Is Afghanistan on the brink?

By – M K Bhadrakumar

By any reckoning, the Indian statement on the terrorist attack on the Sardar Daud Khan hospital in Kabul on Friday has been intemperate and excessive. What emotion Delhi sought to convey through this statement remains unclear. Sorrow? Pain? Anger? Frustration? Revenge? Threat? It’s all rather mumbo-jumbo, as if random phrases culled out from the dusty files have been assembled to form sentences.

The result is that India sounds bombastic and aggressive and that only goes to fuel the Pakistan-Afghanistan tensions, which are already cascading. Surely, it cannot be the Indian policy to set Kabul and Islamabad against each other’s throats? The hallmark of a responsible regional power is the capacity to douse tensions rather than queer the pitch of tensions that may affect regional security and stability. India failed to pass the test here.

Equally, it is in Indian interests not to lend credence to the Pakistani allegations by such acts as today’s excessive statement. The appropriate thing should have been to, first, commiserate with the families of the victims of the attack in the Kabul attack, and, secondly, condemn the act of terror as such. Why should we give the impression that we are taking sides in the Afghan-Pakistani proxy war against each other?

What needs to be understood from all accounts regarding the attack on the hospital in Kabul is that this is almost a military operation, involving high skills, and that it has been staged by the so-called Islamic State (ISIS). Where is the question of the ISIS enjoying “safe havens” and “sanctuaries” in Pakistan? Almost all American assessments underscore that elements within the Pakistani Taliban have morphed into the ISIS. And the Pakistani Taliban groups, who are hostile toward the Pakistani state, enjoy sanctuaries on Afghan soil. In fact, the sub-soil dealings between the Pakistani Taliban and the Kabul government’s intelligence become a sensitive area. The US patrols at least in one instance apprehended the Pakistani Taliban elements travelling in the company of Afghan intelligence operatives in motor vehicles near Kabul.

It stands to reason that Kabul is probably using the Pakistani Taliban elements to undertake terror strikes within Pakistan even as some of the splinter groups of the Pakistani Taliban are rallying under the black flag of the ISIS. The top US commander in Afghanistan Gen. John Nicholson himself holds such a view. Quite possibly, as American and Russian reports suggest, some of the Central Asian groups have also shifted their loyalty to the ISIS. At any rate, Kabul’s motivations are not difficult to understand. An action-reaction syndrome is apparent. Kabul is possibly hitting back at Pakistan with the same terror methods that the latter deploys against it.

Why should India wade into it? Pakistan already accuses India of covertly working the Afghan intelligence to transform the terror strikes against is as a “trilateral” Kabul-Delhi-Afghan Taliban-cum-ISIS venture.

Evidently, dangerous times lie ahead. The Pakistani attitude toward the Kabul set-up is hardening. The indefinite closure of the border with Afghanistan may not prevent future terror strikes from Afghan soil, but it will create immense dislocation to the Afghan economy and the day-to-day life of the Afghan people. Any escalation from this point onward can only result in an outbreak of hostilities between the armed forces of the two countries.

The Kabul government is crumbling in front of our eyes and is completely drained of its legitimacy already. Importantly, it has become dysfunctional, which means that no one is in charge in Kabul. Under pressure from Pakistan, the set-up in Kabul could well get toppled in which case all hell could break loose. The Afghan army might not even hold together as an entity under such mounting pressure.

In the American assessment, Afghan government has “influence” over just about one half of the country’s territory. The expression “influence” is liable to interpretation. Other reports give startling estimates that vast tracts of the countryside have slipped out of the control of the government. The Week magazine reported recently quoting an American investigative journalist that almost 90 percent of Afghan territory is under the control of the insurgents who are steadily closing in on the urban areas in typical guerrilla tactic. Certainly, Kabul city itself is becoming extremely vulnerable.

The Afghan set-up in Kabul will be exceedingly foolish to precipitate a crisis with Pakistan in such dire circumstances. One can only wonder from where they get encouragement and bad advice to punch so far above their weight.

Source: Rediff Blogs

1 comment

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: