Former U.S. NSA wants India to assist in anti-IS campaign

Former U.S. National Security Advisor Stephen J.Hadley. Photo: Sandeep Saxena  

Former U.S. National Security Advisor, Stephen J.Hadley, was in New Delhi to meet with officials after travelling to Kabul and Islamabad. Drawing a link between a rise of ISIS, and the need to support Taliban talks with the Afghanistan government, he spoke in an exclusive interview to The Hindu’s Diplomatic Affairs Editor Suhasini Haidar.

Q: You have travelled to Delhi from Afghanistan and Pakistan, where you met the leadership at a time when talks between the Taliban and Afghan government are at a precarious stage. How hopeful are you of the talks especially after the announcement of the death of Mullah Omar?

Stephen Hadley: I think they’ve had a start, with two meetings in Urumqi, which was confidential and one in Murree which was more public. There was already some disarray in the Taliban movement, and the announcement of Mullah Omars death and the succession has exacerbated those. So we are in a pause and we really don’t know at this point where this process is headed until there is some sorting out in the Taliban, and between the Taliban and the Pakistanis. I think the mood in Afghanistan was that there was a lot of scepticism about the talks even before the second Murree meeting was put off , but there is a feeling even amongst the sceptics, that this is a course that needed to pursued. And if a large number of Taliban could be brought out of the insurgency, that could buy time for the Indian government and for Afghan military to deal with what is a very situation.

You mention the Indian government, yet the perception here is that India has been frozen out. That the US and China were happy to go to the talks in Murree and give them a seal of approval, and yet India has not been consulted or involved in this process, because of course, that would be inconvenient to Pakistan….

Stephen Hadley: Well I hope India has been consulted by the United States. Obviously India is not going to be able to show up at the talks. But they are important, the talks have a bearing on Indian security, so I hope that the US has had very frank conversations and there is some understanding on how India’s legitimate concerns about the process would be addressed. I hope that the run up to the PM’s visit to the US is an occasion for those kind of conversations, so he and President Obama can talk about them and India and the US are on the same page.

But would you say that the talks process is a breach of red-lines set in the past…that the Taliban would abjure violence, would accept the framework of the constitution, that it would be an Afghan-owned and Afghan-led process. Instead we are seeing a process led and run by Pakistan while it isn’t at all clear any conditions have been followed?

Stephen Hadley: I’m not sure they were red-lines, this is what Afghanistan wanted coming out of the talks. The Taliban position was that they wouldn’t even talk to the Afghan government which they didn’t recognise. They only wanted to speak to the US, and only about us getting out of the country. Where we are now is that the Taliban are sitting down with representatives of the Afghan government. They are being sponsored by Pakistan, that is true, and I think Afghans would tell you that’s the reality, and that’s the control Pakistan has always had on the Taliban. The fact that US and China are participating is positive. Is it a perfect process? No. But I think it represents progress. And an opportunity. As India well knows, these are difficult given that India also announced yesterday (on the Naga peace accord), any process to bring people out of an insurgency is a very hard thing to pull off.

President Ghani has also spoken of the threat of ISIS in Afghanistan. You are in India at a time the government is dealing with a hostage crisis in Libya where the captors are ISIS-affiliated. How should India see the ISIS threat?

Stephen Hadley: India should see it as very worrying . We all thought Al Qaeda was a serious threat, and this is Al Qaeda 2.0 or 3.0 in terms of its ambitions and mentality, which is to obliterate borders and establish a Capliphate through brutal tactics. They are the most successful terror group because they control territory. Any number of terrorist groups, including some directed at India could take up the ISIS flag and adopt ISIS methods, that ought to be very worrying, and that’s why India ought to be very supportive of any effort that brings down terrorism, that takes people out of terrorism in a way that supports India’s national interests.

You’re suggesting India should support the Taliban peace process?

Stephen Hadley: In a way that it supports India’s national interests.

Should India join the US’s international anti-ISIS coalition?

Stephen Hadley: Depends on what you mean. There are plenty of countries that are part of that coalition that aren’t taking part in the military action. Should India put boots on the ground in Iraq or Syria. I would think,probably not. The only thing I would say is India needs to be clear about the threat of ISIS and how the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan will affect India. India will not benefit from chaos in Afghanistan.

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Printable version | Mar 3, 2021 7:35:38 AM |

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