Afghanistan call­ing

SP's MAI - - MILITARY - [ By Lt Gen­eral (Retd) P.C. Ka­toch ]

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

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