Does anybody know?or care?what is happening in Afghanistan? Or, for that matter, even in Pakistan? The media is very poorly informed. There is a terrible war going on in Afghanistan and the Indian publicly is shockingly unaware of it. Reading an article by a former Indian Ambassador and a former member of the Indian Foreign Service, M.K.Bhadrakumar, in The Hindu (July 3) gives one the creeps. What follows is a summary of what Shri Bhadrakumar has revealed. For the second successive month, more US and NATO troops have been killed in Afghanistan than in Iraq. In June, the number touched 44 in Afghanistan compared to 30 in Iraq. (In Iraq, of course, over the years more than 4,000 US soldiers have been killed).
In Afghanistan the undeclared war is becoming increasingly mean. So mean that Britain'sMinistry of Defence had to admit to the influential London Times that NATO forces are using the controversial thermobaric weapon called Hellfire AGM-114N. Why is it controversial? It is because when fired from an Apache attack helicopter or predator drone aircraft, the missile sucks the air out of a man'schest, shreds his internal organs and crushes his body. The man cannot take shelter anywhere because the blast creates a human-crushing vacuum with a second explosion. He instantly disintegrates. The British call it an ?enhanced blast weapon? or ?a vacuum bomb?. It is intended to crush Taliban forces but when used so often has killed innocent Afghans as well, with understandable results.
Taliban supporters are growing in numbers and, according to a Russian specialist in Afghan affairs, who is currently ambassador to Kabul, Zamir Kabulov, Taliban influence has spread to more than half of Afghanistan territory and controls upto 20 per cent of that area. So deep is the incursion of Talibans in Afghanistan that it is believed that among those who indulged in an aborted assassination attempt against President Hamid Karzai were six government functionaries, including an army general.
And what is the explanation given by Washington? One, that the Kabul government is weak; two, that the Afghans are getting increasingly alienated from their government; three, that US and NATO together are unable to step up their troop presence in Afghanistan even while taking a terrific beating; four, misgovernance and corruption, not to speak of drug sales, are eating into the vitals of Afghan society; and sorts of all, within Pakistan, diverse power centres have emerged, making decision-taking a very hazardous occupation. Musharraf has apparently agreed to the US launching direct attacks against the Al-Quaida leader Osama bin Laden, without Islamabad'spermission, which has apparently alienated the current army Chief Pervez Ashfaq Kayani who has to handle sulking and angry Taliban-leaning Army officers. If reports are to be believed, the Pakistani Army is roughly divided into two groups: Nationalist jihadis and Oslami Jihadis. The former would like nothing better than to snatch Jammu and Kashmir from India, if they can, and see India break up. The Islamic jihadis hate all ?infidels?, with Americans heading the list. And, with such characters maintaining their hold on the Pakistani Army, with the civilian leaders themselves unreconciled to each other, it is impossible to take the Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi'splea, howsoever sincerely meant, made when he was in Delhi, for ?peace, friendship and good-neighbourly relations?. Even presuming that he mean it, and is anxious to implement it, how can one trust Musharraf who is still around or his successor, who is maintaining a discreet silence?
We now learn from a Pakistani author, Ahuja Nawaz, who happens to be the brother of Asif Nawaz (who was Pakistan'sArmy Chief in the 1990s) that just prior to Pakistan'sattack on Kargil, it had sought the services of 20,000 to 30,000 Afghan Jihadis as ?possible re-inforcements? to the Pakistan forces. Apparently, the Pakistan Government was shocked when Mullah Mohammad Rabbani, the Afghan President at that time, offered 50,000 or almost double the number sought, to fight in Kashmir. Had the Afghan offer been accepted and five lakh jihadis were let loose in Jammu and Kashmir, there would have been a nuclear war.
According to Ahuja Nawaz who is US-based, there was a broader Kashmir plan at work that had been presented and discussed by Musharraf with Nawaz Sharif and his key aides. The planned Kargil intrusion was called Operation Badar, named after the site of an early battle fought by Prophet Mohammad. Musharraf had deliberately lied to India and is not a man to be trusted. And as long as he stays on, it would be difficult for India to take any Pakistani peace offer seriously. But what is even worse is that the Pakistani press is presently throwing its weight behind a group of mid-level and senior officers in the armed forces, who reportedly, are pressuring Chief of Army Staff Gen. Kiyani to terminate counter-terrorism operations in the North West Frontier Province and resume support for jihad in Jammu and Kashmir. Mawa-i-Waqt has been quoted as saying: ?We should stop talking peace with India. We should strengthen the mujahideen. We should wage jihad against India, otherwise it will turn Pakistan into a barren land?. The truth of the matter is that there are many disparate and conflicting voices being heard from Pakistan and policy-makers in India have to tread softly on a mined field.
The irony of it all is that the Taliban and other terrorist groups came into existence because the United States wanted to drive out Soviet influence in Afghanistan in the 1980s onwards. That aim was achieved and the Soviets had to flee Afghanistan. Now two decades after Moscow pulled out of Afghanistan, the United States and NATO are literally begging Moscow to return to help them combat the same mujahideen whom the US helped to drive Russians out. Putin and the Russian leaders must be laughing their heads off at western discomfiture. India cannot afford to laugh because the jihadists, driven out of Afghanistan, will make India their target. In the end, it is India that will have to face the brunt of jihadi terrorism. One hopes that India is prepared for whatever happens. Musharraf has failed India, has failed the US and he has failed his own country. And the US has failed miserably both in Pakistan and Afghanistan. It would be a laughing matter except that India has to pay for their folly. The American betrayal of India is of Himalayan dimensions. It went into the business of training and financing the Taliban out of self-interest. And now India will have to pay for America'sfolly. A pleasant thought. When Dr Manmohan Singh talks to Bush on the 123 Agreement he may wish to remember to tell Bush about it. It might do him?and India?some good.