The April 30th NightWatch contained some very interesting information about what will happen in Afghanistan once NATO withdrawal is complete.
India-Russia-Afghanistan: India, Russia and Afghanistan quietly have created a triangular arrangement for providing arms aid to Afghanistan after NATO withdraws. None of the countries have made an official announcement. Only a small number of news services, including The Moscow Times and Pakistani newspapers, have published articles about it.
The arrangement was finalized in February when an India team visited Moscow, but it had been under discussion during the past year. It was one of the discussion items when President Karzai visited India last December.
Under the agreement, smaller arms such as light artillery and mortars will be provided by Russia and moved to Afghanistan from the north, while India paid Russia for the equipment. An inventory of Russian-made equipment in Afghanistan has been completed. Afghanistan has presented India with a list of requirements and Russia reportedly has made one or more initial shipments.
An Indian Ministry of External Affairs officer said, “We can’t commit troops on the ground; we can’t give them the military equipment that they have been asking us for, for all sorts of reasons including the lack of surplus stocks….Involving a third party is the next best option.”
This is a very touchy matter for Pakistan, their strategic opponent India providing weapons to a country on the opposite side, creating the potential for a two front war. KGS NightWatch reports this is actually pleasing to the other countries in the region, as it keeps Afghanistan from sliding into the Pakistani sphere, and then into play with their internal conflicts.
Afghanistan was invaded by the Soviet Union in 1979 and this hopeless, endless conflict is named as one of the key components that led to the downfall of the Soviet Union twelve years later. When Romanian NATO troops showed up with Russian looking uniforms and AK-47s it caused consternation among the locals, who feared the Russians had returned. Russian weapons have never left – AK-47s, 12.7x108mm machine guns, and RPG7 rocket launchers are still the right small weapons for this geographic area.
Calculus in the region is complicated by the urge for independence in Balochistan, which would affect Afghanistan, Iran, and Pakistan.
China has been investing heavily in the region, from the port of Gwadar on the Balochi Pakistan coast to internal rail improvements. Russia has been less active in terms of foreign investment but they have already made their weight felt with regards to Syria and are now participants in a regional stability scheme for Central Asia.
Neo-Conservatives will have a case of the vapors over this, but the blame for reduced U.S. influence on the region falls squarely on their shoulders for their role in engineering Bush’s disastrous adventure in Iraq. Afghanistan has always been an unruly empire killer and I am in favor of anything which can keep trouble there from radiating into Pakistan.