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August 15, 2016

Pak-India proxy war under way in Afghanistan, says Forbes


August 15, 2016

LAHORE: Important but overlooked news this week: the US command in Afghanistan has asked India to step up military aid to Afghan forces.

India provided four attack helicopters to the Afghan military in Dec. 2015; the US and the Afghans want more, as well as spare parts for Russian-made military equipment, to be used in part against the Islamist network built up by Pakistan called the Haqqanis, according to Charles Tiefer writing for US magazine Forbes. 

The writer says: “Every aspect of this cries: “Proxy War.” To New Delhi came General John Nicholson, a four-star general serving as the commander in charge of U.S. forces in Afghanistan. When I was in Afghanistan in 2011 while serving on the Commission on Wartime Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan, I met Nicholson’s predecessor, and saw his immense scope of military and diplomatic responsibility.

Who met with Nicholson: India’s National Security Adviser Ajit Doval, Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar, and Defense Secretary G. Mohan Kumar. This is a joint war command for deciding India’s course in the proxy war.” 

“Second, a very ingenious opening wartime mode of supply has been arranged. The Afghan Air Force still uses MI-25 Russian attack copters (among others), because many of their air and ground crews trained on copters inherited in the 1980s from the puppet Russian regime, for which parts are scarce. As General Nicholson said: “The Afghans have asked for more of these helicopters. There is an immediate need for more. When these aircraft come in, they immediately get into the fight.” Note twice the term “immediate.” When the US military commander in charge, the four-star general, says “immediate” twice, he is telling his troops that their butts will be in a sling unless it gets done yesterday, if not earlier.” 

General Nicholson went on: “We are building the Afghan Air Forces as a critical component of security. That [the Afghan air force] is built on several airframes. Some are older Russian models integrating newer ones. We need more aircraft, and we are looking at how we can meet that need.”

Nicholson also said that military training by India to thousands of Afghan security personnel had helped that country in significantly enhancing its military capability, which is in tune with the objective of NATO and the US. I saw the problem, going to Kandahar in 2011 to review training there being done by the US-paid contractor Dyncorp. A large part of the Afghan recruits are, bluntly, illiterate. Training has to be elementary and complete. Do not get me wrong, the Afghan trainees are brave, great armed police and soldiers. Often they have excellent fighting spirit, they know guns like we know cars, and frequently they lost close relatives in fighting that has gone on nonstop since the Soviets took over in the 1970s. But they need an enormous amount of training. It looks like India is shouldering some of that key part of the proxy war.

It went almost unnoticed that this followed Prime Minister Modi and President Obama agreeing not so long ago that the two nations should move against terrorist groups. This new announcement by Nicholson and the top Indian defense officials was expressly directed not only at the Haqqani network, and Islamic State, but also at Lashkar-e-Taiba, and Jaish-I-Mohammed. 

According to another report, the US cut off $300 million in aid for the Pakistani military it direly needed. Pakistan has faced massive human losses in action against terrorists in North Waziristan launched in 2014. The US has, however, conditioned its aid to action against the Haqqani group, and the US defence secretary didn't endorse continuing aid to Pakistan.

The News correspondent adds: It should be noted that Pakistan has consistently denied its involvement in any proxy war in Afghanistan. Such allegations are levelled by India that remained engaged in propaganda against Pakistan. 



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