The Taliban named a new government on September 7, three weeks after their stunning takeover of Afghanistan. For India, the Pakistan-based Haqqani network’s prominent presence in the 33-member cabinet is cause for concern. The Haqqanis, based in North Waziristan, have deep links with Al Qaeda and the Pakistani deep state. They carried out the suicide attack on the Indian embassy in Afghanistan in July 2008. Group leader Sirajuddin Haqqani is the new Taliban interior minister.
Worried that Afghanistan could again become a base for anti-India terror activities, the country’s envoy to Qatar, Deepak Mittal, met the head of the Taliban’s political office, Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanekzai, in Doha on August 31. The Taliban representative gave assurances that India’s concerns would be addressed, but apprehensions remain in the backdrop of news that Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) chief Masood Azhar met Taliban co-founder Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar days after the fall of Kabul. The Taliban and JeM are ideological twins. Azhar has a long association with Afghanistan as he got his jihadi training there. Being a fiery orator, he visited several countries to spread the Taliban’s message.
“The Taliban can’t get directly involved (in operations against India) as they have to worry about regime stabilisation and global acceptance…but they will help appendage Jaish to some extent,” says an intelligence official working in Kashmir.