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Bring Taliban to the table to nip Islamic State: Afghan NSA Hanif Atmar

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NEW DELHI: The so-called Islamic State terror group (or Daesh) and the Taliban in Afghanistan are not opposed to each other. They have “a symbiotic relationship”. “People who are now saying that Daesh is the enemy of Taliban and Taliban will fight Daesh are wrong,” said Hanif Atmar, national security adviser of Afghanistan.

In an exclusive chat with TOI, Atmar said, “This idea that Taliban and Daesh are opposed to each other is wrong. No Daesh has come from Syria or Iraq, it’s actually the morphing and mutating of Taliban, TTP (Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan) and IMU into Daesh. They are the same people, but there is a lot of re-branding here.” They might be fighting in Nangarhar, but they are collaborating against the Ashraf Ghani government in north-eastern Afghanistan.

The next round of meetings in a few weeks with Russia, India, the US and other players, Atmar added, would work out what he said would be “regional and global strategies” to tackle the growing instability in Afghanistan. Having given four attack helicopters to Afghan forces, what is Afghanistan’s “wishlist” from India? “Rather than going into details of our defence cooperation I would say the most important objective here is strengthening of the ANSF (Afghan National Security Forces). We have demonstrated our will and capability to fight. The enemy we are fighting is three times bigger than the enemy we were fighting in 2009-14. Then we had 1,50,000 international soldiers. There are much less now. They need tools and resources. For this, we invite India as one of our most strategic partners, the US, Nato. But we will keep the details of this away from public conversation.”

The security situation in 2017 is far worse than it was in 2009-10. “It’s no longer about lone wolves or one specific terrorist organisation. It’s about the evil axis of three actors – violent extremism, criminal economics and state sponsorship of terrorists. These three have come together to …challenge the state… turn it into a sanctuary for international terrorism, expand the criminalised economy, specially with narcotics, and use its proceeds to finance terrorism.” Taliban, supported by Pakistan, now provide sanctuary to groups like LeT and JeM that threaten India, and ETIM (East Turkestan Islamic Movement) that threaten China, among others, Atmar said.

Therefore, the “peace and reconciliation” project, now being bandied about by Russia and China cannot actually happen in the way they want it to be, which is essentially using Taliban against Daesh. “The Times of India”