US must heed India’s concerns

The US President, Donald J Trump. (DH File Photo)

A suicide attack at a wedding party in Kabul last Saturday left 63 people dead and 182 others injured. The Islamic State-Khorasan (IS-K), the IS’ Afghan affiliate, claimed responsibility for the attack. There were around 1,200 guests at the wedding, most of them members of the predominantly Shia Hazara ethnic community. Civilians are bearing the brunt of the fighting in Afghanistan. According to a report by the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), 3,812 civilians were killed or wounded in the fighting in Afghanistan between January 1 and June 30 this year and 11% of the casualties are attributed to the IS-K. Saturday’s suicide bombing in Kabul is the latest in a series of deadly attacks on Afghan civilians by the IS-K, the al-Qaeda and the Taliban. July was the deadliest month in two years in Afghanistan, according to the UNAMA. Taliban and IS-K attacks can be expected to surge in the coming months. Afghans are set to vote in presidential elections in a month, and both the Taliban and the IS-K are opposing it. They can be expected to target candidates, rallies, voters and voting booths.

What makes the surge in terror attacks of particular concern is that the Taliban and the United States are believed to be on the brink of a deal that could see the US begin withdrawal of its troops within a few months. The timetable for the withdrawal is likely to be drawn up keeping in mind the US presidential elections next year as President Donald Trump will use the withdrawal to enthuse his conservative base and boost his re-election chances.

The increase in attacks over the past months indicates that the pull-out of troops at this point would plunge Afghanistan into unprecedented violence. The Taliban’s continuing violence, even as it engages in ‘peace talks’ with the Americans, underscores the fact that it is not interested in power-sharing or peace. Once the US troops leave, it will grab power by unleashing renewed war against the Afghan government. Fighting between a resurgent IS-K and the Taliban will be bloody. Its implications will be felt in the region and beyond. Pakistan can be expected to back its Taliban proxies. Is India ready with a strategy or a plan to deal with the unfolding tragedy in Afghanistan? Post-Article 370, Kashmir is angry and restive and provides Pakistan with just the kind of troubled waters it loves to fish in. Trump’s rush to strike a deal with the Taliban, with little concern for Afghans and their security, women’s rights, etc., is unconscionable. America’s deal-making with 
the Taliban without heeding India’s concerns is 
irresponsible.

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