its predilection.
The ISI is heavily involved in distribution of arms, financial assistance, logistical and military assistance to the Afghan Taliban, and especially the Hekmatyar group, Haqqani network, Hezb-e-Islami and even Al Qaeda. These outfits constantly carry out terrorist activities, including killing of anti-Pakistan leaders, on Pakistan’s behest. ISI is also involved in drug smuggling and the money generated from this smuggling is used to finance the terror outfits.
Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai, after becoming President of Afghanistan in September 2014, wanted to inculcate friendly relations with Pakistan even at the cost of India. He was aware that without Pakistani assistance, it is difficult, if not impossible, to curb insurgency in his country.
Ghani went out of the way and even visited Pakistan Army Headquarters at Rawalpindi to meet then Pakistan Army chief General Raheel Sharif and requested him to control various terrorist outfits which were carrying out terrorist activities in Afghanistan on the behest of ISI, but General Sharif refused to help the visiting President.
After being disillusioned from Pakistan, Ghani turned towards India and, as an old friend, India rendered all kinds of assistance, including training and supply of armaments. Ghani was so annoyed with Pakistan’s undiplomatic behaviour that he even snubbed Pakistan openly at the Heart of Asia conference in Amritsar for instigating cross-border terrorism. He also refused to accept an assistance of $500 million and mentioned that this money can be used in controlling terrorism.
As Ghani acted against the perceived interests of Pakistan, ISI-sponsored Afghan Taliban enhanced their terrorist activities. On January 10, Taliban carried out twin blasts in which more than 30 persons were killed and 70 others wounded. The blasts occurred near the Parliament building which was constructed by Indian assistance and was inaugurated by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in December 2015.
Taliban targeted a mini bus which was carrying the staff of Afghanistan’s prime intelligence agency National Directorate of Security (NDS). Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid immediately owned responsibility and boasted that the blasts were carried out according to their plan.
Taliban also claimed responsibility for another bomb blast that occurred in Helmand in a house used by NDS. In Helmand, seven people were killed and nine others were injured. In another bomb blast, at Kandahar, seven persons were killed and 18 others injured, including the Ambassador of the United Arab Emirates and the Governor of the province.
Taliban are also targeting politicians — Rahima Jami, a parliamentarian, was injured in the blasts on January 10 while politicians from Helmand and Bamiyan were also attacked.
Taliban also killed more than 30 Shias in a mosque in November.
Afghan security forces are not able to control the law and order situation despite the extended presence of about 10,000 American troops. Consequently, diverse terrorist outfits, especially the ISI-sponsored Taliban, Islamic State, Al Qaeda and several splinter terrorist outfits are gaining ground. The situation is precarious — not only for the region but for the whole world.
United States Central Command chief General Joseph L. Votel recently said the Afghan government controls only 60 per cent of the area while 10 per cent is controlled by Taliban and in the rest of the area fighting is going on.
Analysts claim that the total strength of terrorists in the country is about 45,000 out of which Taliban has 30,000 militants while the remaining are Pakistanis and of other nationalities. However, all of them are against Afghan and US troops and are killing about 40-50 Afghan security forces every day. In this maneer, Taliban are slowly but steadily gaining ground.
The recent statement of Michael T. Flynn, a retired Lt. General who will hold an important portfolio in the national security team of US President-elect Donald Trump, that chaos in Afghanistan would threaten the US is significant as it indicates that Washington will not abandon Kabul.
The Afghan government must chalk out a detailed plan to establish rule of law in the whole of the country. It will be difficult as Afghanistan is divided into various groups and leaders but first of all the Afghan government must resolve the internal strife between President Ghani and his Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah, so that long-term internal as well as foreign policies can be formulated.
The Defence Minister of the country was appointed after inordinate delay due to the differences between Ghani and Abdullah.
Secondly, the government should launch a campaign highlighting that Taliban are not Islamic and they are simply working under instructions of Islamabad with ulterior motive of dislodging the lawful government. They are against the progress of the country — hence supporting them is against Islam and is anti-national.
India is a dependable friend and is willing to render assistance hence the present government must take its assistance in equipping and training the security agencies. India is also suffering from terrorism, especially cross-border terrorism, hence Indian security forces have expertise and infrastructure to deal with it. Though Afghan security personnel are getting training in India, they should enhance the number of trainees.
Also, Pakistan-trained terrorists use modern weapons hence Afghan security forces must possess better weaponry to counter them.
It is good that a small contingent of US-led NATO troops is still in the country for training and other purposes. Afghan security forces must utilise their services so that the professionalism in the security forces can be augmented.
No country can establish law and order without a powerful and motivated force. Hence, first of all, the security forces should recruit dedicated personnel and they should be trained and equipped with modern weapons and equipment. The high morale of the force is also significant so there should be no desertion. In the past, there was a high desertion rate in the security forces, and the deserters were escaping with the weapons which was harmful for the morale of the security forces.
Lastly, if Pakistan does not stop fomenting trouble in Afghanistan, Kabul should also consider abetting multifarious secessionist movements going on in Pakistan, particularly separatist movements in Balochistan and in Pakhtunkhwa.
*Jai Kumar Verma is a Delhi-based strategic analyst. Comments and suggestions on this article can be sent to [email protected]