Monday brought a nasty shock for Afghan parliamentarians. What should have been just another day began with seven terrorists attacking the Afghan Parliament complex, bringing down part of the roof of the lower house. While a suicide bomber blew himself up outside the complex, six others went in; they were later killed by the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF).
For India, this is yet another worrying development. New Delhi has refrained from providing military assistance to Kabul, but invested heavily in infrastructure development in the country. These projects have come under attack repeatedly from terrorists who may have links in Pakistan, which considers the area to be within its sphere of influence. Afghan President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani has not been as friendly towards India as his predecessor Hamid Karzai was. In fact, Mr Ghani has been more than friendly with Pakistan. With Pakistan stirring the cauldron in Afghanistan, the months ahead will require both caution and preparedness on New Delhi’s part to see that nothing of the violence which has gripped Afghanistan finds any echo here. The latest attack has been claimed by the Taliban, which said it was timed to coincide with the introduction of the new defence minister, Mohammad Masoom Stanekzai, in Parliament.
The attack comes after the Taliban rejected a proposal by Afghan clerics asking for peace during the month of Ramadan. Monday’s attack is the latest, and by far the most ‘spectacular’, in a long list of attacks.
On May 14 a guesthouse in Kabul was attacked, and 14 people, including nine foreigners, were killed. Over the weekend the Taliban forces took over the Chardara district in Kunduz in northern Afghanistan. The Taliban’s spring offensive comes when ISIS has been testing the waters in the country. According to the Pentagon, ISIS is on an ‘initial exploratory phase’ in the country. On June 16, the Taliban chief had written a letter to ISIS chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, warning him not to ‘interfere’ in Afghanistan. The attacks by the Taliban should be seen in that light.
There is growing discontent with the Afghan government and its inability to bring in electoral reforms is likely to be exploited by terror groups. With the US pulling back its presence, a security vacuum has been created and New Delhi will find it difficult not to assist Kabul in its fight against such terror groups. Almost 14 years after the US invasion, there is little chance that better days are ahead for the country.