Afghanistan’s twisting path

(the The Delhi-Kabul twist)

Published on open Democracy, Paul Rogers, July 9, 2009.

A process of cooperation between the military leaders of India and Afghanistan comes at a bad time for the American and British war effort in Helmand province.

In the first week of July 2009, seven British soldiers were killed and over fifty injured (many of them seriously) in intensive combat in Afghanistan’s Helmand province. The accumulation of casualties has had considerable media attention, though the rising death-toll has yet to cause major political controversy.

The main political parties in Britain support the current military operations in Afghanistan; to a degree the withdrawal of British forces from Basra on 30 April 2009 makes it easier to do so, since the end of direct involvement in Iraq deflects the argument around the six-year war there. This has become focused on a public inquiry about Britain’s involvement, originally intended to be held in secret but (after criticism from senior military and political figures) now to be held largely in the open …

… The Delhi-Kabul express

This assessment raises the broader issue of the extent of support that Pakistan is actually offering. There are clear indications that United States-Pakistani cooperation in the key border areas is actually far more limited than is usually assumed (see Greg Jaffe, “Afghan-Pakistani Hostility Impedes U.S. Troops”, Washington Post, 5 July 2009).

Such cooperation depends very much on good relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan, but these cannot be assumed. Instead, it appears that relations may actually be deteriorating at precisely the time – with the US operations in Helmand underway – when the opposite is most needed (see “The AfPak war: Washington’s three options”, 23 February 2009).

In an unfortunate piece of timing, there are signs of a considerable increase in collaboration between the Afghan and Indian governments – precisely the trend most likely to upset Islamabad and make cooperation with the US more difficult. An official press release by the government of India reports that the chief-of-staff of the Afghan national army, General Bismillah Khan Mohammadi, is making a three-day visit to New Delhi on 6-9 July 2009.

An Indian defence-ministry source says: “During his visit he is likely to interact with senior officials in the military and civilian defence hierarchy to discuss various contemporary issues.” India is already involved in training Afghan army staff in defence establishments but the current visit is likely to see cooperation extended to include training and support for the Afghan Army’s force of Russian-made helicopter gunships (see Vivek Raghuvanshi, “India, Afghanistan To Discuss Closer Cooperation”, Defense News, 6 July 2009).

The Indian leapfrog: … (full text).

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