The Kabul Gurdwara attack— who has benefited from the bombing?
Naila Mahsud
Amid the deadly coronavirus pandemic surging in the region, suicide bombers and assailants carried out a heinous militant attack on a Kabul Sikh temple, or Gurdwara, on March 25, killing over two dozen people. The Ghani government blamed the ‘Pakistani-backed Haqqani network’ for the attack, which the Taliban outrightly denied.
The attacks were later claimed by Daesh in Afghanistan and an Indian Muslim, Abu Khalid al Hindi was named as one of the attackers. According to Ghani, the attacks were in retaliation to the violence against Muslims in India-- and neither Ghani’s nor Indian intelligence can be questioned, it seems.
But the big question is, if the attack was carried out in revenge, reason dictates it would have targeted a Hindu place of worship and not a Sikh Gurdwara, since it is the Hindu BJP government that is conducting systemic violence against Muslims in India. The Sikhs on the other hand have extended a helping hand to Muslims protesting against CAA and NRC in New Delhi. Moreover, the opening of the historic Kartarpur corridor by Islamabad presumably won hearts in the Indian sikh community.
The fact is that Pakistan, which has been among major facilitators for US-Taliban talks and was highly applauded by the international community for its role played in the Afghan peace-process, doesn’t have anything to gain from a chaotic Afghanistan especially when US forces are in the process of withdrawal.
Even if it is believed for a wild moment that Pakistan wants the Taliban to be in power in Afghanistan, would Pakistan benefit at all from the Taliban being showcased as destroyers of the peace, especially when the US hasn’t left Afghan soil yet? It defies all reason. The Taliban have denied their involvement in the attack. And interestingly, even after it was announced that the main suicide bomber was an Indian national, Pakistan was still blamed.
The Indian national security adviser Ajit Devol, and Indian ambassador to Afghanistan immediately visited the place of the attack, which was also intended to ignite public sentiment against Pakistan without delay.
Interestingly, the incident happened just a day after the US announced a billion dollar cut in aid to Afghanistan. It is unlikely that the attack is a mere coincidence.
It wouldn’t be wrong to say that India was never averse to the idea of playing proxy wars to contain Pakistan’s presence in Afghanistan and beyond. With a high ratio of poverty in its own country, it is doubtful that it would pour in billions in aid to a war-torn nation without a strategic purpose.
There are no exact numbers known for Indian nationals among the ranks of Daesh in Afghanistan. On April 12, 2017, 13 Indians were killed in a US’ MOAB attack in Nangarhar, Afghanistan.
Among 600 Daesh fighters who surrendered to the Afghan National Army in November last year, thirteen were Indian citizens.
For now, it is clear that the US withdrawal from Afghanistan will potentially create a vacuum, and there is now reason to believe that it can be exploited by regional intelligence agencies under the nose of the Afghan government. The international community should take notice of this-- a proxy war in Afghanistan may well be the challenge looming ahead, besides the fear of a bloody civil war.