Event ReportsPublished on Nov 30, 2015
ISIS and Taliban competing in Afghanistan for supremacy: Dy FM

The threat from the ISIS or Daesh has been localised to the eastern and south western parts of Afghanistan only, according the Deputy Foreign Minister of Afghanistan, Mr Hekmat Khalil Karzai.

Delivering a lecture on "Indo-Afghan Relations: The Way Forward" at Observer Research Foundation, Delhi, on November 19, Mr Karzai said his government is monitoring the activities of the ISIS and the violence in Syria and Iraq.

He said groups like the ISIS and Taliban were trying to use tactics of intimidation to create differences between ethnic groups in Afghanistan, a nation of different ethnicities, which never had ethnic violence. Mr Karzai noted that these were competing with each other by using such tactics of intimidation and fight to win more fighters, resources and geography.

Mr Karzai noted that the recent takeover of the city of Kunduz by the Taliban brought to light the number of foreign fighters fighting in the country. The Uzbeks, Czechs and Pakistani militants’ aspirations were regional and global and were greater than Afghanistan as their aim has been to create corridors for supply and provide training to other different groups.

Keeping in mind the importance of Afghanistan’s geographic position, it has been found that many attacks in the northern region of the country were a calculated strategy by militants, as they saw the northern routes as a direct way to central Asia.

Mr Karzai stated that the National Unity Government was committed in its fight against militants and extremists. Acknowledging the important role Pakistan needs to pay in determining Afghanistan’s security, he said that Pakistani military operations in North Waziristan had a spill over effect in Afghanistan as one of the consequences was militants coming over into Afghanistan and establishing base. Such incidents resulted in attacks in major cities and far flung areas of the country.

Mr Karzai came to Delhi on a State visit. While highlighting the objectives and accomplishments of his visit, Mr Karzai noted that one of the key accomplishments was India’s agreement to host the next Heart of Asia conference.

Mr Karzai began his lecture by looking back at the last two and half years in Afghanistan and noting that there have been three key transitions of importance. The first is the political transition, where for the first time there was a transfer of authority from one government to another and the establishment of the National Unity government in Kabul. The second transition was economic in nature. Mr Karzai classified the past four decades of Afghan history into four different types of economies: a war economy, an aid economy and a narcotics economy. He added that it was now time for Afghanistan to now focus on a trade and agriculture economy, although it has received little attention in the past. Adding to the different transitory phases the country has gone through in the recent year, he acknowledged the role NATO troops played and welcomed the decrease in troop levels from an earlier 1, 50,000 to 9,800. The year 2015 also saw military responsibility being passed on to the shoulders of the Afghan security forces.

As the deputy foreign minister of the nation, he stated that his National Unity government’s foreign policy objective was to have regional consensus on stability and security in Afghanistan. Keeping this in mind, its foreign policy is divided into five circles. The first is centered on its neighbouring countries, such as Iran, Pakistan, China, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. The second circle contains the Islamic countries in the region such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait and UAE. With these countries Kabul seeks to get religious clarity in its battle with religious extremist forces. Europe, US, Canada and Japan fall into the third circle as they share collective threats and have a strategic partnership with each other based on the realities in Afghanistan. The fourth circle encompasses other countries in Asia and the fifth is international organizations.

Coming to the important yet unfinished business of dealing with the Taliban and peace talks, Mr Karzai noted that the government had initiated an extensive campaign towards the stability of Afghanistan, by working closely with Pakistan. The relationship between the two countries, though marked by hostility for a long time, he said can only progress once trust has been established. After there is trust, both countries can move towards special relations.

In terms of talking to the Taliban, or the ’armed opposition’, negotiations and relations with Pakistan took a setback when it was discovered that the leader Mullah Omar had actually been dead for awhile. Mr Karzai highlighted that this made Afghanistan request Pakistan for three things: one, ensuring that under no circumstance should a caliphate like under Mullah Omar should be established. Two, no large meetings of militants in Pakistan, and three, ensuring no attacks on Afghanistan planned on Pakistan soil should happen.

When it comes to India, the friendship and bond shared between Kabul and New Delhi will continue to stay strong, Mr Karzai assured. According to him, there are at present four components of the relationship, political security cooperation, trade and economic partnership, social-cultural civil society and education partnership. However, it is important to broaden this strategic partnership and build on the friendship between the two countries.

(This report is prepared by Kriti Shah, Research Intern, Observer Research Foundation, Delhi)

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