Col Ashwani Sharma (Retd)


Taliban capped their drive for power in Afghanistan by taking Kabul, the country’s capital, on 15 Aug this year.  Their speed of offensive and their canny ability to engineer a bloodless victory, spurred by Ghani government’s capitulation, surprised almost all the observers, analysts and stakeholders. Taliban were in control even before all the US troops could leave, creating a crisis of evacuation. With the capture of Panjshir, the group is now the de facto power throughout the country.

Pakistan and Taliban have been each other’s main ally for decades, with ISI brazenly harboring and supporting the latter. Islamabad worked hard to facilitate the group’s return to power, even though it has failed in both, a power-sharing arrangement or installing an inclusive government in Kabul, something that would have lent international legitimacy to both. With an increasingly assertive Taliban, Pakistan now wonders whether the situation is an opportunity or a challenge, given the stark realities of their own situation.

Amid the uncertainty, regional powers are perplexed on how to react to the upheaval. Most have adopted a wait and watch policy on recognition of the new regime, contingent upon their behavior towards women and human rights. Women, however, continue to be the worst sufferers, underscoring that Taliban 2.0 are no different from their earlier avatar.  Foreign capitals are also wary about Afghanistan once again becoming a fertile ground for extremist ideologies and terror organizations, notwithstanding Taliban’s pledges to the contrary.

Closer home, India faces a challenge in so far as its strategic and security interests stand compromised with the new developments. It shares the world’s concerns about transnational jihadist organisations such as al-Qaeda and the Islamic State, as well as Pakistani terror groups like JeM and LeT, finding their way to the Afghan soil; only the implications for India are far more serious.

Lt Gen Ata Hasnain(retd) and Mr Vivek Katju, former Ambassador to Afghanistan provide our readers with a detailed account of the present situation and options available to India and the region.

To mark IAF’s 89th Anniversary on 08 Oct, there’s an interview with the new Chief, Air Chief Marshal VR Chaudhary. This issue also carries a number of well researched articles on challenges facing the mighty force, which is undergoing indigenization as well as a transformation.

Prime Minister Modi’s recent visit to the US is significant as it marks a number of ‘firsts’ – first after the Biden administration has taken over, first after the formation of AUKUS and importantly after the Taliban’s formation of government in Afghanistan. Ajay Singh has contributed a crisp report.

Future wars continue to be shaped by emerging technologies. This edition of contours discusses ‘Electrical battlespace’ while Anil Sharma’s piece discusses causes and signs related to future conflicts.

I wish the readers an enjoyable read.