The Indian assessment of flaws in the international security mission in Afghanistan is manifold. At one level, the problem relates to the lack of complete congruity between NATO, the US Central Command and even the Special Operations (SpecOps) establishment. “The relationship between them is not seamless,” says one Indian brasshat, adding, “Part of that has to do with the fact that European members of NATO present in Afghanistan might have political objectives that do not coincide with those of CentCom. SpecOps is an establishment that in any case has objectives of its own.”
At another level, there is a problem of perception. The US is being perceived as hurrying to create the minimum required circumstances for its departure from the region. “This is possibly something in which Al Qaeda and the Taliban have succeeded. They have created a dent in the will of the US-led command there,” he says.
The objectives of the US-led forces in Afghanistan are being seen as misplaced. “It’s about expression of intent. The US’ expression of intent results in a situation where its objective is to conduct offensives on its opposition there. This often leads to considerable collateral damage. Your objective there should not be to fight an offensive against your opposition. The purpose should be the protection of the population. Our approach in Jammu and Kashmir was based on providing protection to the population there. This has clearly been lacking, not just in Afghanistan but also in the Pakistan Army’s battle with the Taliban in the North West Frontier Province (NWFP). At the end of the day, if the population has not benefited from your protection, you will find it difficult to secure their support. And that is what is going to happen in NWFP,” warns the officer.
India however does approve of the general assault on Taliban and Al Qaeda on both sides of the Durand Line. “But there’s still much to be done to make the operations effective,” says the officer. The ascension of General Stanley McChrystal to command in Afghanistan is also being seen as a step in the right direction. “It’s likely he’ll do things differently – that his emphasis will be different. Especially with SpecOps, new methods for operating may have a huge impact, if they’re surgical and based on HardInt,” he says, going on to warn again, “But this will yield results only if one is able to take the risk of sustaining higher casualties.”
In an ideal world? “Again, from 30,000 feet, the ideal way to go about it is perceived to be the creation and protection of strategic assets which can revive the economy as well as population centers,” he reflects, advocating a policy of clear, hold and build, something that has been seen to be attempted in Afghanistan with varied success.