Delhi­kabul ties must not wa­ver

Pak­istan’s hand is ev­i­dent in the spate of at­tacks in Afghanistan

Hindustan Times (Chandigarh) - - HINDUSTANTIMES COMMENT -

Afghanistan has now ex­pe­ri­enced four ma­jor Tal­iban and Is­lamic State (IS) ter­ror­ist at­tacks in 10 days and seven such at­tacks in the past month. What has trig­gered th­ese lat­est as­saults? At a time when they are ei­ther in con­trol of or con­test­ing nearly half of Afghanistan, the Tal­iban and their back­ers in Rawalpindi see the geopo­lit­i­cal en­vi­ron­ment be­gin­ning to turn against them. One, United States president Don­ald Trump has re­versed his cam­paign pledge to end US in­volve­ment in the war. The US has now com­mit­ted to mas­sively in­creas­ing air sup­port for the Afghan army. Two, af­ter ini­tially woo­ing the Pak­istani mil­i­tary, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has be­come a fierce critic of Is­lam­abad. The Tal­iban re­sponse seems to have two goals. One, rat­tle Mr Trump’s re­solve. This seems to have failed with Mr Trump say­ing he is no longer in­ter­ested in talks with the Tal­iban. Two, un­der­mine the le­git­i­macy of the Afghan govern­ment by show­ing it to be in­ca­pable of de­fend­ing its peo­ple from such at­tacks. This has had some im­pact. Afghans on the street are as crit­i­cal of their govern­ment as they are of Pak­istan.

Be­hind all this are the machi­na­tions of the Pak­istani mil­i­tary. The Tal­iban num­ber two is the head of the Haqqani net­work, an or­gan­i­sa­tion whose al­le­giance to Rawalpindi is not in ques­tion. Afghan in­tel­li­gence has long ar­gued that even IS in Afghanistan has at least covert sup­port from Pak­istan. What­ever the ac­tual chain of com­mand, it’s ev­i­dent Rawalpindi has urged the Tal­iban and its af­fil­i­ates to step up the pres­sure on Kabul and pos­si­bly force the US to re­con­sider its de­ci­sion.

In­dia must con­tinue its stead­fast sup­port for the Kabul regime and a re­vived US war ef­fort. The last Pak­istan-backed Tal­iban regime ex­isted con­cur­rently with the worst un­rest In­dia has suf­fered in Kash­mir. The Kabul regime has re­ceived pledge af­ter pledge of In­dian sup­port and th­ese can­not be tossed aside lightly. Lastly, an un­easy Afghanistan keeps Pak­istan fo­cused on its north­west rather than its south­east. The present wave of ter­ror should be seen as a psy­cho­log­i­cal weapon. And the com­mit­ment to sup­port­ing Kabul must not be al­lowed to wa­ver.

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