The news has it that Panjshir Province has been captured by Taliban in active connivance with Pak ISI. Erupted firefights between Taliban & Haqani Group resulting in injury to Abdul Gani Baradar, delay in the formation of Afghanistan Government & sudden landing of Faiz Hameed Pakistan ISI Chief in Kabul – all these happenings cannot be termed as mere coincidences. Pakistan is keen to snatch the power from the hands of the Taliban & hand it over to the Haqqani Group. Faiz Hameed has been tasked to ensure that a senior leader of Haqqani Group is planted to head the Taliban Government. As it is, a lot of differences have cropped up between Baradar & the Taliban. Baradar having distanced himself from Panjshir Battle is a case in point.

The Pakistani ISI Chief had been discussing the formation of Taliban Government with their leaders, & at one point, it was being said that Taliban Scion Anas Haqqani may be planted as Head of the Taliban Government. It may be recalled that he had stated 'that Taliban won't interfere in Kashmir'. Both- China & Pakistan won't have liked this statement. He was entrusted with the security of Kabul after its capture - much against the wishes of the senior leaders of the Taliban. Pakistan favors the Haqqani Group to be controlling the Taliban Government whereas Taliban do not want this to happen.

As I write this Piece, the Taliban has announced the government posts.

The Fundamentalist & Radical Taliban have picked up people with criminal & dubious antecedents to fill several cabinet positions on a temporary basis, stopping short of formally announcing a permanent government in Afghanistan. Amazingly, the new caretaker government smacks of the old setup - old wine in a new bottle. Sirajuddin Haqqani - the most wanted Terrorist & favorite of Pak ISI has been nominated as the Home Minister of Afghanistan by the Taliban. Haqqani has an award of 50 Lakhs Dollars upon him. He has intimate relations with Al Qaida. The newly appointed Defence Minister Mulla Yaqoob son of the Taliban Founder Mullah Mohammad Umar is also a dreaded terrorist who has learnt all tricks of the trade from his father. In all, 17 top terrorists have been included in the Taliban Cabinet with not a single woman representative. So, in short, the Taliban Cabinet is nothing but a gang of barbaric radicals to the core- the Mullahs.

Mullah Mohammad Hassan Akhund, a founder member of the Taliban and former deputy prime minister, was named the acting leader of the council of ministers — a surprise to those who thought that Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, who led negotiations with the U.S. would assume the top spot. Baradar –the Global face has been demoted, & surprisingly, has been named acting deputy & also the Foreign Minister. It is understood that Haqqani Group had literally manhandled Baradar at the behest of Pak ISI. Some reports even said that he was wounded in a gun battle- so very common in Afghanistan. Earlier, Pak Air Force & Drones had bombarded Panjshir Bastion forcing Ahmed Massoud & Saleh to flee & seek a safer sanctuary.

The Taliban acting Government is sure to face immediate & multiple challenges, especially foreign aid at this moment of national crisis. More so, if American officials continue to withhold aid, it would become extremely difficult for Afghani people to survive. Further, basic services like food, water; medical & electricity are already under immense threat compounded by drought conditions. To top it up, today, there is no concept relating to human rights exists in Afghanistan. U.N. has already given an open warning that food would run out by the end of the month for hundreds of thousands of Afghans.

Sadly, the Taliban has been using force to break up a defiant demonstration by hundreds of women and men in Kabul seeking respect & rights that women had gained over two decades. It was a singular & unique show of strength displayed by courageous Afghani women, who suffered brutal subjugation in silence the last time the Taliban, were in charge. The failed state of Pakistan is worried, in that; a similar show of strength by women of Pakistan may be witnessed soon.

Since coming to power last month, the Taliban has sought to rebrand itself as more moderate, including on women's rights. But early signs from around the country have not been promising. The Taliban has warned women to stay home until the rank and file of fighters could be taught not to hurt them and have so far only asked female health workers to return to work.

DOUGLAS London ex CIA's Counterterrorism Chief for South and Southeast Asia during 2016-18 has talked of India to have a good reason to worry. He goes on to say "Pakistan's policies of supporting various jihadist groups and the Taliban were all done through the prism of Pakistan- India rivalry. They see India as an existential threat & any issue & the challenge to them is viewed through that prism". London has also brought out the linkages between the ISI & Haqqani Network. These include not only the Al Qaida and ISK but also ISI created Jihadi Groups like LeT, JeM, HuM, etc.

The present situation favors Pakistan as it offers it much sought-after depth & unstinted support of China against India. India must realize that the attacks on Kabul & Panjshir were open & blatant invasions by Pakistan Army supported by its Air Force. The world is aghast seeing the audacity & temerity of Pakistan for this sinister act – fully aided & abetted by China- that has huge economic interests in oil & the mineral wealth of Afghanistan. The Taliban spokesman has already informed the world that China being a close friend would surely come forward to help the war-ravaged country & they too would go all out to help the Dragon. China has not as yet given any statement on these overtures but would favor the Terrorist Cabinet - knowing well that the Taliban has otherwise tremendous potential to up the ante by supporting & inciting Ughurs next door. Even Russia realizes the Taliban threat.

The Taliban spokesman had stated that they have full rights to raise their voices in favor of Kashmiri Muslims. This statement has been at the behest of Pak DG ISI who has had a number of meetings with the Terrorist Cabinet. This is totally opposite to what was stated by Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai who was trained at Indian Military Academy, Dehradun many years ago - now appointed as Deputy Foreign Minister. Barbaric, dreaded & 'stone age' Taliban must know that in India, Muslims returning from Masjids are not shot dead nor their hands & feet cut. Incidentally, the Taliban has declared Sharia Rule in Afghanistan. So this is the end of Human Rights.

India needs to mull over her strategy fully realizing the 'hand in glove relationship' of Pakistan with different terrorist factions in Afghanistan. India needs to take adequate measures to ensure that its borders are not infiltrated by Taliban-sponsored terrorist Groups. India's litmus test of diplomacy would entail ensuring that Afghanistan's land is not utilized for carrying out terrorist activities on Indian soil. The Pak - China nexus in this regard will have to be closely watched & monitored.

The world should know that between China & Pakistan, it was a planned move to assist the Taliban to capture Afghanistan. The sudden crumbling of the Afghan National Army like a pack of cards confirms this suspicion that all this was manipulated by Pindi Shura. To my mind, there were a number of deals involved. Such Shuras were created in Quetta, Peshawar, Miranshah & elsewhere - that gave full support to rebel outfits all over. It is amply clear now that Pakistan does not want Afghanistan to remain a stable country. Pakistan should also learn from history that no one has been able to conquer Afghanistan till today!

As the world reacts to Taliban Cabinet, Spy Chiefs of US, Russia & UK have met their counterpart in Lutyens City in India for a hush-hush meeting.

India must see the writings on the wall & take all possible measures to deal with the developing situation.

Can Taliban shun the tag of terror is the moot question!

Dr. Mohan Bhandari

Lt. Gen. (Dr) Mohan Bhandari, also known as the Thinking General, was born in August 1946. A veteran of the 1971 Indo-Pak war, the general has spent a number of years combating counter-insurgency/terrorist operations in Jammu and Kashmir and various other parts of the country. He is the proud recipient of three Presidential awards presented for his exceptional services to the nation. He was the Indian Army's face for both print and electronic media. The general is a rare mix of a successful soldier, erudite scholar, a powerful orator, a prolific writer, and a gifted painter. At present, he is a visiting faculty member at the Academic Staff Colleges of the UGC, universities, and schools of instructions.

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