Taliban ‘consulted’ Pakistan Army before reaching out to India, claims new book

According to Hassan Abbas, Taliban Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi met then Pakistan Army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa before sending a request to India for the return of Indian diplomats and technical staff to Kabul Image Courtesy AP

India-Taliban Ties: The cordial ties between India and the Afghan Taliban since the US withdrawal from Afghanistan in August 2021 might just be due to the blessings of the Pakistan Army.

This explosive claim has been put forward by Hassan Abbas – who teaches international relations at the National Defence University (NDU), Washington – in his book ‘The Return of the Taliban’ which is slated to be released in the United States (US) later this week.

According to Hassan Abbas, Taliban Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi met then Pakistan Army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa before sending a request to India for the return of Indian diplomats and technical staff to Kabul.

Hassan Abbas goes on to write that re-establishment of India’s influence in Afghanistan “could not have happened without Pakistan.”

Abbas claimed that the Pakistan Army wanted the Taliban administration in Afghanistan to receive international aid and financial support which prompted them to give the green signal to the Taliban to re-establish ties with India.

According to Abbas, Pakistan is as eager about financial support for Afghanistan as the Afghan Taliban.

The book notes that India has strategic interests in Afghanistan while the Afghan Taliban wants ties with the largest economy in South Asia for the sake of “international legitimacy and recognition”.

“the Taliban desire is simple — international legitimacy and recognition,” Hassan wrote.

Kabul’s new rulers also need “huge external investments … to reconstruct and revive the country” he added, pointing out that India has the resources to do so.

Nevertheless, the book also makes note of the fact that “India is now seriously reassessing its position and moving towards a balancing act in its effort to engage with the Taliban and help stabilise Afghanistan.”

As an example of the influence wielded in Afghanistan by General Bajwa during his term as Pakistan Army chief, Hassan has narrated the how Taliban finance minister Hidayatullah Badri – also known as Gul Agha Ishaqzai – was allegedly detained and tortured by the Pakistani security establishment after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Later, Hassan claimed, Muttaqi “personally took him to General Bajwa to extend the hand of friendship. Only Mr Bajwa’s favorable nod gave him the opportunity” to become the finance minister of Afghanistan.

Hassan has also discussed the visit of former ISI chief Faiz Hamid to Kabul following the Taliban’s return to power in Afghanistan. He claimed that Pakistan’s Foreign Office had urged General Faiz Hamid to stay at the Pakistan embassy in Kabul, “but the overconfident spy chief dismissed it”.

During a meeting with Pakistani politicians after his return from Afghanistan, General Faiz Hamid defended his decision, saying that intelligence chiefs from the United States (US) and China had also visited Kabul around that time.

However, General Faiz Hamid He was told that “he was the only one photographed” and “photographs and video clips of him sipping tea in the Serena Hotel, Kabul, went viral”.

The book argues that the “visuals provided evidence of the huge influence” Pakistan had on the Taliban and hurt Pakistan as well as the Taliban.

The book also talks about the growing influence of the Islamic State (ISIS) in Afghanistan, noting that the terrorist group has responsibility for 262 attacks in Afghanistan from August 2021 – when the Taliban captured Kabul – to August the following year.

“This trend was an important agenda item in the conversation between ISI chief Lt Gen Nadeem Anjum, and CIA Director William Burns in early May 2022, in Washington. The Pakistani delegation included the former ISI chief Gen Hamid as well,” the book claims.

“Mr Burns told them that at this rate of growth, IS could gain control of 20 per cent of Afghanistan by mid-2023. In response, Gen Anjum stressed the need for targeting (the group’s) top leadership … and intelligence sharing.”

The book says that at the end of the meeting: “both sides reached an interesting conclusion, … the Afghan Taliban are no longer a primary threat to the national security of the US and Afghanistan’s neighboring countries.”

Hassan has also written about China’s intention to engage with the Afghan Taliban, and has noted that “China not only kept its embassy open but also welcomed the Taliban’s new status” while urging the UN Security Council (UNSC) to unfreeze Afghanistan’s funds.

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