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The Killid Group

Kabul: India and Pakistan's Battlefield

Thursday, 11 March 2010 12:42

Kabul: India and Pakistan's Battlefield

Killid Commentary

On Friday morning, Feb 26, all of Kabul was greeted by violence, death and mayhem.

It started with a massive suicide bombing near City Center and the sound of explosions, gun-shots and rocket propelled grenades hitting concrete and glass soon filled the entire neighborhood.

A gun-battle ensued, as police and army forces engaged insurgents on the very streets of the city. In all, 17 people were killed and 38 more were injured. The damage to businesses and homes will likely total into the hundreds-of-thousands of dollars, if not more.

Because the attack fell early in the morning on a national holiday--the Prophet Mohammad's (PBUH) birthday--casualties were less than they would have been had the bombings been carried out at almost any other time.

The insurgent's target was clear: Indian nationals and other foreigners.

One of their main targets of attack was a guest-house used by Indian doctors who had just started working at Indira Ghandi Hospital the week before. After the smoke cleared and the fighting ceased, six Indians were dead and ten wounded, the most of any type of foreign national. Four of the wounded are in critical condition, according to Indian media.

Though the Taliban has claimed responsibility for the attacks, many Afghans suspect that Pakistan may be behind them.

The fact that Indians were targeted just one day after failed talks between Pakistan and India's foreign ministers, says that these attacks may have been fueled by a broader regional conflict. And it wouldn't be the first time that ISI, Pakistan's intelligence agency, has been suspected of involvement in an attack on the Afghan capital.

Last fall, when an explosion rocked the Indian embassy in Kabul, Afghan police and security officials suspected that ISI may have had a hand in the operation, the second time that the Indian embassy was attacked in as many years.

Pakistan and India have long been at odds. Once part of the same nation, bloody partition left an indelible mark on both of these countries. Since that time, Pakistan have engaged in a nuclear arms race and fought shooting battles over the disputed border in Kashmir. Now it seems that they have taken their conflict to our country.

India has recently stepped up its commitment to Afghanistan, by offering to train and equip the Afghan National Army and border police. Among nation's that do not have active military fighting in Afghanistan, India is already one of the largest donors here, with $1.1 billion in ongoing development projects underway.

Pakistan, of course, also has vital interests in Afghanistan. They dispute the Durand Line border shared by the two nations and have long wanted an Islamabad-friendly government in Kabul. India's involvement in Afghanistan has long been viewed as meddling by the Pakistani government.

Unfortunately for Afghans, this historic dispute now appears to be playing out in the streets of our cities and valleys of our countryside.

The Afghan security forces were severely tested on the day of the attacks, with many saying that these men came up short.

The attacks happened just a few blocks from the offices of The Ministry of Interior and National Directorate of Security and the fact that such a violent and dramatic display could be carried off by insurgents so close the heart of Afghanistan's security apparatus is troubling.

The Afghan media and political analysts castigated the security forces response as inadequate and as a result, the head of Kabul's Criminal Investigations Department resigned his post. He was followed shortly by the Kabul Chief of Police and the director of Kabul's War and Crime Division.

The resignations must be approved by the Minister of Interior, so it is yet unclear whether these men will remain in their posts. But many welcome the changing of the guard and hope that new blood will reinvigorate these moribund agencies.

On the other hand, who will replace these men? Could anyone possibly do better, given the tremendous security challenges that the capital deal with in the face of a massive insurgent threat?

Either way, the effect of these attacks on businesses is sure to be dire.

The City Center shopping plaza was among the most modern and well-stocked in the city. It is now a ruin of glass and twisted metal. This is the second attack on a Kabul commercial center in as many months. In January the Gul Bahar Center--Kabul's other modern shopping facility--was the target of a combined suicide bombing, rocket attack and gun-battle.

Attracting investment to a capital city that is constantly under threat of attack is a steep proposition indeed.

The Afghan government is in no position to solve the long-running disputes between India and Pakistan. Afghanistan is also in no position to turn down assistance from India, a nation which has had historical ties to this one since the days when both were occupied by the British. And every Afghan government for the last thirty years has proven that they are singularly incapable of keep the ISI from getting involved in Afghan affairs, no matter the detriment visited upon Afghans themselves.

It is a tragically difficult situation and Afghan citizens are stuck in the middle.


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