The Kandahar Consulate Continues To Operate Through Local Staff: MEA
By Raju Vernekar
New Delhi, July 12:
India evacuated nearly 50 diplomats and security personnel from Kandahar in an Indian Air Force aircraft after Taliban fighters seized key areas around the southern city in Afghanistan, on Saturday.
On Sunday MEA Spokesperson Arindam Bagchi tweeted that “ India is closing monitoring the evolving security situation in Afghanistan. The safety and security of our personnel are paramount. The Consulate General of India in Kandahar has not been closed. However, due to the intense fighting near Kandahar city, India-based personnel have been brought back for the time being. I want to emphasize that this is a purely temporary measure until the situation stabilizes. The consulate continues to operate through our local staff members”.
Official Defence sources stated that the IAF was engaged in evacuation operation, done on Saturday. Those evacuated included the diplomats, support staff, and guards from the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP), who were flown out to New Delhi. The evacuation took place just four days after India said there were no imminent plans to close its mission in Kabul and consulates in the cities of Kandahar and Mazar-e-Sharif. In April last year, India had shuttered its consulates in Herat and Jalalabad, ostensibly because of the spread of COVID-19, though some reports suggested security was a factor in the decision.
In his weekly briefing on Thursday, Bagchi had said, “You would have seen the clarification issued by our Embassy in Kabul earlier this week, that our Embassy in Kabul and Consulates in Kandahar and Mazar-e-Sharif are functional. We are, however, carefully monitoring the deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan and its implications on the safety and security of Indian nationals in Afghanistan. Our response will be calibrated accordingly.”
New Delhi has been working on plans to ensure the safety of diplomats and some 3,000 Indian nationals in Afghanistan, due to the intense fighting across the country. India is also keeping a close eye on steps being taken by key countries such as the US for the safety of diplomats as it weighs its options.
The presence of a large number of terrorists from Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba in the southern provinces of Kandahar and Helmand is believed to have been a factor in India’s decision to pull out the diplomats and security personnel from the city. According to a recent estimate by Afghan security agencies, more than 7,000 LeT fighters are believed to be fighting alongside the Taliban in southern Afghanistan.
Kandahar has witnessed a spike in fighting between the Taliban and Afghan security forces since last week, with some reports saying the militants entered Kandahar city on Friday after capturing key districts surrounding it. Kandahar, the second-largest city in Afghanistan and the capital of the province of the same name, has for long been of strategic and commercial importance. It served as the headquarters of the Taliban from the mid-1990s till 2001, when the group was ousted from power by the US invasion.
Amid growing concerns in India over the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan, Afghan Ambassador Farid Mamundzay on Tuesday briefed India’s Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla on the situation in Afghanistan. India has been a major stakeholder in the peace and stability of Afghanistan and has invested nearly USD three billion in aid and reconstruction activities in that country. India has been supporting a national peace and reconciliation process which is Afghan-led, Afghan-owned, and Afghan-controlled.
In March, Afghan Foreign Minister Mohammad Haneef Atmar visited India during which Union External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar conveyed to him India’s long-term commitment towards a peaceful, sovereign, and stable Afghanistan.
Afghanistan was invaded by the US in 2001 shortly after the September 11 attacks that year carried by Osama Bin Laden’s Al Qaida. Bin Laden, who went into hiding in Pakistan, was killed in May 2011.
US military mission in Afghanistan to conclude
Now the fresh attack by Taliban fighters comes less than 24 hours after US President Joe Biden, on Thursday, July 08, said the US military mission in Afghanistan will conclude on August 31, saying speed is safety as the United States seeks to end the nearly 20-year war. He defended his decision to end American involvement in Afghanistan, asserting that the United States can no longer afford the human cost or strategic distraction of a 20-year conflict that he said had strayed far from its initial mission.
Taliban is an Islamic fundamentalist terror outfit originating in Afghanistan. It emerged in the aftermath of the Afghan Civil War in 1994. It is a movement of religious students (Talib) from the Pashtun areas of eastern and southern Afghanistan who were educated in traditional Islamic schools and fought during the Soviet-Afghan war. Under the leadership of Mohammed Omar, the movement spread throughout most of Afghanistan sequestering power from the Mujahideen warlords. The totalitarian Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan was established in 1996 and the Afghan capital was transferred to Kandahar. They were ousted in 2001 after the American invasion. However, the Taliban continues to engage in the insurgency.