By LT COL MANOJ K CHANNAN,
“Courage is a moral quality; it is not a chance gift of nature like an aptitude for games. It is a cold choice between two alternatives, the fixed resolve not to quit; an act of renunciation which must be made not once but many times by the power of the will.”
~ Lord Charles Wilson, 1st Baron of Moran, MC, in “The Anatomy of Courage (1945)”.
11 September 2001, a horrific reminder of how terror could be perpetuated into the American homeland, as the planes struck the twin trade towers and the Pentagon. The loss of the iconic buildings, loss of life of aircrew and passengers, the workforce present in the buildings and the front line workers of the police and fire department, challenged by a catastrophe that no one had foreseen and predicted.
Many would ask this question to themselves, the US Government and POTUS, did the US win the war on terror?
Senate committee reviews and the money spent by the Pentagon in training and arming a force in various regions within the Middle East has resulted in the “trained cadres” either selling the arms on the Global Black Market/joining cadres of ISIS; for the very purpose, they were trained for.
Terror wasn’t killed, however, it gave birth to government contractors who not only undertook the selection, training and arming of cadres, who fled before the first shot was fired.
As President Calvin Coolidge is reported to have said, “The Business of America is Business!” The political dispensation and their advisors apparently took this seriously and Billions of dollars were sanctioned to contain and eliminate terror, lack of accountability, rampant corruption, not only the locals but also those entrusted with the responsibility as direct representatives of the US Government.
This is something the Taliban assessed correctly and by the mentoring of Pakistan Army/ISI; they were able to assess the combat potential of the Afghan National Army. The Taliban’s received support from their handlers, who looked after the families of the Taliban.
Pakistan ISI Chief Lt Gen Faiz Hameed has been to Kabul twice to ensure that its supported Haqqani group gets the key ministries of the government being formed. This is not good news for India in the face of it, as 17 members of the 33 members in the caretaker government in Kabul are designated Terrorists by the UN. Sirajuddin Haqqani, leader of the ISI backed Taliban, is now named as Interior Minister.
The Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO) consisting of a military alliance of Russia, Belarus, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan probably holds greater relevance today than a few years ago.
Article 4 of the Collective Security Treaty upon which the organization was established. Article 4 states that an armed attack threatening the security, stability, territorial integrity, and sovereignty of one of its members will be viewed as an act of aggression against all member states. In the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan, this clause was not invoked.
The CSTO member states have been holding military exercises close to their border with Afghanistan, as a precautionary measure to a hostile terror regime on their Southern border.
Implications for Afghanistan
Afghanistan is seen as virgin land for exploitation for rare earth metals as well as mineral ores. Though everyone has been speaking about it and the Chinese interest is well known to have captive rights on these for its domestic manufacturing industry.
Will the Taliban Government be able to negotiate a hard bargain with the Chinese or other countries who would like to exploit its mineral wealth?
Can the Taliban Government give stability to its citizens and most of all keep its cadres in check from going rogue as it has no funds to pay the salaries and meet their aspirations?
Is the huge cache of arms and ammunition left behind be accounted for or be used to build up its liquidity reserves?
Will it continue its engagement with the drug trade and terrorism or will it now present a more stable government for its citizens?
Implications for Pakistan
Pashtun origin population which is one-fourth of the total population do not recognise the Durand Line and have their understanding of the border to be up to the Indus region. Though a larger number of Pashtuns are being employed by the Pakistan Government.
The Balochistan uprising and their daring attacks on Pakistan Army though insignificant for the moment may gain momentum.
The Sindh problem is not much in the news, however, keeps simmering as the dominant Punjabis rule over the minorities.
Implications for India
The Haqqani group being dominant is not likely to be kind to the Indian interests in Afghanistan and it will be supporting the Pakistan terror network to send in Jihadi to the Kashmir valley under the brand name of Islamic State – Khosran (IS-K), to distance itself from any direct responsibility and accountability.
What should India do?
As the developments occur in Kabul, the US and Russian NSAs have been in discussion with Indian NSA Mr Ajit Doval.
Russian Secretary of Security Council Nikolai Patrushev and India’s National Security Advisor (NSA) Ajit Doval held talks in New Delhi on Wednesday. The two sides reportedly reviewed the political, security and humanitarian situation in Afghanistan.
It is clear that the Indian NSA’s meetings with his US and Russian counterparts, PM Modi’s discussions with Russian President Putin, internal discussions of the PM with the cabinet committee for security on its implications.
India should take covert/overt measures to support the minority groups in Pakistan to keep them occupied on their home turf.
The LoC should not be kept peaceful if Pakistan is going to funnel terrorism to India.
Go on a diplomatic offensive of getting the US Government to question Pakistan’s utilisation of funds to fight terror and review its accountability on the funds spent in training and arming the dissidents who in turn have joined the ISIS / IS-K and its derivatives.
The Taliban Faction in Doha should be engaged in a dialogue and India should continue to push forward its soft power in terms of humanitarian aid – education, medical services and medicines as well as vaccine support to the Pandemic which is affecting the general public.
The Economic package has to be presented to ensure that the people of Afghanistan who are friendly to India do not get alienated. The Banking System needs to be restored so that the economic revival and commercial activity recommences.
The CSTO alliance is important to India at this point and it can be stated with certainty that it can be used to India’s advantage for covert and overt support to the factions aligned with these countries.
The East Turkmenistan Islamic Movement (ETIM), an Uyghur militant group, further negates the CCP/PLA interests. The Taliban are not likely to compromise on the ETIM interests and their aspirations in the region.
The Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), since its inception in 2007, has been the largest and most active armed opposition group in Pakistan. It was formed by several small groups operating in the tribal areas of Pakistan and to a lesser extent in the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) and has always been almost entirely Pashtun in composition. The reach out to them is important, by the various intelligence agencies who would be working to use them for their end aims.
Chabahar Port also provides direct access to India’s Farkhor Air Base in Tajikistan. The Chabahar route will result in a 60% reduction in shipment costs and a 50% reduction in shipment time from India to Central Asia. The road from Chabahar port to supply essential items will be welcome by the Taliban.
India should also influence Iran’s support to Hazaras/Shias and other minority communities in Afghanistan.
India should have a greater reach with the Islamic Countries to be able to influence the Taliban and its various factions to contain the likely threats to India.
India has a role to play in Afghanistan and it is a Carpe Diem moment for the Indian Diplomacy to make it count as the situation remains fluid and dynamic. Will the 33 member government last, will the Chinese be exuberant on filling the vacuum of the US withdrawal? Will Pakistan be the sole custodian of Afghanistan’s role in the near to midterm future, is anybody’s guess.
Afghanistan has been the graveyard of empires having defeated the British, the Russians and now the Americans, will they oppose the deployment of the PLA in Afghanistan? Will it be the graveyard of the Chinese in a few years?
The government in Afghanistan needs to hit the ground running and hopefully, the answers to the questions above will be revealed much sooner than later.
“All those with million-dollar FBI bounties on their heads are now heading Afghanistan ministries, to be sworn in on Saturday. The Taliban were in power on September 11, 2001. They will be in power on September 11, 2021. Two Towers, Twenty years, Three Trillion dollars and Two Hundred Thousand dead”.
(The author is Indian Army Veteran. Views expressed are personal and do not reflect the official position or policy of Financial Express Online.)