Barack Obama was then the US President. We went to the White House with former Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. When Manmohan Singh was engaged in a dialogue with Obama at his Oval Office, we were strolling in the president's garden and enjoying the beauty of flowers.
On conclusion of talks, we were called in the Oval Office. We saw Obama and Manmohan Singh sitting side-by-side on separate sofas. Our journalist friends were asking queries to Obama and he was carefully replying to them. And, at that time, I was closely watching Obama. He wore a black suit and polished shoes with black socks. He had a strong jaw with intelligent eyes. Watching Obama, I felt well. During talks with him, it flashed my mind that he is a thoughtful person.
In his autobiography, Obama narrated the activities of Bush administration as well as the death of Laden in a US operation after the 9/11 attack, Afghan war and the troubles that he had faced in the US administration while implementing the policies. In the memoir, he even described about the blueprint of a conspiracy to kill Obama in the Situation Room. He said that he had to work in great risk.
During the period, Hillary predicted the possibility of success of the attack 51 and 49 percent. Taking a great risk, America adopted a war strategy to achieve total success in the operation. After the successful operation, when Obama was returning to White House, he watched the Lincoln House made of white marble where Lincoln was seated in a white marble chair. Observing the scene, Obama's helicopter reached closer to it. He made a comeback with the success story of Laden's killing. Through this description, Obama expressed a feeling of pain in the autobiography.
Time and again, he tried to tell a thing that in Afghanistan Osama had a code name of Geronimo. How the US Navy Seal was sent to kill him and especially the tussle at Abbottabad was an act that was done taking great risk. Obama wrote that while doing so if the operation ended in failure then the relationship with Pakistan might have reached a terrible point. As a result, a situation might have arisen when the US had to wage a war against Pakistan.
So, the task was risky. Today, after so many years, we talk about Afghanistan where the Taliban have formed a government. It seems as if they would not vanish. What success the US had achieved after a war for about three decades? While punishing an organisation, there emerged another organisation.
When the United States first launched the military operation in Afghanistan, the Taliban had distributed a particular leaflet. At that period, the leaflet was published in the ‘Newsweek’ magazine where the Taliban stated: ‘You have clock in hand and you launch operation watching it. We have time in hands and we shall wait. Future will tell whether we shall come out victorious or loser.’ Today, after so many years, we remember the contents of the leaflet when Narendra Modi appeals to the world community in the Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa (BRICS) summit to contain terrorism.
I like to mention another small incident from Obama’s life story. When Obama was holding a meeting to restrain ‘Al-Qaida’ militants, he wanted to take a hard anti-terrorism line. He was aware about the corrupt practices pursued by the Afghan government led by Hamid Karzai that siphoned a large amount of money abroad. In his narratives, Obama stated that it would be tough enough to retain the Kabul administration.
He told CIA official Gates that anyhow we shall have to launch operations in close coordination with our civilians and military personnel as well as Karzai administration. But, Gates did not feel that much encouraged. In reply, he said that what would be the benefit of acting against the Taliban? Actually, he was suspicious about the operations what Obama had stated in his autobiography.
Obama wanted to tell that there were different opinions in his administration. He wrote that in 1980 Gates was the CIA Deputy Director who supplied arms to Afghan Mujahideen to launch operations against the Soviet army. As to why, the CIA official had an experience of working closely with the Mujahideen. Obama questioned how pragmatic was this official's anti-Al-Qaida steps? Still, the US administration or the CIA or Pentagon differs on various issues. Like our country, there exist differences of opinion in the US, despite capitalism. The multiple voices were really difficult to handle on the part of Obama.
In the prevailing situation, India has to play a dual role regarding the administration of the Taliban. It is yet to be seen as to how will the supporters of the Taliban who exist in India and the neighbouring countries along with the ISI and China act in the sub-continent? Alongside, we must take into account that the Taliban are no more militants as they have formed the government. So, it is convenient to sit in dialogue with the government. And, now, we shall have to do it.
In such a situation, there is intelligence report in the hands of the Indian home minister. It is that there is no guarantee that the Taliban would not secretly wage a shadow war in Kashmir and other parts of India taking assistance from the Haqqani group aided by the ISI. Even in West Bengal that has a long border with Bangladesh and in Siliguri where there is a corridor named ‘chicken neck’ which China has cast keen eyes on, according to the report. Once there was a hue and cry in the Indian news media following Darjeeling visit of the Chinese Ambassador to India. Many had questioned what were the aims and objectives of that visit?
Information are also pouring in the home ministry that various militant groups are trying to unite in Assam. India will take all-out measures to check infiltration of members of Assamese and Bangladeshi extremist organisations who might try to collectively enter the Indian territories to carry on terrorist activities again.
In Assam, Majlis-e-Shoora and JMB are trying to reorganise themselves. They have been overjoyed following take-over of Afghan administration by the Taliban. After the fall of Kabul, militant groups like ‘Al-Qaida,’ ‘Lashkar-e-Taiba’ and ‘Jaish-e-Mohammed’ have become active taking ‘JMB’ in their fold. They are also trying to expand their organisational network in Bangladesh and West Bengal. Indian intelligence personnel have decoded a dialogue of an Indian militant with a Bangladeshi militant. According to sources, the militants might have held a meeting in a secret hideout at Garhpeta or Dhubri of Assam. Indian newspapers have published this news. Now, India thinks it proper to formulate a joint strategy after talks with Bangladesh government and that of West Bengal and some other state governments so that extremists like Haqqani group cannot raise their heads in the region. It is yet to be seen as to how the countries coordinate in this regard.
Afghanistan home ministry is in grip of Haqqani group. The home minister himself is the chief of the group. A death warrant has been issued against him. Such a person holds the post of Afghan home ministry. However, India heaved a sigh of relief learning that Afghan foreign and defence ministries are not in its grip. The US held talks with India, Pakistan, Russia and other countries. Indian National Security Advisor Ajit Doval sat in a dialogue with the Russian security adviser. So, talks are still going on. In BRICS summit, Narendra Modi has unified all the countries so that China, Pakistan, Iran and Turkey desist from doing anti-Indian activities.
On one side, it can be said that there is a possibility of a civil war in Afghanistan. Again, on other side, terrorism has become the reason of a new headache in India, Bangladesh and the sub-continent. Tackling the situation is civilisation. Despite an apprehension of failure, there is no question of backtracking from it.
The writer is a senior
journalist based in New Delhi
Translated by Z. A. M. Khairuzzaman