26 June 2001: India and
Iran will "facilitate" US and Russian plans for "limited
military action" against the Taliban if the contemplated tough
new economic sanctions don't bend Afghanistan's fundamentalist
The Taliban controls 90 per cent of Afghanistan and is
advancing northward along the Salang highway and preparing for
a rear attack on the opposition Northern Alliance from
Tajikistan-Afghanistan border positions.
Indian foreign secretary Chokila Iyer attended a crucial
session of the second Indo-Russian joint working group on
Afghanistan in Moscow amidst increase of Taliban's military
activity near the Tajikistan border. And, Russia's Federal
Security Bureau (the former KGB) chief Nicolai Patroshev is
visiting Teheran this week in connection with Taliban's
Indian officials say that India and Iran will only play the
role of "facilitator" while the US and Russia will combat the
Taliban from the front with the help of two Central Asian
countries, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, to push Taliban lines
back to the 1998 position 50 km away from Mazar-e-Sharief city
in northern Afghanistan.
Military action will be the last option though it now seems
scarcely avoidable with the UN banned from Taliban-controlled
areas. The UN which adopted various means in the last four
years to resolve the Afghan problem is now being suspected by
the Taliban and refused entry into Taliban areas of the
war-ravaged nation through a decree issued by Taliban chief
Mullah Mohammad Omar last month.
Diplomats say that the anti-Taliban move followed a meeting
between US Secretary of State Collin Powel and Russian Foreign
Minister Igor Ivanov and later between Powell and Indian
foreign minister Jaswant Singh in Washington. Russia, Iran and
India have also held a series of discussions and more
diplomatic activity is expected.
The Northern Alliance led by ousted Afghan president
Burhanuddin Rabbani and his military commander Ahmed Shah
Masood have mustered Western support during a May 2001 visit
to Dusseldorf, Germany.
The Taliban is using high-intensity rockets and Soviet-made
tanks to attack Northern Alliance fighters in the Hindukush
range with alleged Pakistani aid. But Northern Alliance
fighters have acquired anti-tank missiles from a third country
that was used in the fight near Bagram Air Base in early June.
The Taliban lost 20 fighters and fled under intense attack.
Officials say that the Northern Alliance requires a "clean
up" operation to reduce Taliban's war-fighting machinery to
launch an attack against the Taliban advance to the
Tajik-Afghan border. This "clean up" action is being planned
by the US and Russia since the Taliban shows no "sign of
Tajikistan and Uzbekistan will lead the ground attack with
a strong military back up of the US and Russia. Vital Taliban
installations and military assets will be targeted. India and
Iran will provide logistic support. Russian President Vladimir
Putin has already hinted of military action against the
Taliban to CIS nation heads during a meeting in Moscow in
India and Iran have been assisting the Northern Alliance
and the Afghan people under their humanitarian programme since
Taliban's ouster of the Rabbani government in 1996. The US
needs Russian assistance because of Soviet knowledge of the
Afghan terrain. The former Soviet Union intervened in
Afghanistan in 1979 and withdrew in 1989.
Masood's strategic stronghold of Panjsher valley has been
threatened by the advancing Taliban militia for the last three
months. The Northern Alliance has stepped up its attack on
Taliban troops who have brought the valley within artillery
Military planners say that if Taliban were not given a blow
now it would slowly make inroads into the Panjsher valley. The
fall of Panjsher will enable Taliban to control the remaining
10 per cent of Afghanistan in possession of the Northern
Russia says it has evidence that the Taliban aims to create
"liberated zones" all across Central Asia and Russia and links
its Chechnya problem to the rise of Taliban fundamentalism.
The US is directly hit by the anti-US thrust of Islamic groups
who use Afghanistan as their base for terrorism and is
demanding extradition of Osama Bin Laden to face trial in the
embassy bombing case.
Such Central Asian countries as Uzbekistan, Tajikistan,
Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan are threatened by the Taliban that
is aiming to control their vast oil, gas and other resources
by bringing Islamic fundamentalists into power. Now all the
CIS nations are seeking assistance of Russia's Federal Border
Guard Service to overcome the Taliban threat.
General Konstantin Trotsky, director of the border force,
said in a newspaper interview, "We are watching the opposition
of the Northern Alliance and the Taliban in Afghanistan very
For its part, Shia Iran is reluctant to tolerate a Sunni
militia regime on its border that gives Pakistan, a Sunni
country and a sponsor of the Taliban, a "strategic sway" on
considerable parts of the Iranian border. Iran is also
affected by a Taliban-sponsored movement in Ispahan province
where Sunnis have a sizable population.
Iran is also worried over the unending war effort of the
Taliban to get supremacy in Afghanistan that is harming Iran's
economic interests. India, Iran and Russia, for example, are
working on a broad plan to supply oil and gas to south Asia
and southeast Asian nations through India but instability in
Afghanistan is posing a great threat to this effort.
Similarly, India is apprehensive about the increasing
infiltration of Afghan-trained foreign mercenaries into
Kashmir. Security agencies have reported that as many as
15,000 hardcore militants have received training in such
places in Afghanistan as Khost, Jalalabad, Kabul and Kandahar
since 1995. There are 55 terrorist training camps located in
Afghanistan that are funded and aided by Islamic
fundamentalists to carry out attacks against non-Islamic
The UN had sent a 12-member delegation to India in the
first week of May to assess the feasibility of tough economic
sanctions against Taliban. The same delegation met General
Pervez Musharraf to convince him about the importance of
Pakistani cooperation. The UN believes that the sanctions can
be only as tough as Pakistan desires.
India's official position is for a "peaceful and lasting
solution" to the Afghan problem. But it strongly advocates
strict economic sanctions against Taliban and is also not
averse to a "limited military action" to weaken it.
India plans to raise the Afghanistan issue in the
forthcoming G-8 summit in Geneva in mid-July.