Despite its engagement with the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, India must not let its guard down, said former Afghanistan intelligence chief Rahmatullah Nabil, warning that Pakistani terror groups targeting India like Jaish e Mohammad and Lashkar e Toiba have shifted bases to Afghanistan with help from the Taliban, and have access to more technology and territory.
Mr. Nabil said that while engaging the Taliban was necessary for India in its “own interests”, New Delhi should keep channels open with former leaders as well, even though they are now out of power. Mr. Nabil, who served as the Director of the National Defence Secretariat (NDS) under both President Karzai and President Ghani, had closely cooperated with India during his tenure (2010-2015), had famously resigned over Mr. Ghani’s visit to Pakistan, and decision to set up hotlines between security chiefs.
In an interview to The Hindu on the sidelines of a conference of anti-Taliban Afghan leaders with U.S. and E.U. representatives, Mr. Nabil also said he had been denied a visa by India after the Taliban takeover of Kabul in August 2021.
“For us (officials of the previous regime), we don’t have any complaints against other countries, as we had no expectations, but we have a complaint with our friends. [After August 15 (2021), even those who were friends of India, and those who had diplomatic passports and visas, [were turned away], and visas were revoked,” he said, explaining that he telephoned his former interlocutors in New Delhi to request an entry for him, his mother and family to India after the collapse of the Ghani government.
At the time the government had announced that it was canceling all visas issued due to concerns over security and had announced a special “Emergency e-visa” (Em-X-Misc e-visa) process in its place. However, officials say that of the tens of thousands of applications that were received last year, e-visas have only been issued to less than 300 Afghans, mostly Hindus and Sikhs. Mr. Nabil is among a number of former officials, and ministers who said they were targeted by the Taliban for their links with New Delhi.
“I was in touch [just after Kabul fell]. And when I asked about travel, they simply canceled my visa. After that, I never tried to contact them, and they didn’t contact me,” he said. The MEA did not respond to requests for a comment on the veracity of Mr. Nabil’s claim. Officials said the matter of visas for Afghan nationals is decided by the Ministry of Home Affairs, which also did not comment. Sources said a “few” Afghan officials had been allowed to enter India temporarily, but that many were turned away.
No country, including India recognises the Taliban government. However, since its establishment of a regime in Kabul, the Modi government has sent senior MEA officials to hold talks with Taliban leaders, and in June this year, set up a “technical mission” in Kabul to help facilitate aid and development assistance for Afghans.
“We are not in a position now to advise India, and they know their national interest better, But they should not live in any illusion, that the Taliban has changed. Even if they had good meetings and were greeted warmly by [Taliban interior minister Sirajuddin] Haqqani or other Taliban ministers, [they should know] that the anti Indian sentiment is in [Taliban’s] blood,” Mr. Nabil said.
Briefing the Herat Security Dialogue on the number of terror groups in Afghanistan including from Al Qaeda Indian Subcontinent (AQIS) and Islamic State Khorasan (IS-K), Mr. Nabil said thousands of “foreign fighters” were now based in parts of the country like Kunar and Nuristan provinces, and were in the “preparation phase” of staging attacks on neighbouring countries including India and Tajikistan, adding that they had access to the latest technology, cryptocurrency, and would turn Afghanistan into a “drug and terror hub”.
“So their bases are there, they have got Taliban protection, they have free access, they have weapons left over from US forces. They have access to biometric data,” Mr. Nabil said in the interview. “Pakistani [intelligence] doesn’t need give these groups direct support anymore. The Haqqanis are doing the jobs that ISI [Pakistani intelligence] handlers were doing before,” he claimed, referring to the Haqqani group whose leaders are still on the UNSC’s terror list, and were believed to be responsible for attacks on Indian missions in Afghanistan. Pakistan has denied supporting terror groups, and was recently let off the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) greylist for its progress in tackling terror financing.