The US’ praise for India’s role in bolstering Afghanistan’s military capability, and criticism of Pakistan for supporting terrorists is making headlines, and signals a marked downslide in Washington-Islamabad relations. In pointed remarks that are creating much heartburn in Islamabad, the US’ top commander in Afghanistan lauded India for making “enormously valuable” contribution in buttressing Afghan security forces and underlined that the US favours the military support.
Afghanistan has sought more military supplies from India, including attack helicopters, said US Commander General John Nicholson against the backdrop of Afghanistan’s renewed offensive against assorted terror groups which has killed around 300 Islamic State terrorists. Alluding to the four Mi-25 helicopters provided by India to Afghanistan, Gen. Nicholson said the country needs more military support to tackle terror outfits. “I know that they have requested more and would like more and I think there is an immediate need for more as these aircraft can immediately get into the fight,” he said.
He stressed that terror outfits like the Haqqani network, Lashkar-e-Toiba and Jaish-e-Mohammad posed not only a threat to Afghanistan but to the region, including India. “I can understand India has been calibrated because of this (Pakistan) concern. I can only answer this from a military perspective and there we welcome the role India has been playing, particularly in training thousands of Afghan soldiers,” he said.
He praised military training provided by India to thousands of Afghan security personnel and stressed that it has helped Afghanistan in significantly enhancing its military capability which fits in with the overarching objective of the NATO and the US in stabilising the violence-ravaged country.
While Nicholson was all praise for India’s role in Afghanistan, he did not mince words in what is clearly a scathing indictment of Pakistan’s role in fomenting terror in Afghanistan. He said that the Taliban also “enjoys sanctuaries” in Pakistan and stressed that the US was putting pressure on Pakistan to contain these groups. “We consistently encourage Pakistan to take action against terrorist groups that operate from its territory and close down their safe havens,” said Nicholson, who heads the US operations in Afghanistan. These remarks have been deeply resented by Pakistan’s military establishment that sees Afghanistan as part of its strategic depth, and used proxy militant groups to exacerbate instability in the country.
The prospects of expanding India-US counter-cooperation in Afghanistan figured prominently in his engagements in New Delhi, which included talks with India’s National Security Adviser Ajit Doval, Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar and Defence Secretary G Mohan Kumar.
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