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Why US pullout from Afghanistan has Indian security forces worried about Kashmir

There are concerns that the multiple factions within the Taliban could divert their militants towards Kashmir.

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Jammu/New Delhi: The ongoing dramatic pull-out of the US and the NATO forces from war-ravaged Afghanistan and the increasing power push by the Taliban has India’s defence and security establishment worried.

This is because the worst is being feared, especially in the context of the Kashmir situation.

The worry is that the pull-out by the western forces and consolidation of power by the Taliban would eventually result in increased terror violence in Kashmir, sources in the defence and security establishment told ThePrint.

The security forces also fear that history may get repeated. When the then USSR pulled out from Afghanistan in 1988-89, Kashmir witnessed a deluge of battle hardened ‘mujahideens’, from not just Pakistan and Afghanistan, but also other countries, making their way into the Indian state, a source said.

Sources also said that the prominent terror group Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) has its cadres fighting along with the Taliban and the dreaded Haqqani network in Afghanistan.

The JeM — which is also active in Kashmir and has carried out several major attacks, including the Pulwama suicide attack on a CRPF convoy — would definitely want to escalate their operations, sources said.

Keeping the overall internal and regional security in mind, India has already established communication with the Taliban, the sources added.

However, sources said, the worry is that there are multiple factions within the Taliban itself who could divert their militants towards Kashmir.

“Taliban itself is fragmented. Plus there are mercenaries too who were fighting the Western forces. These people fight for money and Pakistan could very well divert them towards Kashmir,” another source closely monitoring the evolving situation in Afghanistan said.

Also read: 2 drones, 2 kinds of IEDs, separate strikes — How Jammu air force station attack was planned

‘Crucial year ahead’

Sources said the next one year will be crucial for Kashmir as it could set the stage for the future.

“The next one year will be crucial for us. The drawdown in Afghanistan and the surge of the Taliban will certainly have ripple effects in the region. The worst fear is that many of the paid fighters who were fighting American forces in Afghanistan will be diverted to Kashmir,” a source in the security establishment said.

Another source in the defence establishment agreed with the possibility and said it is being taken into consideration.

Sources said that the arrival of foreign fighters in Kashmir in the late 1980s had brought in a new level of violence.

“The Kashmiri recruits into the terror network are not trained like earlier. However, anyone who has fought in Afghanistan, is battle-hardened,” a source said.

Incidentally, one of the Pulwama bombing masterminds was an Afghan war veteran. A month before the attack, based on inputs gathered by security agencies, ThePrint had reported that an Afghan war veteran, an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) expert, had arrived in Pulwama.

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‘Won’t be as easy as 1980s’

Sources also noted that the overall geopolitics has changed, which means that things will not be as easy for Pakistan to divert fighters to India as it was in 1989.

A source explained that there are multiple international systems in place now than ever before to jointly tackle terrorism.

“There is the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) and other global agencies which were not there then. In the late 1980s and the 1990s, terrorism was not a big issue and was largely seen through the prism of India and Pakistan rivalry. In today it will be much difficult for Pakistan to do what it did then,” another source said.

The source was of the opinion that with increasing media coverage and monitoring systems besides global powers like the US, Russia and China equally affected by any troubling developments in Afghanistan, the world will ensure that the situation never goes out of hand.

Sources also said that factions within the Taliban also make it difficult for Islamabad to operate because some are fighting the Pakistani Army as well.

“Nobody can say who controls the Taliban, which is not one cohesive unit. It has multiple factions, chiefs and interests. So Pakistan may have a relationship with one faction, it might end up fighting the other one. Moreover, Taliban also wants global approval and will not want to be seen as a terror hub,” one of the sources cited above said.

(Edited by Neha Mahajan)

Also read: At UNSC, India exempted Taliban leaders from travel ban to stay relevant in Afghan crisis


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