Afghan conflict National

As Taliban makes gains, India keenly watches security at Kandahar, Mazar missions

Foreign Secretary Harsh V. Shringla with Ambassador of Afghanistan Mamundzay. The Ambassador briefed the Foreign Secretary on the security situation in Afghanistan, in New delhi on July 6, 2021. Twitter/@MEAIndia  

India is watching the situation in the Afghan cities of Kandahar and Mazar-e-Sharif closely, with concerns for its missions and diplomatic staff there growing as the Taliban gains control over a number of provincial cities, said officials. However, the government denied it had shut down operations at its consulates there, calling reports that said India was pulling out its diplomatic personnel “incorrect”.

The Indian Embassy in Kabul said in a tweet, “Consulates in Kandahar & Mazar-e-Sharif are open, functioning. We DO HOWEVER continue to closely monitor the evolving security situation particularly around Kandahar & Mazar cities.”

Operations at India’s other Consulates in Herat and Jalalabad were suspended in April 2020, when all Indian personnel were brought back to Delhi due to the COVID-19 pandemic, ahead of a full security review.

Afghanistan’s security situation and future course are expected to come up as External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar travels to Russia on Wednesday for a three-day visit from July 7-9, and meets with his counterpart Sergey Lavrov to discuss “regional and international issues” along with bilateral ties.

The developments were also discussed in a meeting between Afghanistan Ambassador Farid Mamundzay and Foreign Secretary Harsh Shringla on Tuesday, as both Kabul and New Delhi monitor the situation in Afghanistan in the wake of the U.S. and NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) troops pull-out, including the withdrawal of all foreign troops from the biggest military base at Bagram last week.

“Ambassador [Mamundzay] briefed the Foreign Secretary (FS) on the security situation in Afghanistan. FS assured our Afghan friends of India’s long-term commitment towards peace and prosperity in Afghanistan,” the Ministry of External Affairs said in a tweet.

In the past few days, Taliban fighters have made gains in both southern and northern Afghanistan, with UN observers reporting the consolidation of Taliban gunmen around provincial capitals “poised” to take control of several cities. The fighting between the Taliban and the Afghanistan National Defence and Security Forces (ANDSF) has been particularly heightened outside both the Balkh province capital of Mazar-e-Sharif, and in districts surrounding Kandahar, the capital of Kandahar province. The fall two days ago of Panjwai district near Kandahar in particular, where Afghan government officials said ANSDF troops simply withdrew, is being seen as significant.

According to an Associated Press report on Tuesday, the Balkh provincial Governor’s Spokesperson Munir Farhad said that Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, India and Pakistan had all reduced their strength at Consulates in Mazar, and that Turkey and Russia had closed their Consulates down in the wake of the growing violence around Mazar. Officials in Delhi denied the downsizing of the Indian missions at this time, but said they are watching the developing situation closely, and were prepared to ensure the safety of all Indian personnel. About 50 diplomatic staff and security personnel remain in the two Consulates at Kandahar and Mazar, while the Embassy in Kabul runs most of the consular operations for the country.

On June 29 this year, the Embassy in Kabul had also issued a detailed security advisory for all Indian nationals based in the country, warning of an escalation in violence, and a heightened risk of targeted attacks and kidnappings, advising them to “avoid all types of nonessential movements”.


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Printable version | Oct 25, 2021 11:29:49 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/as-taliban-makes-gains-india-keenly-watches-security-at-kandahar-mazar-missions/article35177480.ece

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