India-Afghanistan: Indian Minister of External Affairs Slaman Khurshid said on 15 February that India will provide helicopters to Afghanistan.
“We are giving them helicopters and we will be supplying them very soon,” Khurshid told reporters accompanying him on a day-long visit to the Afghan city of Kandahar, where he inaugurated an agricultural university built with Indian aid. “We also have been giving them some logistical support and we hopefully will be able to upgrade and refurbish their transport aircraft.”
Khurshid did not specify the number or type of helicopters to be provided to Afghanistan. Nor did he elaborate on transport aircraft contracts.
Comment: In combat operations since the Soviet intervention in 1979, attack helicopters have been critical to the survival of both Soviet and US/NATO forces in Afghanistan. In other words, limited pacification of one of the most primitive places on earth has required extensive use of one of the most sophisticated and complex weapons systems ever developed in support of ground forces.
NightWatch has contended for more than a dozen years that without fixed wing and helicopter support, the US and NATO combat force presence in Afghanistan always has been unsustainable.
Indian forces have ten kinds of helicopters, some of which Indian enterprises manufacture. Most of these, however, do not appear to be available for provision to Afghanistan.
India has reached an agreement with the US to purchase Apache attack helicopters that will replace its 20 Mi-35 Soviet-built attack helicopters. These appear to be the most likely candidates for early transfer to Afghanistan because they will become available soon and a core of Afghan pilots and technicians knows how to fly and maintain MI-35s. They are highly effective weapons systems, if well supported and maintained. The Indians will help.
The larger importance of the Indian announcement is that the government in New Delhi is not willing to surrender Afghanistan to the Taliban or to Pakistani intelligence without a fight. It appears committed to support an anti-Taliban government in Kabul and to the policy of supporting a two-front war threat to Pakistan.
There is symmetry in the Indian and Pakistani proxy fights. Pakistan supports the Kashmiri militants who tie down hundreds of thousands of Indian security forces. Indian support for the government in Kabul will force Pakistan to tie down significant resources to support the Pashtun Taliban whom Pakistani intelligence has protected in Quetta and Karachi for 13 years.
South Asia returns to an updated version of its old normality, but life for Afghans will have changed forever. The most immediate impact of US and NATO military intervention and person-to-person relations is a massive infusion of modernization at the most basic levels of daily living. The introduction of modern weapons, cell phones, digital televisions, satellite phones, computers, the internet and exposure to more modern ways of living, hygiene and learning will change Afghan expectations forever. Tribal politics will be a lagging indicator of progress, however.
When the Taliban ruled in Kabul, they entered a strategic agreement by which Afghanistan would afford Pakistan access to Afghan airbases and installations in the event of a war with India. For the first time in its history, Pakistan would have strategic depth in a fight with India.
The US overthrow of the Taliban abrogated that agreement and disrupted a decade of Pakistani intelligence investment in the Taliban. India is taking action to ensure that Afghanistan will not again make such an agreement with Pakistan.
ROBERT STEELE: Within 30 days of arriving in Afghanistan, which is to say, by 20 September 2013, I was predicting that the Bi-Lateral Security Agreement (BSA) would not be signed. There were three “signals” I put together than no one else did — nor was anyone willing to entertain my foresight and tell General Dunford he needed to plan for no BSA. The MISTF-A J-2 still owes me an iced coffee.
01 Karzai was rightfully furious with continued US kicking down Afghan doors with impunity, and air strikes that killed innocent Afghans. My very first signal was learning that Karzai had forbidden the Afghan military to call on NATO for air support. Combined with the obivous need to engage the Taliban toward a post 2014 accommodation, in my mind this put the USA on the back burner in terms of Karzai’s rolling over for what everyone assumed was a done deal. The visits of Kerry and Rice to Afghanistan latter were astonishingly uninformed and a sad spectacle.
02 2014 is not 1996. In 1988 the USA at the height of its imperial idiocy refused Charlie Wilson’s tearful pleas to continue assistance to Afghanistan in the aftermath of the Soviet withdrawal and let the country descend into madness. By 1996 the Afghan people were fed up with war lords and the Taliban took on the role previously played by colonial powers bringing order to savages. In other words, the irresponsibility of the USA and the inattentiveness of China, India, Iran, Russia, and Turkey, among others, left the Taliban as the best option. In 2014 Karzai and all other external stakeholders are at the end of a four year or longer planning period during which Afghanistan has cut treaties with, at a minimum, China, India, Iran, Qatar, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and the United Arab Republic. The Iranian port of Chabahar has displaced the corrupt Pakistani port of Gwadar (built by the Chinese). Trade via Iran with India is exploding and at the same time the Chinese have told the Pakistanis they will not support Pakistani adventurism against India, and particularly in Kashmir, which is about water. China has invested in both mineral explitation and the reconstruction of the Silk Road. Too many do not realize that the Silk Road connects China to Turkey and Turkey to Iran and Afghanistan. Russia is pursuing a modest program of squelching US idiocy that includes fostering discontent in the Stans, something neither China nor Russia appreciation. In Central Asia there is an absolute symbiosis of these two powers against further US destabilization of the region. Finally, Arab money is starting to move at the same time that Saudi Arabia is investing heavily in an out of area military. In brief, if ISAF leaves, other than the business elite and the Afghan military elite, no one cares. The non-ISAF safety net plus Turkey playing both sides is up and running.
03 Taliban and Karzai agree that Afghanistan is wealthy and the Treaty of Gandamark is not to be repeated. I first learned of this Treaty in an online Taliban post. The Treaty of Gandamark was signed after various British imperial moves that included the capture of Afghan terroritory now contested (the Durand Line), and it turned Afghanistan into a British vassall state. That is how Karzai, the Taliban, the Pashtun, and a considerable number of others see the BSA. Demanding nine air bases and refusing to stop drone kills, air strikes, and kicking down the doors — combined with the wealth that Afghan now understands is its for the taking in the form of minerals and modernized agriculture including saffron — killed the BSA and also made the BSA an easy offering to the Taliban. In my view, the deal has been cut and not signing the BSA will assure Taliban participation in the government this year, beginning with a slight amendment to the Constitution, and the Taliban receiving control of key provinces and ministries. Karzai spent 2012-2013 finalizing treaties intended to make ISAF generally and the USA specifically “redundant,” and evidently no one in the US Department of State or the US intelligence community noticed this or came to the correct conclusions.
There are other wild cards in Afghanistan. India was initiatilly reluctant to train and equip the Afghan military, but as this helicopter deal shows — and other Indian training initiatives that have been quietly taking place in India — India is the preferred provider to Afghanistan, not Pakistan. Turkey is coming in to train the police as they have also in Pakistan. Others are busy wining and dining key officials from the local, provincial, and national levels . In short, everyone EXCEPT the USA is being an adult and managing a Whole of Government campaign.
There was a time when the USA would have been welcome to stay in Afghanistan as a military advisory group and commercial partner. That day may have passed. General Dunford, lacking adequate intelligence from any source including DIA and his own single analyst that “got it,” has been tossing and turning without effect for the past six months. And so it ends. Trillions of dollars thrown at the wrong problem in the wrong way for lack of intelligence with integrity all along the way. St.