The recent attack on the Pakistani embassy in Kabul should be a concern for all the stakeholders.
Terrorist attacks on diplomats is not new in Kabul or elsewhere in Afghanistan. Indian, Russian, American and Pakistani diplomats have always been the prime target. Also, the diplomats from NATO allies aren’t safe but not in as bad a position as these four countries.
In a recent attack, Pakistan’s chargé d’affaires, Obaid Nizamani, escaped a bid on his life at the Embassy complex in the highly secured Green Zone of Kabul city. His bodyguard was injured in the attack. The assailants managed to flee. Later Taliban said it caught one of the terrorists.
Such attacks on the embassies are nothing new to Kabul but the continuation of such violence poses a larger threat to the regional piece.
Let’s get back to some similar attacks that rocked embassies in Kabul over the last couple of decades or so.
It was a July morning and temperature was soaring in Kabul. The 8 am light was scorching white. Watermelon sellers hawking and streets filled with traffic and smoke from mud-ovens baking breads was thickening the atmosphere. The traffic was busy, mostly with old Toyota cars honking and screaming at each other.
A worn-out Toyota Camry blew off at the gates of the Indian embassy with a huge bang that could be heard miles away. The blast killed 58 and injured over 150 people. The Toyata was driven by a 22-year-old suicide bombert. Just two cars ahead of him, entering the embassy was India’s Defence Attache, Brig. Ravi Dutt Mehta. He was among the first to die in the suicide attack.
Apart from Hindi and English, Brig. Mehta could converse in Pashto, Mandarin and Tibetan. Earlier posted in Kashmir as the head of Military Intelligence, he was an obvious target for the Taliban’s Haqqani network.
At the gate, two ITPB sentries succumbed while inside the embassy building, a 44-year-old IFS officer looking after the press, V Venkateshwara Rao, hit the ceiling so hard that he died instantly. The attack shook the diplomatic corps in Kabul.
A year before the Kabul attack, another attack at the Indian consulate in Jalalabad killed an ITBP jawan at the gate. 2009 saw another attack at the Indian embassy in a similar trail of events when a fidayi triggered a bomb killing himself and seventeen others and injuring many more. A car laden with explosives came close to the first security cordon and the suicide bomber Khalid detonated himself.
In another attack in 2016, heavily armed men attacked the thinly staffed Indian consulate in Mazar Sharif in Northern Afghanistan. Heavy exchange of fire took place between the Indian security posted under ITPB and the Taliban. Ata Noor, an Afghan warlord turned politician, himself used the RPG to defend the Indian consulate. Somehow, the attack was foiled without any major loss.
In 2017, in the city of Jalalabad bordering Pakistan’s Khyber region, a Pakistani diplomat was gunned down. Nayyar Iqbal, a visa officer with the Pakistani consulate in Jalalabad, was buying grocery from a city store when two men on a motorbike came and fired at him using AK-47.
Pakistan accused Amrulla Saleh of orchestrating the attack in connivance with R&AW.
Since the takeover of Afghanistan by the Taliban on 15th of August 2021, the world has been pointing fingers at ISI and Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) for all the alleged help they provided to install Taliban. Images of the then ISI director Lt Gen Faiz Hamid and Ambassador Mansoor Ahmad Khan interacting with the Taliban leadership went viral. India had to evacuate with the help of IAF.
Taliban regaining power was a turning point for India as New Delhi was close to the Ghani government while Taliban saw India working against it. The Taliban holding RPG, M16s and Kalashnikovs made India feel a bit nervous, all for the previous attacks on the diplomatic staff. Although much later India sent a technical team by consulting with the Taliban’s foreign ministry to take care of the embassy that was left vacant by Ambassador Rudendra Tandon and his staff in the aftermath of the Taliban takeover. A team of ITBP is also there to protect the embassy in Kabul’s elite Green Zone.
After the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan in August 2021, India has actively been engaging with the mullah regime and has even reopened the embassy in Kabul that has resumed all the operations there, except for visa services that threatens to become a major sore point between New Delhi and Kabul. India is also reportedly planning to restart all the major infrastructure development projects there even as China continues with its mega projects.
Obaid Nizamani took over early this November from Mansoor Khan who was also the Deputy High-commissioner of Pakistan to New Delhi in his previous assignments. Nizamani was new in the city although he was looking after the South Asia from MOFA. The attack on Nizamani, claimed by the ISIS-K, comes at a time when Herat Security Dialogue took place in Dushanbe and NRF leader Ahmad Masood and former NDS chief Rahamatulla Nabil and Pakistani PTM leader Mohsin Dawar were present there.
ISIS-K would, by all means, want to eliminate the important assets of Taliban and, obviously, Pakistan remains to be on top of the list.
This September in Kabul, two Russian diplomatic staffers were killed in a blast claimed by the ISIS. Just a month before this bombing, Russia’s FSB had arrested an ISIS plotter in Moscow who was said tobe plotting attacks against India.
The penetration of ISIS into Islamic and non-Islamic countries is becoming more dangerous than ever. If the SAARC countries along with other regional groups frame a strategy and get together to take on the larger enemy, it would be a much better idea than having regional splits and fighting among themselves.
Shome Basu is a New Delhi-based senior journalist.