Afghan Army Chief coming to India next week; Intense fighting rages with Taliban

The visit to India by the Afghan General assumes significance as it comes at a time when the clashes between the Afghan security forces and Taliban have intensified.

India has been supporting a reconciliation process within the country.
India has been supporting a reconciliation process within the country.

Amid the ongoing conflict between Taliban and security forces, Afghan Army Chief General Wali Mohammad Ahmadzai is scheduled to visit India next week to seek India’s assistance. During the visit which is scheduled to take place from July 27-29, besides his expected meeting with National Security Advisor (NSA) the visiting chief is scheduled to meet with the Indian Army Chief General MM Naravane and other top security officials.

The visit to India by the Afghan General assumes significance as it comes at a time when the clashes between the Afghan security forces and Taliban have intensified.

What is likely to be discussed?

Speaking on condition of anonymity, a senior officer told Financial Express Online, “The talks during the Afghan Gen Ahmadzai’s visit are likely to focus on getting military assistance from India. This includes technicians for servicing aircraft and their fleet of AFVs. And for Non-lethal military items like BFSRs, communication equipment, and heavy vehicles.”

It has been reported earlier that seven helicopters have been supplied by India to Afghanistan; and these include four Russian Mi-24 attack helicopters, and three Cheetal helicopters.

And India has been training Afghan cadets at military academies across the country in various fields including intelligence gathering and information technology, counter-terrorism operations as well as military field-craft. Afghanistan has also given a wish list to India some time ago which had listed tanks, armoured vehicles, artillery guns and other military hardware.

Earlier this year, when the Afghan ambassador Farid Mamundzay had met with the Indian Army Chief Gen Naravane, enhancing bilateral military cooperation was the focus as well as more military training to that country’s security forces.

Boots on the ground

India has been supporting a reconciliation process within the country which is concentrated on: “Afghan-led, Afghan-owned and Afghan-controlled”.

No. “Not that mistake. It will be costly to put boots on ground in Afghanistan. It is an entirely new ballgame and we don’t want to go into a repeat of Op PAWAN. Additionally this will put India in the crosshairs of jihadist outfits who will now have raison d’etre to carry the battle to the Indian mainland,” Indian Army veteran with 11 years of extensive experience on the ground in Afghanistan tell Financial Express Online.

The growing conflict in Afghanistan

With the Taliban successfully gaining more and more ground, many changes were made including the removal of the previous Afghan Army Chief and appointment of General Wali Mohammad Ahmadzai as well as new defence and interior ministers.

While reports coming in indicate that Pakistan along with Taliban are expected to target Indian assets in Afghanistan including the Indian Consulates in Mazar-e-Sharif and in Kandahar. As reported earlier India has already evacuated its staff from the Consulate in Kandahar earlier this month. Consulates in Herat and Jalalabad were already closed in 2020.

Kabul Reports on the plight of women

Kabul based journalist Said Amir Akbari, tells Financial Express Online “Women in Afghanistan make 49 per cent of Afghan society, Afghanistan has suffered four decades of civil war and women have suffered more and more. Around 84 per cent of women are illiterate and only 2 percent of women have access to higher education.”

The reason for the suffering of women: “During Taliban regime women weren’t allowed education. They were locked in their homes that is why women suffered more and more,” the Kabul based journalist says.

According to Said Akbari “When US started attacking Afghanistan in 2001 and the Taliban was defeated, Afghanistan had a new government backed by the United States of America and women started to recover slowly as millions of girls were able to go school and women started to work and feel free in Afghan society. During the past two decades women progressed in every aspect of life in Afghanistan with support of international communities led by the US.”

And, “No women imagined that one day the US will leave women alone in Afghanistan but when the US President Joe Biden announced withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan many women activists and journalists left Afghanistan,” he adds.

Expert View from India

“The Afghan society is male-predominant and strictly conservative even today. Whatever rights women have achieved post-2001 is primarily restricted to the educated, more elite urbanized segment of women. This is the segment most concerned with a return to Taliban Sharia governance,” Col Ronnie Rajkumar, Indian Army veteran says.

According to him, “75 percent of Afghan women are from rural areas and they have suffered the most in the brutal conflict. They seek peace at any cost – even if it means a return of the Taliban. The positive side is post-2001, 3.5 million girls enrolled in primary schools and 01 Lakh in universities (2017 statistics). Under the Taliban, women were denied health care facilities but today the life expectancy of women rose from 56 in 2001 to 66. And today 21 per cent of civil servants are women with 16 per cent in senior management. The best is that 27 per cent of the Afghan parliament comprises women.”

“On the flip side however, even without Taliban restrictions, a UN study found that only 15 percent of the male population are amenable with women working. On the domestic front, 80 percent of women face domestic violence. I have seen women driving in Kabul and one is a taxi driver in Mazar-e-Sharif. Most TV anchors are women as are bank tellers and hotel receptionists. I have seen them in the forefront in IT agencies,” he opines.

In conclusion he says, “But if the Taliban do return, even in a new avatar of Taliban 2.0, women’s rights will most certainly deteriorate”.

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First published on: 20-07-2021 at 16:25 IST