Counter-Terrorism: Why Indian Troops Are In Afghanistan

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February 17, 2006: India is sending 300 special police (Indo-Tibetan Border Police, or ITBP) to Afghanistan to help guard Indians working there on reconstruction projects. Eighty of the ITBP are already in southern Afghanistan, guarding Indians helping to build roads there. Taliban terrorists have attacked the Indian workers several times, with gunfire and bombs. Last year, twenty ITBP were sent to Kabul to guard the Indian embassy.

India has been very friendly to the new Afghan government, taking advantage of Afghan fear that Pakistan is again interfering with the internal affairs of Afghanistan. Most Afghans blame (or credit) Pakistani military intelligence (the ISI) for helping organize the Taliban, and assisting them in taking over the country in the 1990s. Pakistani interference in Afghan affairs has gone on for a long time. From Pakistan's point of view, this is self-defense, mainly because there are more Pushtuns (who comprise 40 percent of all Afghans) in Pakistan, than in Afghanistan. The Pushtun (or "Pathans," as they are still called in Pakistan) have long been a problem for the rest of Pakistan. The Pushtun tribes have long raided to the south, sometimes getting as far as the Indian border. This has been going on for thousands of years, so it's not a new problem. While the Afghan Pushtuns are in the Afghan government (president Karzai is a Pushtun), in Pakistan they are a smaller, and more troublesome minority. There is more support for Islamic terrorism among Pushtuns, on both sides of the border, than anywhere else in the region. This is mainly because of the traditional conservatism of the tribes, and distrust of outsiders (anyone who isn't a Pushtun).

Pakistan sees the Indian ITBP in Afghanistan as part of a plot to assist tribal rebels in Baluchistan. In some ways, the Baluchi tribes of southwest Pakistan, are even more trouble than the Pushtuns. Several Baluchi tribes are currently in open rebellion against the Pakistani government, and the Pakistanis see it as only natural that the Indians would aid them. There is little hard evidence of this, but the belief persists. The Baluchis are similar to the Pushtuns (an Indo-Aryan people, related to the Iranians and Europeans), right down to the Islamic conservatism and suspicion of outsiders (including Pushtuns.) Osama bin Laden is believed hiding out among sympathetic Pushtun or Baluchi tribesmen. Both groups are big fans of bin Laden and al Qaeda.

 


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