Nawaz Sharif ‘s one-day visit to Afghanistan on November 30, 2013, preceded by Pakistan’s erstwhile army chief Kiyani to carve for Pakistan the major role in post-2014 Afghanistan and somehow keeping India out of cut little ice with President Hamid Karzai, latter quite clear about the double game that Pakistan has been playing over the years. Later, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and President Hamid Karzai discussed the US-Afghanistan Bilateral Security Arrangement (BSA) when they met in New Delhi in December 2013.
It was Pakistan that gave the sweet pill of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ Taliban to the US knowing full well that Taliban’s sole aim is establishment of an Islamic Caliphate since they despise Afghanistan’s Constitution. As per intelligence reports, Pakistan is presently engaged in training scores of Mujahid battalions as irregulars and mating them with her proxies in order to gobble up as much Afghan territory as possible to expand her radical nurseries. Robert Kaplan in his book
The Revenge of Geography described this as the strategic depth that Pakistan desires; creating a succession of radicalised Islamic societies from the Indo-Pak border to Central Asia, giving the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) the ability to create a clandestine empire composed of the likes of Haqqanis, Taliban and the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT). This is the dilemma of stability that the region faces in the aftermath of withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan in immediately after the presidential elections.
Afghanistan has asked India for military assistance in terms of tanks, mortars, artillery and aircraft besides military vehicles like troop carrying trucks, jeeps, a training facility in Afghanistan for its military and assistance in maintenance of military equipment. About 100 officers of Afghan National Army (ANA) will be trained for four weeks at the Counter Insurgency and Jungle Warfare School (CIJWS) located at Vairangte in Mizoram. Naturally, India would obviously provide maximum possible assistance under the India-Afghanistan strategic partnership, of which security is an important facet.
President Karzai has welcomed the Indo-Russia plan for setting up a joint repair and maintenance facility in Afghanistan. The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) is also reportedly in talks with Russia for establishing Russian repair facilities in Afghanistan that NATO had purchased from Russia and gifted to Afghanistan. Since Afghanistan has asked India to also establish base repair facilities in Afghanistan, it would be prudent to optimize the India-Russia defence partnership to jointly cater for repair and maintenance of most military equipment that Afghanistan would have in 2014 and beyond. Maintenance and repair of military equipment is a major problem in Afghanistan.
As per a report released in January 2013 by the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (USA), the US direct spending for war in Afghanistan from 2002 to 2013 totalled $641.7 billion (bulk after 2009), of which $198.2 billion (over 30 per cent) was spent in fiscal years 2012 and 2013. Though vast majority of aid went to Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF), little was done to establish repair and maintenance facilities. Already Afghanistan holds military equipment with origins in some 30 countries. To add to this would be equipment that the US forces are likely to give to Afghan security forces before withdrawing, one example being UAVs. Therefore, it would be prudent for the US to leave behind technical staff for repair and maintenance of the US origin equipment under the BSA till requisite capacity is built within Afghan forces. This would be in the interest of US, NATO and Russia since none of them want Taliban influence expanding in Afghanistan, and beyond to Central Asia, Russia and Europe.
What also need attention is measures that can make the ANA a regular force, which it presently is not. Presently, all soldiers on three year contractual basis. Future insecurity in minds of soldiers lends to desertions, desertion rates reportedly being quite high. John Glaser writing in AntiWar.com on December 18, 2012, reported around 50,000 Afghan soldiers (26 per cent of ANA) quitting each year, and some eight per cent of Afghan National Police (ANP) too quitting annually. Afghanistan is perhaps unable to establish a regular army because of bulk economy being dependent on foreign aid.
The Tokyo Mutual Accountability Framework was adopted at the Tokyo Conference on Afghanistan in Japan on July 8, 2012. Among the international community’s provisions in the framework, it committed to provide over $16 billion through 2015, and sustaining support, through 2017, at or near levels of the past decade to respond to the fiscal gap as estimated by the World Bank and the Afghan Government. Then in March 2013, NATO decision on supporting the retention of the 3,50,000-strong ANSF up to 2018 implied that $3.6 billion in annual assistance pledged at the Chicago Summit would now be raised to $5.6 billion, at least until 2018. What Afghanistan needs from the world is continued financial support for converting the ANSF to a regular force, till the time Afghanistan’s own economy can come up to sustain these forces indigenously. That would be a significant contribution for the security and stability of the region.
Next, it is the Afghan economy itself that needs to be addressed. During the decade plus of US presence in Afghanistan, little has been done to alleviate the Afghan economy. Ironically, the world too has made little progress on decisions taken during Istanbul Conference on Afghanistan (November 2011) including major ones like: cohesive strategy to develop and maintain a regionally connecting infrastructure, with support from international partners; encouraging Afghanistan’s role as a land-bridge, connecting the region through cooperation and completion of bridges on transboundary rivers, roads and railway networks, and; cooperation on easier flow of energy resources within, from and across the region, especially with regard to electricity, minerals, oil and gas, including their exploitation and transit, through regional projects, such as TAPI, and CASA-1000 project which has to be implemented with a broader financial contribution, as well as the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank and the Islamic Development Bank. Similarly, little progress on international commitment to CBMs agreed during the Kabul Ministerial Meeting (June 2012) has been made. Afghanistan is home to some $3 trillion worth untapped mineral deposits. If this is exploited in a secure and safe environment, then after five years revenues expected from is minimum $1.2 billion annually and after 15 years, $3.5 billion per year. Then there are some 3.8 billion barrels of oil between Balkh and Jazwan alone while Afghanistan only consumes 5,000 bbl per day. Estimated mean volumes of undiscovered petroleum were 1,596 million barrels (Mbbl) of crude oil, 444 billion cubic metres of natural gas, and 562 Mbbl of natural gas liquids.
In December 2011, Afghanistan signed an oil exploration contract with China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) for development of three oilfields along the Amu Darya. CNPC began Afghan oil production in October 2012, extracting 1.5 million barrels of oil annually. With oil hovering around $100 a barrel, an output of 2,50,000 bpd would earn Afghanistan about $9.1 billion a year. That would be roughly half the country’s gross domestic product of $20 billion in 2011, according to the World Bank. Therefore, Afghanistan needs global assistance to bring up its own economy given the vast natural resources it is blessed with.
Finally, in addition to military assistance to fight Pakistan-sponsored Al Qaeda, Taliban and LeT, Afghanistan also needs a secure environment to exploit its natural resources, especially since no foreign venture is permitted to bring its own security forces along. What Afghanistan therefore also needs is a strong Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) that can protect all the civil ventures including mineral, petroleum and gas exploration, as also provide protection to repair and maintenance facilities that are to be established. India should assist Afghanistan in establishing such a CISF that has the capacity to ward off all terrorist attacks.
What Afghanistan needs from the world is continued financial support for converting the ANSF to a regular force, till the time Afghanistan’s own economy can come up to sustain these forces indigenously. That would be a significant contribution for the security and stability of the region
Dr Manmohan Singh meeting the President of Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai, in New Delhi on December 13, 2013
ANSF trrops in action