Pakistan support to Taliban continues: “No imminent threat of collapse of Afghan govt”

There is no imminent danger to major cities like Kabul and Kandahar or collapse of the Afghanistan government but the next three months will be critical as fierce battles are expected to be fought with the Taliban determined to occupy more territory before reaching an agreement, people familiar with developments in the region have said.

The Pakistani government continues to aid and support the Taliban. They include keeping supply lines from its borders open, rendering medical assistance to injured fighters and sending in thousands of armed militants to Afghanistan to fight government forces, experts said.

The Taliban strategy seems to be hinged on taking over as many provinces as possible, especially in sparsely populated rural areas, to gain an upper hand during power-sharing talks. While the Taliban seems to have the capability to take over Kandahar, the assessment is that it would refrain from doing so as use of brutal force would deny it legitimacy of the world, experts said.

Actions like taking over border points are aimed towards this goal for legitimacy, with Taliban learning from the example of the 1990s when it stormed into power but was denied recognition by most of the world, experts said.

They stressed on the need for the international community to support the Afghanistan government, adding the next three months would be critical, as the US is expected to stay on the scene with air support for Afghan troops. The assessment is that the US will attempt to broker some peace agreement between the Taliban and the Afghanistan government before exiting the region.

Identifying air support and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance as major gaps in the Afghan forces, experts said that improvements were being made to plug capability voids and India would continue support by training manpower and strengthening the Afghanistan armed forces.

They dismissed reports that 85% of Afghanistan was under Taliban control and put their assessment at over 45% of Afghan territory, that too mostly in rural areas. India’s biggest fear, shared by other stakeholders including China and Iran, is the emergence of ungoverned pockets in Afghanistan. Such pockets could become terror havens.

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