New Delhi: Taliban leaders have claimed on Friday that the insurgent group has taken control of 85 percent of battle-ravaged Afghanistan – a claim countered by the legitimate government authorities in Kabul.
Nevertheless, the 'growing Taliban influence' amid US withdrawal is certainly a matter of concern for the world
community and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani – also a known ‘friend of India’.
Afghan officials also admit that the Taliban have captured an important district of Herat – a hub of thousands of minority Shia Hazaras.
It has been also stated that Torghundi, a northern town bordering Turkmenistan, has also fallen in the Taliban’s grip.
There have been US intelligence reports since June this year that once American forces withdraw, the Ghani regime would fall sooner than estimated earlier.
A 2016 estimate was Ghani could survive at least two years.
External Affairs Minister Dr. S Jaishankar held a crucial round of meeting with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov in Moscow.
“The situation in Afghanistan occupied a lot of our attention because it has a direct implication for our regional security,” he said later.
There are also concerns that radical forces could enter Central Asian countries and also that the dreaded IS could find larger footprints in the region.
Ghani has been a close friend of India and had in the past more often subbed Pakistan in international fora.
One such mega episode was on December 4, 2016, at Amritsar.
At the ‘Heart of Asia’ conference in Amritsar, Ghani had kickstarted the meet with his speech rejecting Pakistan’s assistance of $500 million for developmental works.
“Sorry Mr. Sartaj Aziz, this amount can be spent to contain extremism”, he told a stunned Pak delegation.
Ghani also said – “We need to identify cross border terrorism”. Directing his anguish at Islamabad, he said in presence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and leaders from 13 other countries that – “Some (countries) still provide sanctuary to terrorists. Afghanistan suffered the highest number of casualties last year. This is unacceptable”.
Much to the chagrin of the Pakistani delegation, he also has said, “I want clarifications on what is being done to prevent the export of terror”.
Afghanistan along with India, Russia, and Iran had backed the move to create a framework that would ‘collectively censure’ countries that support terror groups.
This was a direct jab at Pakistan and came within three months of the Uri terror attack and India countering that with the meticulous surgical strike.
Pleased at the manner things unfolded, Prime Minister Modi at the meeting said that India would like Afghanistan to develop as a ‘geography of peace’.
In 2019 after Modi’s resounding victory in the general elections, the Afghan President tweeted: “The government and the people of Afghanistan look forward to expanding cooperation between our two democracies in pursuit of regional cooperation, peace, and prosperity for all of South Asia”.
MEA spokesman Arindam Bagchi said earlier this week that India is "carefully monitoring the deteriorating security situation" in Afghanistan and its implications on the safety and security of Indian nationals in that country.
"Our response will be calibrated accordingly," he said.
He also said, "You would have seen the clarification issued by our Embassy in Kabul earlier this week, that our Embassy in Kabul and Consulates in Kandahar and Mazar-e-Sharif are functional".
Meanwhile, US President Joe Biden has said the American military would complete its withdrawal from Afghanistan by August 31, ahead of schedule.
The Taliban has also captured the Islam Qala crossing along the Afghan-Turkmenistan border. It is one of the biggest trade gateways in Iran that generates an estimated $20m monthly revenue for the Afghan government.
The Taliban – meaning "students" in the Pashto language – seized power in 1996 and since then banned television, music, and cinema, and prohibited girls aged 10 and over from going to school.
Men were forced to keep their beards and there were various human rights violations and cultural abuses.
In 2001, the Taliban destroyed the famous Bamiyan Buddha statues in central Afghanistan.