Washington: The Trump administration wants India to help strengthen Afghanistan’s capacities and institutions so that the war-torn country can take on a resurgent Afghan Taliban based in neighbouring Pakistan, a senior US official has said. “Where the help is needed by India primarily is in areas of ensuring that Afghanistan can be strengthened as a state, that the state can be hardened and strengthened against any regenerative capacity of the Taliban which lies mainly across the border in Pakistan,” said the official.
The official was responding to a question on India’s contribution in bringing peace and stability in Afghanistan in the aftermath of the new Afghan and South Asia policy announced by President Donald Trump in August. India’s focus of assistance has mainly been on the developmental side, which the US wants to continue and accelerate further.
“India is helping Afghanistan by helping the Afghan people. India has done a great deal of work to help Afghanistan in the area of water management for example. They’ve also helped foster some important industries that will lead to economic growth and employment in particular. The construction sector is another area where it does help tremendously,” the official said. And as such, any help India can do here in those areas of economic development would be of great help, he said.
Ideas and help in connection with working on solving the problem of the narcotics trade would be particularly helpful as well, he added. The US, he said, is doing a lot.
“But as the president has said that he hopes others will share responsibilities and help share burdens to get Afghanistan on the path to enduring security, stability, economic growth, and reduction of dependence on international assistance. And that help can be in the areas of institutional reform for example as well,” the official said.
All these are aligned with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s initiatives. “I’m confident that he would welcome any assistance that India could give and in those areas,” the official said.
Responding to a question on India-US counter-terrorism cooperation in Afghanistan, the official said “our work in the defence sector in Afghanistan is really not the priority”.
The US wants to ensure that Afghanistan gains the security gains even as the US and the coalition have the lead in assisting Afghanistan’s security sector and enabling the fight against the Taliban and the Haqqani network and other terrorist organisations on Afghan territory, he said.