The South Asia Channel
Recommitting to a Shared Mission Against Terrorism
Afghanistan and India have long been targets of extremist and terrorist groups based in Pakistan. Though these groups operate under different names, they share a common objective: to destabilize both countries and the whole region. It is obvious that these groups — armed and harbored in Pakistan — would not be able to confront India ...
Afghanistan and India have long been targets of extremist and terrorist groups based in Pakistan. Though these groups operate under different names, they share a common objective: to destabilize both countries and the whole region. It is obvious that these groups — armed and harbored in Pakistan — would not be able to confront India directly, even though they have carried out a number of successful terrorist attacks in the country, most notably in Mumbai in November 2008. However, for now, they have largely adopted an indirect, incremental approach to destabilizing the region through Afghanistan.
Over the past 13 years, militant groups, largely operating under the umbrella of the so-called Taliban, have been terrorizing Afghanistan, killing our innocent people and targeting our forces on a daily basis through complex ambushes, improvised explosive devices, and suicide attacks. Their objective is to undo more than a decade of democratic gains and to secure a firm foothold in our country. If allowed to do so, they would undoubtedly provide a safe haven for global jihadis and use them to threaten the region. There is ample evidence of the kind of threat they pose to Afghanistan, India, and all of South Asia.
Last Wednesday, in a 55-minute video, al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, out of his Pakistan hideout, announced the establishment of "Al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS)," while repeatedly pledging allegiance to Mullah Muhammad Omar, the leader of the Taliban, who continues to prosecute a terror campaign in Afghanistan. This proves what we have long been communicating to India and to the rest of the international community: the Taliban and al Qaeda pursue, albeit separately, a similar agenda. They may act in isolation from one another, but they are pursuing a common, ideological objective in the region and beyond.
In the 1990s, Afghanistan’s calls on the international community to act against the Taliban were ignored, and unfortunately led to the tragedy of 9/11. Since the fall of the Taliban in 2001, we have again been warning all stakeholders that the resurgent militants, operating out of safe sanctuaries with the direct support and guidance of state actors in Pakistan, remain a credible threat to regional stability and international peace and security. This time, unlike the 1990s, we expect our friends and allies — particularly our key neighbors: India, Russia, and China — not to take our warning lightly, since it is no longer about Afghanistan alone. It is rather about the security and stability of every country in the region and beyond, as the events surrounding the rise of the Islamic State and its dangerous terrorist activities demonstrate in the Middle East.
Since Afghanistan and India signed a Strategic Partnership Agreement (SPA) in 2011 in direct response to ongoing perceived security threats to our two countries, President Hamid Karzai has visited India three times. Each time, the president has discussed his increased concern about the widening tide of violence in Afghanistan, due to terrorism with deep roots in the region, with the Indian leadership. At the same time, he has raised his concern about the threats of radicalism and terrorism emanating from Pakistan in every regional and international conference on Afghanistan, appealing to the international community to take preventive measures to defeat and eliminate the threats.
As Afghanistan’s time-tested friend and strategic partner, India has so far been reluctant to commit adequate attention and aid in support of Afghanistan, which continues to fight the region’s war against radicalism and terrorism. However, we are increasingly heartened by the initial steps taken by India’s new government — such as inviting all of the leaders from countries belonging to the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s swearing-in ceremony — to engage with the region, while taking a serious stance against threats confronting India and South Asia as a whole.
To that end, we look forward to working with India to assess recent threat developments in the region, as they relate to the shared national security interests of our two countries. In the coming months and years, Afghanistan will continue to go through a turbulent period as the military and civilian assistance from the United States and NATO shrinks. Of course, the common enemies of Afghanistan and India have kept a close, watchful eye on the transition process, actively exploiting any emerging gaps and vulnerabilities as a result of the coalition’s drawdown.
Hence, it is imperative to conduct a thorough review and assessment of all Indian assistance commitments to Afghanistan over the past three years in order to help prioritize the urgent implementation of those SPA objectives that serve our two countries’ short- and long-term national security interests.
Shaida M. Abdali is Afghanistan’s ambassador to India.