The top commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan urged neighboring India to provide more military aid to Afghanistan, a request that marks a change in America’s stance towards Indian involvement in the security sector of the war-torn nation.
India’s regional rival Pakistan was dismayed by the move. Through India, the Afghan security forces can reportedly obtain spare parts for their Russian-made helicopter since India has not imposed sanctions preventing them from conducting business with the Kremlin.
Referring to the U.S. general’s comments about Indian military assistance to Afghanistan, Times of India (TOI) reports:
This is a very different response from the time when the US used to discourage India from getting into the security sector keeping Pakistani sensitivities in mind.
The fledgling U.S.-backed Afghan air force welcomed India’s recent gift of four Russian-made Mi-25 attack helicopters, according to TOI.
U.S. Gen. John Nicholson, the top commander in Afghanistan, declared:
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…
We are building the Afghan air force as a critical component of security. That is built on several air frames. Some are older Russian models, integrating newer ones. We need more aircraft, and we are looking at how we can meet that need.
TOI notes that Nicholson’s comments came during a recent visit to the Indian capital of New Delhi where he met with the country’s national security adviser Ajit Doval, foreign secretary S. Jaishankar, and defense secretary Mohan Kumar.
They reportedly discussed India-U.S cooperation in Afghanistan.
The sanctions against Russia mean that most donors cannot use their money for spares or aircraft from Russia. This is where India comes in, since India has no sanctions against Moscow.
India is already assisting other segments of the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF), which includes military and police units.
Afghanistan’s Ministry of Defense (MoD) has developed a training program for female members of the Afghan National Army (ANA) in India that Nicholson indicated has proved beneficial.
“This professional training is helping them fill the junior and mid-level ranks who are new to a professional military,” he said.
Pakistan sits between Afghanistan and India. Relations between the nuclear-armed U.S. allies of India and Pakistan have been historically rocky.
Afghanistan and Pakistan have never enjoyed a close relationship. The two countries have recently clashed along their mutual border. They have accused one another of supporting terrorism. The United States and India have also charged that Pakistan backs Islamic terrorists.
Gen. Nicholson himself is quoted by TOI as saying that terrorist groups the Haqqani Network and Taliban “enjoy sanctuary in Pakistan.”
The Indian newspaper points out:
Pakistan, though, has raised ‘concerns’ about India’s security assistance to Afghanistan. That seems to have less traction with the Americans these days, though Nicholson acknowledged.
The top U.S. general said:
We have a focus on counter-terrorism. We work with the Pakistanis and the Indians on that.
We have seen Lashkar-e-Taiba’s [LeT] presence and operations in Afghanistan. We put pressure on LeT. Our goal is to prevent these groups from regaining sanctuaries.
In its most recent report on security conditions in Afghanistan, the Pentagon maintained that Pakistan continues to serve as a sanctuary for terrorist groups such as LeT, the Taliban, the region’s Islamic State branch known as the Khorasan Province (IS-KP/ISIL-K), the Haqqani Network, and al-Qaeda.
The U.S.-backed Afghan security forces have reportedly been receiving assistance from China and Russia as well.
An operation against ISIL-K recently launched by the ANDSF has resulted in the deaths of hundreds of jihadists, including the group’s top leader, the Pentagon has confirmed. The Taliban has also taken recent losses, according to the U.S. and Afghanistan.