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Evolving Security Situation in Afghanistan (7 August 2020)

Evolving Security Situation in Afghanistan (7 August 2020)

Why in News:

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani discussed the evolving security situation in the region and other areas of mutual and bilateral interest on Monday.

Context:

During a phone call, the two also exchange Eid-ul-Adha greetings. President Ghani thanked Prime Minister Modi for timely supply of food and medical assistance to meet Afghan requirements. PM Modi reiterated India's commitment to the people of Afghanistan in their quest for a peaceful, prosperous and inclusive Afghanistan. The phone call happened as reports said Afghan forces retook a prison in the country's east, a day after the Islamic State terrorist group attacked the facility in which at least 29 people were killed.

Background:

In the Feb, 2020, the U.S. signed a deal (at Qatar's capital-Doha) with the Taliban that could pave the way towards a full withdrawal of foreign soldiers from Afghanistan over the next 14 months and represent a step towards ending the 18-year-war in Afghanistan. Along with this, a separate joint declaration was also signed between the Afghan government and the US at Kabul.

The peace deal is expected to kick-off two processes- a phased withdrawal of US troops and an ‘intra-Afghan’ dialogue. The deal is a fundamental step to deliver a comprehensive and permanent ceasefire and the future political roadmap for Afghanistan peace process and the Central region.

Summary of the Debate

Current security related incidents in Afghanistan:

  • The continuous IS attack in Kabul have signalled an increased security challenge for Afghanistan.
  • ISIS claimed mortar attacks on President Ashraf Ghani’s inauguration and on US troops in Bagram base twice in Kabul, in March 2020.
  • In the last two months, the Taliban carried out 222 attacks against the Afghan security forces, resulting in the death and injury of 422 personnel.
  • There was a drop in overall violence following the ceasefire, National Security Council, but according to the report, the Taliban have not reduced, but rather increased their attacks across the country.
  • In the last month in Taliban claimed attacks, at least 26 security forces were killed in northern Afghanistan.

International North-South Transport Corridor

  • The International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC) is a 7,200-km-long multi-mode network of ship, rail, and road route for moving freight between India, Iran, Afghanistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Russia, Central Asia, and Europe.
  • The route primarily involves moving freight from India, Iran, Azerbaijan and Russia via ship, rail and road. The objective of the corridor is to increase trade connectivity between major cities such as Mumbai, Moscow, Tehran, Baku, Bandar Abbas, Astrakhan, Bandar Anzali, etc.
  • Dry runs of two routes were conducted in 2014, the first was Mumbai to Baku via Bandar Abbas and the second was Mumbai to Astrakhan via Bandar Abbas, Tehran and Bandar Anzali.

Chabahar Port

  • Chabahar port is located on the Gulf of Oman and is only 72 km away from the Gwadar port in Pakistan which has been developed by China.
  • The port serves as the only oceanic port of Iran and consists of two separate ports named Shahid Beheshti and Shahid Kalantari.
  • Recently, Iran has decided to proceed with the Chabahar rail line construction on its own, citing delays from the Indian side in beginning and funding the project.

India’s concern:

  • There is another player which is China making a presence in Central Asia.
  • With the American view of moving out another 4000 troops from Afghanistan, this strategic space can go in the hand of China.
  • The major aspect of the strategic picture emerges after China’s entry into Iran and after India’s entry getting slightly hindered into Afghanistan.
  • Pakistan considers Afghanistan as their backyard.
  • Chinese agenda is very clear that it has to be a China-centric region and therefore to all these three countries i.e. Nepal, Pakistan, and Afghanistan, they wanted to follow them Pakistan model.
  • Bulk of the Chinese money goes in Iran for energy security.
  • Unless India does not get full accessibility in Afghanistan, the interest of country in International North-South Transport Corridor and Chabahar Port, which is economically and strategically very important for India will be under threat.

                              India and its neighborhood : India-Afghanistan relation | Erewise

Way Forward:

  • India has to play its card very very adroitly, while maintaining its close links and cooperative links with Afghan authority and India should not ignore other players including the Taliban.
  • India has to go ahead with the USA, because Iran will never help India against China and China is the threat today.
  • Even for the USA to have this area under control India must get an access to Afghanistan and that access is only possible through Iran. Therefore, India-Iran access has to be accepted by the USA and India has to do some smart diplomacy on that.
  • Iran is very less critical of India, Iran understands India’s situation and India is not totally out as far as Chabahar is concerned.
  • India cannot afford to put all its eggs in the government basket; no doubt it must support the Afghan government in every way. But India must see what the evolving situation in the region is.
  • In this situation of continuing violence, India must link with its traditional friends in Afghanistan and continue with the government.
  • India must accept realism and should open up tie link with the Taliban but that does not mean that India should endorse for the Taliban but this is how the diplomatic game is played.
  • India does not need to interfere in the internal politics of Afghanistan.

Important points made by the Guests

Vivek Katju, Former Ambassador 

  • The main theme in Afghanistan is what will happen between the Afghan authority and the Taliban.
  • The violence is being undertaken by the Taliban to an extent, also by ISIS and the Taliban has undertaken actions to show that they are in the field and they have the capability of taking on the Afghan forces.
  • The beginning of the talks is stuck on an issue relating to prisoner releases. Unless talks begin the security situation will continue to be very difficult.
  • The objective situation is that the Americans have decided that they will withdraw; the agreement was signed way back in Feb 2019. This is a bipartisan approach on the part of the Americans.
  • Whether Trump wins the election or does not, whether Biden comes in, the American forces will not stay there anymore.
  • As of now, the Taliban are in a position of strength that does not mean Afghan forces will roll over as long as American support is there.
  • The Taliban still not recognizes the Afghan government as a government; they think it’s an American puppet.
  • Taliban have been very very closely linked with Pakistan, they are dependent on Pakistan.
  • Once the Taliban are in power in Kabul and once they have International legitimacy then the natural syndrome between neighbours start playing.
  • The Taliban in the 1990s was crucially dependent on the legitimate government of Pakistan.   

Shakti Sinha, Foreign Affairs Expert

  • The USA is clear in fact both the Trump and Biden have advised getting out of Afghanistan.
  • The actual violence figure according to the United Nation Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) report which came out recently which says that there was the lowest level of violence in 2012 is actually lower in 2011 also and is 40 percent lower in 2016,17 and 18.
  • Unfortunately, the UNAMA report says the children casualty majorly caused by Afghan national forces.
  • As far as Iran is concerned, Iran has been tactically positioning itself in Afghanistan not strategically for quite some time.
  • While the Taliban was in power, the Taliban was seen as anti-Shia and most of Shia refugees went to Iran. And then Iran funded shia militant groups against the Taliban in those days.
  • But when the USA-Taliban war took place, Iran tactically supported the Taliban by supplying arms and ammunitions.

Maj. Gen. Shashi Asthana (Retd.), Strategic Affairs Expert

  • All the terror groups in Afghanistan are linked with each other. There is a linkage between Haqqani, Taliban, L-e-T, and TTP. All these terror groups are sharing logistics.
  • When the prisoner attack took place, the bulk of the prisoner happens to be from the Taliban. Although the Taliban has denied and ISIS has accepted it, that does not mean the Taliban have no hand in it.
  • Taliban leadership may give the impression that they are for a free society and they are more liberal but their cadre does not think so. Recent input has come wherein it has clearly mentioned that in Taliban controlled areas there is a restriction on people, mobile as well as on music. Now, this is the state of Taliban and therefore the cadre are going to drive their leader towards sharia law.
  • Intra Afghan dialogue is very much required and without that nothing can happen in Afghanistan.
  • Pakistan wants to now fix the Durand line but Afghanistan does not agree with the Durand line because it divides Pashtuns that is the basic problem which Afghanistan does not want to accept.
  • UN report says more than 600 Pakistanis terrorists are in Afghanistan.

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