Taliban-ISI’s cross matrix a threat to India post US pull-out

While the Taliban do not have any extrinsic expressions about India, intrinsically Pakistan tries to promote anti-India elements within the Taliban.

Published: 18th July 2021 05:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 16th July 2021 03:11 PM   |  A+A-

For representational purpose.

The US has started withdrawal of its Army from Afghanistan and at the same time, the Taliban have begun their lightning offensive activities across the surrounding and neighbouring regions. This changing dynamics is forcing the Taliban to draw their attention towards India through Pakistan’s ISI.

While the Taliban do not have any extrinsic expressions about India, intrinsically Pakistan tries to promote anti-India elements within the Taliban. Many Taliban members in person express their hatred of Pakistan and show their frustration because they have to depend on Pakistan for their war effort. But certain elements within the Taliban such as the Haqqani Network are very closely linked with the ISI and are very anti-India. The Haqqani Network is the segment of the Taliban that Pakistan has used time after time to attack Indian Embassy in Afghanistan. 

From many years undercover, the risk of Pakistan using the Haqqani Network to recruit Afghans and sending them to India to conduct terrorist activities is rising. At the moment a private company is doing visa processing for the Indian Embassy in Afghanistan. But the company does not have the political and social resources to conduct thorough background checks on Afghans who apply for Indian visas. It is very important for the Indian Embassy to partner up with a more politically prominent company or to create an effective ecosystem to do visa processing in order to conduct more thorough background checks on Afghans travelling to India. This will help prevent infiltration of ISI into India through Afghanistan.

ISI has always been a different case study. At the moment they are very active in targeting pro-India assets in Afghanistan, which include the leadership of Baloch separatists based in Kabul. There have been quite a few assassinations of them in the last year. Additionally, once the issues between the Taliban, the US and the Afghan government come to their final outcomes, it is likely that the ISI will create pressure on the Taliban to ask for concessions such as reducing India’s footprint in Afghanistan.

That is something India needs to take into serious consideration. Pakistan always considers India’s presence in Afghanistan a threat to its own security and for that many operations were attempted. This is a position it takes to justify its ambition to exercise control over Afghanistan’s foreign policy and counter India’s influence there. Its foreign minister has questioned very recently India’s unacceptably large presence in Afghanistan despite not being its neighbour and has accused India of terrorism in Pakistan conducted from Afghan soil. India has the experience of Pakistan training jihadis in Afghanistan for terrorism in Kashmir, besides of course the IC 814 incident when the Taliban were in power in the country.

The ongoing projects in Afghanistan are facing more threat from political uncertainty than conflict itself. I doubt that there is a specific threat to projects in Afghanistan at the moment because the Taliban tax ongoing projects and earn money from them. The only exception is projects such as transmission lines being built by Indian companies. These projects might be threatened by Pakistan through the Taliban. At the moment these companies are operating with a risky strategy as they do not have strong political partners who could help convince local Afghans to protect their projects.

These companies should partner up with prominent political entities in Afghanistan to protect them in this turbulent year. But there is a strong chance that Pakistan may be busy in placing non-state terrorist assets in India at the moment, in advance of any attack by India. In this case if India attacks Pakistani assets in Kashmir (which Pakistan fears might be on agenda) then Pakistan will trigger these non-state terrorist assets placed in India to conduct multiple attacks on Indian soil. This is why it is key that India takes its visa processing activities in Afghanistan carefully.

However, to break the grip of Pakistan on extremist non-state actors, it is essential for India to support anti-state groups within Pakistan from Afghanistan’s soil. India should dedicate resources in Afghanistan to support Baloch separatists and the Pashtun Tahafuz Movement who are both against the state of Pakistan. Both these groups have the potential to become a national movement that could challenge the core of Pakistan.

Prof Nisha Kant Ojha


Advisor, Cyber & Aerospace Security; Expert, Counter-Terrorism  (West Asia & Middle East)


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