New Delhi: The Taliban are believed to have undertaken a massive search operation at the Indian Embassy in Kabul as well as the country’s consulates in other parts of Afghanistan, all of which were left vacant by the government as it rushed its staff out of the war-torn country, ThePrint has learnt.
The Taliban have been carrying out “door-to-door searches” of several embassies, top sources told ThePrint.
The missions were evacuated in light of the perceived threat from several terrorist organisations that are believed to have reared their heads again in Afghanistan with the resurgence of the Taliban.
On Wednesday and Thursday, Taliban insurgents searched Indian consulates in Kandahar and Mazar-e-Sharif, sources said, adding that this can pose a grave security threat. The Taliban, it is learnt, have also searched the Indian consulate in Herat, which was shut down last year.
Reopening the consulates in the next few months will be “extremely risky”, the sources added, even as they noted that the government is chalking out its future strategy with the Taliban in power there.
Sources said the government is all the more concerned with these searches because this might reveal the identity of some of India’s “assets” in the country who were engaged with the National Directorate of Security — Afghanistan’s intelligence agency — and compromise their location.
Many Afghan citizens have also been complaining about the fact that with the “sudden exit” of the Indian Embassy staff from Kabul, their passports are now stuck on the premises and they are not sure how to get them.
When the Indian Embassy and its staff, including Ambassador Rudrendra Tandon, were getting evacuated Monday night, it was feared that most the valuable moveable properties — such as the bulletproof Land Cruisers, arms and ammunitions, and also the fuel that the embassy had stored inside — would be taken over by the Taliban, which is now in control of the premises.
The Taliban, however, are believed to have given “assurances” that they will guard the property till the time operations are resumed.
India, sources said, is planning another major evacuation flight on board the IAF’s C-17 Globemaster that will target about 300 passengers, including Afghan nationals. Around 350 Indians are currently believed to be stranded in Afghanistan, which fell to the Taliban Sunday.
‘Afghanistan should not be a sanctuary for terrorists again’
The Taliban takeover in Afghanistan has left the Narendra Modi government worried about the potential implications for regional security, and the country’s possible emergence as a sanctuary for terrorists. The terrorist organisation al Qaeda, for one, has issued a statement hailing “Taliban’s victory” in Afghanistan.
Some sources said the government is now having discussions with the Joe Biden administration to gather intelligence inputs on the presence of al Qaeda in Afghanistan since Washington had said they were able to root them out of the country.
External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar said at the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) Thursday that events unfolding in Afghanistan have “naturally enhanced global concerns about their implications for both regional and international security”.
“The heightened activities of the proscribed Haqqani Network justify this growing anxiety. Whether it is in Afghanistan or against India, groups like Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed continue to operate with both impunity and encouragement. It is, therefore, vital that this council does not take a selective, tactical or complacent view of the problems we face. We must never countenance sanctuaries for terrorists or overlook their raising of resources,” he said.
India planning another evacuation flight
Talking about the next evacuation flight, sources said the C-17 remains on standby as the government is still collating data on who all will be taking that flight.
The ‘Special Afghanistan Cell’ that the Ministry of External Affairs set up earlier this week has been receiving hundreds and thousands of calls from people looking to escape the country, including Indians.
While India is still trying to restore commercial flights from Kabul, the chances of that happening look bleak, sources said.
Air India will not be able to fly unless ground staff at the Hamid Karzai International Airport — ejected by the Taliban Monday — are brought back.
So, New Delhi has no option but to rely on the military aircraft, which will only take off from the technical area and not from the regular airport. However, passengers still face a tough task reaching the airport as the Taliban have taken over the entire premises and firing has been going on regularly.
Sources said the C-17 will only be able to carry about 300 passengers. Once all logistical issues, including the turnaround time, is finalised with the US forces operating the technical area, the flight will land in Afghanistan.
(Edited by Sunanda Ranjan)