By Arul Louis
As the UN-mandated international combat mission in Afghanistan enters its final days after a democratic transfer of power in Kabul, a Security Council debate put the spotlight on the terrorist threats to the fragile nation with India warning of the support extremists get from “beyond borders” and tying together the this week’s deadly attacks in Kabul, Peshawar and Sydney.
India’s Acting Permanent Representative Bhagwant S. Bishnoi told the Security Council Thursday that those responsible for the “evil scourge of terrorism” have managed to survive “immense military pressure” in only because they “continue to benefit from support from beyond Afghanistan’s borders, and continue to access resources from transnational terrorist and criminal networks.”
He added, “The attacks in Kabul, Sydney and Peshawar only underline the fact terrorists do not respect borders, and make no differentiation between states. They pose a common threat to humanity.” Bishnoi said UN Special Representative for Afghanistan Nicholas Haysom should focus on this problem.
Haysom, in his briefing to the Security Council, noted that till November-end there were more civilian deaths and injuries in Afghanistan than any other year since 2008, with civilian casualties increasing 19 pe cent from last year.
“The recent increase in security incidents is a cause for concern,” he said. “It is too early to assess whether this surge is timed to coincide with the withdrawal of international military forces, or will become the new normal.”
Striking a defiant note, Afghanistan Ambassador Zahir Tanin said, “As they commit acts of violence and brutality against innocent men, women and children, extremist armed groups should know that the courageous Afghan security forces stand ready to fight for the future of Afghan democracy, peace and security.”
Pakistan, which is reeling from the Taliban massacre of 132 school children, also joined in targeting terrorism, with Deputy Permanent
Representative Sahebzada Ahmed Khan calling it a common enemy, which must be fought by common endeavours and without distinction.
United States Ambassador Samantha Power recalled the sacrifices made by “2,200 Americans and more than 1,200 citizens” of International Security Assistance Force nations “to root out terrorism and try to build a more stable and a more secure Afghanistan.”
She referred to the rising wave of the terrorist attacks, in particular the one at a volleyball game that killed more than 50 people and said that “those responsible for such attacks must be neutralized and must be brought to justice.”
Most countries did not specify the terror groups, but Russia and Iran named names. Russian Ambassador Vitaly I. Churkin said that the Taliban and Al Qaeda were still active but this was notably absent from the Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s report on the Afghan situation.
Teheran “strongly condemns all violent attacks committed by the Taliban, A1 Qaeda and other violent and extremist groups,” Iranian Ambassador G. Hossein Dehghani said. “We condemn any cooperation with and encouragement provided to these groups .”
The NATO-led ISAF is set to end its combat operations and the US is to withdraw all but 10,800 troop in Afghanistan at the end of
the year, while switching to the Resolute Support Mission of training and supporting Afghan security forces.
To help Afghanistan’s economic reconstruction, a pillar of its future stability, Bishnoi said New Delhi has been discussing with Kabul and Teheran a project to develop Iran’s Chahbahar Port that could offer that nation a sea link.
Dehghani relayed Iran’s support for the project. “We are waiting for the tripartite agreement between India, Afghanistan and Iran to be finalised” for the Chahabar project, he said.
In October, the Indian cabinet approved plans for two public sector corporations to float a company to develop the Chahbahar Port, which is about is 900 kms from the Afghan city of Zaranj. An Indian-built road links it to highways that connect to major Afghan cities.
Tanin, who spoke of utilizing “Afghanistan’s geographical advantage as a hub connecting Central, South, West and East Asia,” mentioned another project that India is involved in, the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India Pipeline (TAPI).
Last month with the support of the Asian Development Bank a company, TAPI Pipeline Company Limited (TPCL), was set up jointly by GAIL (India) Limited and enterprises from the other three countries to build and operate the planned 1,800-km pipeline that is to bring in natural gas to India.
While strongly condemning terrorists, Tanin also said that “an extensive reconciliation process with the armed opposition is high on
the government’s agenda” because “a political solution is essential to stopping the violence and the continuing terror campaign.”
With this priority, Tanin mentioned Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani’s state visits to China, Pakistan and only made a passing reference to the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), but not directly to India.
Britain and the US also noted appreciatively Afghanistan’s outreach to Pakistan. Power mentioned President Ghani’s “important visits to improve relationships with neighbours, including Pakistan,” while British Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant said his country welcomed the dialogue between the leaders of Afghanistan and Pakistan.