Aditi Tandon & Sandeep Dikshit
Tribune News Service
New Delhi, September 6
Prime Minister Narendra Modi chaired a high-level meeting to discuss the situation in Afghanistan shortly after the Taliban captured the main road and some administrative buildings on the floor of the Panjshir Valley amidst accusations of Pakistani aerial assistance to scatter the National Resistance Front (NRF).
Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, Home Minister Amit Shah and NSA Ajit Doval, who constitute a high level group on Afghanistan, along with External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar currently not in the country, had first met six days back in a meeting chaired by PM Modi.
At a press conference to announce the “defeat” of the Panjshir rebels, Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid again assured an inclusive government which will not depend on any outside force, including Pakistan. But NRF leader Ahmad Massoud, in an audio message, alleged that it was Pakistan’s ISI spy agency which had assisted and egged on the Taliban to fight against the Panjshiris.
This was an echo of 1996 when the ISI had allegedly instructed the Mujahideen to kill former Afghan President Mohd Najibullah who was then dragged out of a UN compound and hanged to death.
However, both Massoud and Amrullah Saleh had melted in the rugged mountainside but the NRF’s media face Fahim Dashti and a prominent commander Gen Abdul Wudod Zara were killed on Sunday night allegedly by a Pakistani drone.
In this context, Iran “strongly warned” the Taliban against crossing “red lines” and its Foreign Office was examining the possibility of “foreign intervention” in Panjshir attacks after the audio message by Massoud.
The Iranian Foreign Office said the “martyrdom” of Panjshir commanders was “utterly disappointing” and noted that the Taliban offensive took place even after Massoud had supported a plan, put forward by religious clerics, for a negotiated settlement.
The meeting chaired by PM Modi is also to have taken note of the presence of ISI chief in Afghanistan amid government formation talks by the Taliban with reports suggesting differences between the Taliban and Haqqani network on the name of Haibatullah Akundzada as the supreme leader.
The meeting also deliberated on the measures to be taken for full and safe evacuation of Indian nations from Afghanistan and the minorities who might want to come.
Evacuations from Afghanistan were suspended on August 31.