Afghanistan has sought more military supplies from India including attack helicopters as it steppped up its offensive last week against terror groups killing 300 Islamic State terrorists, the top US and NATO commander in the war-ravaged country said on Wednesday. General John Nicholson, in New Delhi on his second visit, said India has been making “enoromously valuable” contribution in strengthening Afghan security forces and the US favours the military support.
India has already provided four Mi-25 helicopters to Afghanistan and US Commander said the country needs more military aircraft to deal with Taliban and various other terror outfits. Welcoming India’s contribution to restoring peace and stability in Afghanistan, Nicholson said terror outfits like the Haqqani network, Lashkar-e-Toiba and Jaish-e-Mohammad are not only a threat to Afghanistan but to the region, including India, and the US was putting pressure on Pakistan to contain these groups. He said the Taliban also “enjoys sanctuaries” in Pakistan.
“We consistently encourage Pakistan to take action against terrorist groups that operate from its territory and close down their safe havens,” he told journalists. Nicholson, who heads the US operations in Afghanistan, met National Security Adviser Ajit Doval, Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar and Defence Secretary G Mohan Kumar and discussed a range of issues including situation in Afghanistan and terror threat to the region.
The US commander said Afghan forces, supported by the US, had launched a major offensive against Islamic State terror outfit two weeks back in which around 300 IS fighters were killed. “In the course of the operation they killed a number of top leaders of the organisation and upto 300 of their fighters. Obviously it’s difficult to get an exact count, but what this amounts to is about 25 per cent of the organisation at least, and so this represents a severe setback for them. It reduced their territory,” he said.
The US Commander said military training by India to thousands of Afghan security personnel has helped that country in significantly enhancing its military capability which is in tune with the objective of the NATO and the US. “I know that they have requested more and would like more and I think there is an immediate need for more as these aircraft can immediately get into the fight,” he said when asked whether Afghanistan was seeking more military helicopters from India apart from the four Mi 25 choppers.
He said Afghanistan was struggling to get spare parts for the Russian aircraft due to Western sanctions against Moscow and India can supply them.Nicholson said the US was trying to build a “counter terrorism platform” focusing on containing all terror groups emanating from the region and ensure its peace and stability. Asked whether he will have to make an immediate visit to Islamabad to balance his trip to New Delhi, Nicholson said the Pakistan Army Chief knew about his trip and “he welcomes it”.
Specifically asked about Pakistan’s sincerity in coming down hard on terror outfits, he refered to American administration’s inability recently to certify that Pakistanis have put adequate pressure on the Haqqani network. Asked whether there was growing concerns in Pakistan about India’s role in Afghanistan, he only said, “I think it is an accurate statement.”