Hold steady in Afghanistan

Issue 17 - Aug 2008
Shanthie Mariet D’Souza

Providing security to the ongoing Indian infrastructure projects thus remains a critical issue in Afghanistan. Given the enveloping insecurity, any amount of security cover appears only minimal. From November 2002 till about February 2006, a minuscule contingent of 40 Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) paramilitary personnel protected India’s embassy and four consulates.  However, following the killing of Border Roads Organisation (BRO) driver Maniappan Kutty in November 2005 and the subsequent threat by the Taliban demanding the withdrawal of Indian reconstruction workers, the Ministries of External Affairs (MEA) and Home Affairs (MHA) re-assessed the threat perception. Based on its recommendation, the Indian government sent around 300 ITBP troops to provide security to the BRO personnel. The ITBP personnel were specially trained in proximate security and were placed under a Commandant-rank officer. The commandos provided patrolling and escort security to BRO personnel working on infrastructure projects.  

The task of providing security to the infrastructure projects appears even more gigantic due to their dispersed nature, mostly in the far flung areas of the country. The 300 BRO personnel who worked on the recently completed Zaranj-Delaram road link project in the insurgency afflicted provinces were provided security by 320 ITBP personnel and 1400 Afghan security guards, who have been increasingly targeted and killed. According to unconfirmed reports, around 30 rocket attacks have been made on BRO personnel engaged in building the stretch of the road across Nimroz in the first half of 2008 alone.

The ITBP security, however, is available only for the projects taken up by the Indian government and certainly not for the private Indian companies operating in Afghanistan. For example, the New Delhi-based Water and Power Consultancy Services (WPCS) working on the Salma dam projects had to manage with the available Afghan guards. A similar option is exercised by BSC/C&C, the largest Indian construction company in Kabul. However, unlike the BRO, this company which completed projects in southern Afghanistan, including the Herat-Kandahar link, has never come under any major attack.  

India must train Afghan forces, especially the Afghan police, to augment its counter-insurgency capabilities, vis-à-vis the Western nations who are more focussed on building the conventional capability of the ANA. India must invest more in human and economic capital in the Pashtun population in the southern and eastern part of Afghanistan that are most affected by the Taliban insurgency. Importantly, it must continue to weave its aid policy around greater Afghan participation and ownership for long-term feasibility of its development projects.

2 Replies to “Hold steady in Afghanistan”

  1. Veeru

    India itself needs to learn a lesson or two on anti insurgency/ terrorism related issue. Probably Israel will be the best nation to impart training to the Afghan forces.

    Investing heavily on human and economic capital is the only way out for the present. An economically strong nation sooner than later learns the importance of military might. Unfortunately the reverse is not true!

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