Though he is above 80, Lt Gen. JFR Jacob, a hero of the 1971 war with Pakistan, remains a keen student of strategic warfare. "I've learned from every campaign since Alexander the Great and Napoleon," he explains. Jacob, who also served as the Governor of Goa and Punjab, recently lectured in nine US cities, (including one at Capitol Hill in Washington DC) which were attended by several senior US administration officials and military officers. The lectures - broadcast live on some US television and radio channels - have been critically acclaimed by many, and parts of it have been also incorporated in the curricula of some universities.
In this exclusive article for Sify.com, he explains why insecurity in Afghanistan directly impacts Indian interests.
The Al Qaeda and Taliban pose escalating threats to Indian security.
Pakistan is striving hard, through the Taliban, to gain control of eastern Afghanistan. Iran too is trying to increase its influence in the Shia areas of western Afghanisan.
Afghanistan is, and always has been, critical to Indian security. It is imperative in the interests of India that NATO succeeds in its mission to restore stability to Afganistan. But NATO should learn from earlier abortive campaigns, of the first and second Anglo-Afghan wars, Maharaja Ranjit Singh's incursion into Kabul , and the Soviet occupation and withdrawal from Afghanistan. The only one who managed to keep control over this region was Alexander the Great, and that was some 2,500 years ago.
With the proposed infusion of more US troops , NATO forces in Afghanistan will go well past the 100,000 mark. The Taliban number some 30,000 Pashtuns in southern Afghanistan and a few thousand in Pakistan. Taliban supremo Omar Mullah and Al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden are in Pakistan. Omar is in Karachi and Laden in northern Pakistan, both under protection of the ISI .
There is talk of NATO only holding the towns leaving the countryside to the Taliban. This will be unwise. It will perhaps be relevant to remember the Spanish Peninsular War---the French held the towns , the guerillas controlled the countryside. the French left Spain defeated. NATO will have to control both the towns and the countryside.
In a insurgency or small war there are two essential factors to keep the insurgency going: firm bases and lines of supply for arms ,ammunition and money. As long as these two factors obtain the insurgency will continue.
The firm bases of the Taliban and Al Qaeda are in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Money comes from the Middle East and Pakistan's ISI, and from opium. Some money received by Pakistan as US aid are diverted to the Taliban. The area is awash with weapons.
NATO's operations in southern Afghanistan are made more complex by the unhindered movement of Taliban fighters between Afghanistan and Pakistan. Military operations have to cover both Afghanistan and Pakistan. The situation will eventually have to be resolved not only in Afghanistan but finally on the banks of the river Indus.
Economically, Afghanistan is an unviable state. Its armed forces and police are ill equipped and ill trained , the infrastructure is in poor shape, corruption is rampant . There is no effective governance. The writ of the central government does not extend much beyond Kabul. Tribal loyalties take precedence over national. Human rights hardly exist. Hardline attitudes towards women are deplorable. Fundamentalism is escalating rapidly.
All these factors have to be addressed. The Marine Corps manual on small wars of the 1930's stressed the capture of hearts and minds. These aspects are, I am told, being given proper weightage by NATO.
India is already involved in helping Afghanistan build its infrastructure, roads, government buildings etc, much to Pakistan’s annoyance. Pakistan wishes to eliminate all Indian influence in Afghanistan.
India can also help in training the armed forces, police, civil servants and with infrastructural services, medical services, and educational facilities for both boys and girls.
A stable and economically viable Afghanistan is an essential factor for Indian security. We must do whatever it takes to ensure this.
By the same author: