Embassy of Afghanistan - News

Originally published on Apr 27, 2016,  The Times of India

 

TOI interview with Hekmat Khalil Karzai

Hekmat Khalil Karzai. (Photo courtesy: Twitter/@HekmatKarzai)
In Delhi to attend the Heart of Asia conference for assistance to Afghanistan, Hekmat Khalil Karzai, Afghan deputy foreign minister, sat down with TOI to discuss how Afghanistan plans to combat Taliban during their "spring offensive" and how Afghanistan plans to drag Pakistan to the UN security council for its support to Taliban.

After last week's attack by the Taliban in Kabul, this year's worst so far, Afghan president Ashraf Ghani in an unprecedented address to the joint houses of the Afghan parliament on Monday announced they would go on their own military offensive against the Taliban. So, Afghanistan has shelved the reconciliation plan to go for the military option against the Taliban?

Well, that's too simplistic. We had opened the door to peace. Anybody who wanted to lay down arms and abide by the constitution could negotiate peace with us.

We also started a process with the Quadrilateral Coordination Group (QCG — US, China, Afghanistan and Pakistan). While on paper the QCG was able to deliver, they did some excellent work by working out a roadmap, at the same time within that roadmap there was a certain specific clause, which the Taliban had to be brought to the table. But, if we couldn't bring Taliban to the table, all four countries would be responsible for taking action against them. So now we are holding everyone to that second part of the commitment. As I told the Heart of Asia conference here today, we expect the four countries to take action against the Taliban. They should tell us what they are going to do to deal with this threat.

Second, internally, we have been preparing for these military operations that have come upon us. 2015 was a difficult year because there was a military transition. The ANSF took on a huge burden from the international coalition forces. But it did remarkably well. 2016 is a difficult year, but it's not as difficult as 2015 because we are better prepared. We learned from 2015 and we saw in the last couple of weeks, when the spring offensive started we saw there were attacks in different provinces — in Helmand, Kunduz, Kunar, with one goal, that they (Taliban) were going to gain extensive territory. But they did not gain any territory. As a consequence, they are attacking soft targets like in Kabul.

We are now preparing extensively. We have done a lot of the work militarily for a year where we will give their (Taliban's) preference, military operations, and an opportunity. Down the line, we feel they will come and negotiate with us. But we feel they want to prove their ability on the battleground.

How can India help? How can China, which is so close to Pakistan, help?

During my bilateral meeting with foreign secretary, Jaishankar, we discussed several options. One of the key things we discussed was our list of priorities. I asked him to help Afghanistan, now is the critical time for India to start delivering.

The Taliban attack last week was claimed by the Taliban? How do you hold Pakistan responsible?

The Pakistan PM's foreign policy adviser, Sartaj Aziz went to Washington recently and in front of the entire world, he said the Taliban live among them. They receive treatment in their medical facilities; there is a vast support infrastructure, logistical infrastructure, all of that exists in Pakistan. What we are asking now is for Pakistan to deal with that infrastructure. They should take action.

You tell us you are not able to bring the Taliban to the table. That's fine. Your influence with them may have reduced, but you have the ability to take action in your house. Deal with the sanctuaries you have established, deal with us as a sovereign state, and most important, act as a responsible state.

On China, it's very clear. We want China to hold Pakistan accountable to its commitment made to the QCG. I am going to raise this with China tomorrow when I land in Beijing, to say that collectively we made these commitments. We are responsible for our commitments. Now we want you to hold them to their commitments.

Have you considered approaching the UN security council?

The president raised this issue on Monday. It's been discussed in our government. It's one of the issues we are exploring. If the security dynamics don't improve that is something we are going to explore and bring to our international friends. It's a point I raised today.

Are you bracing yourselves for a difficult year ahead?

Yes, but last year we were poorly prepared. We didn't have commitments from our international partners, we didn't have much clarity. But we took advantage of the summer, proactively targeted militant groups. We conducted special forces operations in different parts of the country. It's not going to be a nightmarish year, as some anticipate. But it will be difficult.
 
Just a few weeks ago we received 10,000 AK-47s from Russia, as well as ammunition. We have requested more support. We are getting extensive amounts of support from Iranians, in the development sector. We will continue to press for more. We have the Warsaw summit coming up, where the next three years Nato will be making its commitments to Afghanistan military. We are anticipating about $5 billion a year for our security sector.
 
Is the QCG finished?
 
No, I don't think so. If we agree to hold it will have only one purpose — to ask all three countries particularly Pakistan what they will do against the Taliban.

Originally published on February 4, 2016,  Hindustan Times

 

Pakistan key to Afghanistan peace process: CEO Abdullah Abdullah

 

As Afghanistan pushes ahead with the slow, tortuous process of trying to engage with the Taliban, CEO Abdullah Abdullah believes Pakistan holds the key to a successful outcome.

After all, Taliban leaders and some groups are based in Pakistan as the fighting continues and Afghanistan tries to convince all stakeholders that terrorism and radicalisation will not serve the interests of all countries in the region, he said.

“Pakistan is the country which can do the most in terms of influencing the Taliban’s attitude, I think Pakistan has the most influence,” Abdullah said during an interaction with a group of journalists.

“Though there is no country that can control the attitude of every single Taliban fighter, in the overall picture, Pakistan is the country which has most influence.”

Days ahead of the next meeting in Islamabad of the quadrilateral process involving Afghan, Chinese, Pakistan and US officials, Abdullah said the “main obstacle” to the nascent peace process is that the Taliban have given no indication that they will renounce violence, sever links with terror groups and become part of the political set-up.

Besides, the Taliban were “more divided than ever” following the revelation last year that their supreme leader Mullah Omar had died in 2013. The process had been further complicated by the emergence of the Daesh or Islamic State and its rivalry with the Taliban, the 55-year-old Abdullah said.

  

“We are keen to pursue the peace process,” he said. But the complexities were evident because the Taliban launched a war for two years in the name of Mullah Omar and Taliban representatives made contacts with the government in his name even though the supreme leader had been dead during this period, Abdullah pointed out.

After the news of Mullah Omar’s death became public, there had been no further contacts with the Taliban and the quadrilateral process is now working on a roadmap to take things forward.

Abdullah was quick to dismiss any suggestion that India was in the dark about the peace process simply because it had no formal role in it. He said there were other forums, such as the 6+1 group on Afghanistan, that help Kabul keep New Delhi “appraised of all developments”.

Describing India as a strategic partner, he said: “India is a trusted friend who has stayed together with us and contributed to the well-being of millions of Afghans.”

He added: “India’s position is that the process must be Afghan-led and Afghan-owned and India is fully in the picture...I don’t think there is a desire to keep any country out (of the process).

Abdullah praised India’s role in development and infrastructure projects, such as the construction of hospitals, the Salma Dam, the new parliament building and the push to connect Afghanistan with Iran’s Chahbahar port, and made a special note of New Delhi’s recent decision to provide four Mi-35 gunship helicopters.

Abdullah refused to comment on reports of a link between the near-simultaneous attacks on the Pathankot airbase and the Indian consulate at Mazar-e-Sharif and Pakistan’s accusation that Pakistani Taliban fighters operate from Afghan soil but said: “We know what’s happening, we have suffered for years because of the activities of groups which we know where they are based.

“The issue is that there are enough lessons for all of us. There is one big lesson that these terrorist groups, regardless of who created them, who helped or supported them, (they) will turn against the states.”

Originally published on February 4, 2016,  The Hindu

India in the loop on Taliban talks: Abdullah

 
 
Afghanistan Chief Executive Officer Abdullah Abdullah gestures during an interview with “The Hindu” in New Delhi on Thursday. Photo: R.V. Moorthy
Abdullah doesn’t rule out possibility of link between Pathankot and attack on Indian mission.

India has been kept in the loop on “each and every development” in the Taliban reconciliation process, Afghanistan chief executive Abdullah Abdullah said in New Delhi on Thursday, ahead of the next round of talks in Islamabad on February 6, 2016.

In his first interview on the Pathankot attacks that occurred at the same time as the attack on the Indian mission in Mazar-e-Sharif in early January, Dr. Abdullah said he could not rule out both attacks being launched by the Jaish-e-Mohammad, but said it was “too early to make a judgement” on any link between them or to the transfer of Mi-35 helicopters by India to Afghanistan just a week prior to the attacks.

Dr. Abdullah said that the visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Kabul on Christmas had “re-energised” the strategic partnership agreement (SPA) between India and Afghanistan, and the SPA commission headed by the Foreign Ministers, that hasn’t met since 2012, would meet soon to take ties forward.

In particular he said the transfer of four Mi-35 helicopters to Afghanistan had “boosted the morale and combat operations”. Significantly, Dr. Abdullah wouldn’t rule out the possibility of links between the Pathankot attack on January 2, 2016, and the assault on the Indian mission in Mazar-e-Sharif on January 3, 2016 as well as whether Pakistan-based group Jaish-e-Mohammad had carried them out in retaliation for the Indian helicopters being sent to Afghanistan. The helicopters marked the first such lethal military hardware transfer by India, and they have already been put into combat fighting terrorist groups in Helmand Province, officials said.

When asked about the possibility of any link in the two attacks, given the evidence, Dr. Abdullah said he couldn’t give a comment, but wasn’t ruling it out. “Yes, all of this evidence is available, but I cannot make that judgement, because there are two levels to this. (At one level) these terrorist groups and their aims and goals are known. But at the other, details of the attacks and any linkages must be discussed by the countries directly not in the media.”

On the subject of the Taliban talks, Dr. Abdullah said that would be “no pre-conditions for talks with the Taliban” as and when they would be resumed, holding that the only “red-lines” announced by former President Hamid Karzai, which insisted on the Taliban giving up violence and accepting the constitution were meant to be outcomes of the talks, and not pre-conditions.

“If the outcome anyway violates our constitution that is an absolute redline. If the groups want to continue links with terrorists but join the political mainstream the same time, that is an absolute red line too. Or if they want deny the rights for men and women, then that wont be allowed. But there will be no pre-conditions for talks with the Taliban,” Dr. Abdullah told The Hindu.

On the widely held perception that India has opposed talks with the Taliban, and that it was blind-sided by President Ashraf Ghani’s announcement of an intelligence partnership with the ISI, Dr. Abdullah said this was a misconception of the media.

“That’s how you see it from the outside. Within, India is kept in the loop throughout, because India has a stake in the stabilisation of the country and India has helped with stabilising Afghanistan,” he told The Hindu.

During his visit to Delhi, where Dr. Abdullah met Mr. Modi, NSA Ajit Doval and External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, he discussed the upcoming meeting of the “Quadrilateral Cooperation Group” (QCG), made up of U.S., China, Pakistan and Afghanistan that are facilitating the talks with the Taliban. The meeting on Saturday is expected to lead to a resumption of the direct talks with Taliban leaders that were called off when it emerged that former leader Mullah Omar had been dead for several months, if not more.

In the interview to The Hindu, Dr. Abdullah accepted that the last round of talks with the Taliban, held in July 2015, that were abruptly called off after it emerged that Taliban chief Mullah Omar had been dead for several months were a sham, but that it was necessary to keep engaging Pakistan. “Absolutely it was (a sham)”, Dr. Abdullah said adding “but we have a problem at hand, and it doesn’t matter if we are disappointed or hopeful, we have to make the right efforts (towards reconciliation with the Taliban”.

Earlier, in a media interaction Dr. Abdullah had explained that there had been no attempt to keep India out of the QCG talks, but the countries in the Quadrilateral either “had influence over the Taliban, or influence over the situation in Afghanistan.”

While the U.S. has stayed a complete pullout from Afghanistan until the security situation improves, Pakistan for its “heavy influence over the Taliban”, and China “for its influence over Pakistan” were integral to the process, Dr. Abdullah said.

 

Originally published on November 20, 2015,   NDTV

India to Deliver Helicopter Gunships to Afghanistan: Sources

 
India to Deliver Helicopter Gunships to Afghanistan: Sources
 
 
Indian Air Force attack helicopter gunships -- delivered to Kabul -- will soon be flying in the skies of Afghanistan targeting the Taliban.

Four Russian-made Mi-25 attack helicopters, with the Indian Air Force, will be delivered within the next two months, sources tell NDTV.

After meetings Indian officials in Delhi, Afghan Deputy Foreign Minister Hekmat Khalil Karzai told NDTV a deal with India is crucial, since 2015 by far, has been the most "violent year".

"We have had the most casualties. We see daily violence in about 20 provinces, so, it is important to have that covered," he said.

 
This is a marked shift in policy followed from the UPA government's tenure -- of not providing Kabul any lethal weapons or equipment. India has been training around 1,000 Afghan army and other security officers and men a year.

In April, New Delhi supplied military transport vehicles and three small unarmed Cheetal helicopters.

Referring to the coalition drawdown and the vacuum created with the need for helicopter gunships, the Afghan minister said, ""Two and a half years ago, we had about 150,000 coalition forces. To support them, we had over 200,000 military contractors."

But the major counter-terrorist operations, supported by the world's leading militaries, came to rest on Afghan shoulders since the beginning of 2015.

"We now have to develop our own capabilities. This is why we are reaching out to our friends and allies," the minister said.

President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani has been under pressure for his policy of engaging more with Islamabad rather than Delhi, on security issues, sources told NDTV. With Taliban attacks at an all-time high, he is seen as needing to mend fences with New Delhi.

In an interview to NDTV in April, President Ghani had acknowledged, "The past is past. We are engaged in a comprehensive understanding of our mutual interests and we will act and build on those mutual interests".

Asked if more lethal weaponry has been sought, Minister Hekmat Karzai said, "We have been assured that India is going to look at our requests, and proceed accordingly."

But, as of now, sources say -- apart from the attack helicopters -- those requests will not necessarily lead to a further supply of military equipment that can be used in the battle against the Taliban.

 

Contacts

Embassy of I.R. of Afghanistan
New Delhi

5/50F, Shantipath
Chanakyapuri
New Delhi-110021
Phone: +91-11-2410 0412
Fax: +91-11-2687 5439
 delhimfa.af

Consulate General of I.R. of Afghanistan
Mumbai

115, Walkeshwar Rd, Walkeshwar,
Malabar Hill, Mumbai,
Maharashtra 400006
Phone: +91-22-2363 3777
Fax: +91-22 2363 5437