Why Kashmir is feeling the ripples of Taliban’s Afghanistan takeover

Srinagar: It has been around two weeks since Taliban took over the control of almost the entire Afghanistan. The group is now trying to stabilize its hold on the country that has seen more than four decades of unrest and is still craving for peace. At the same time, the Taliban is now working on the diplomatic front to generate legitimacy and goodwill for itself. Countries like Pakistan are more than willing to oblige. However, thousands of miles away from Afghanistan, a small place like Kashmir is feeling the tremors of the Taliban’s takeover.

When insurgency erupted in Kashmir in early nineties, foreign terrorists could be seen roaming freely in parts of Kashmir. “In the early nineties, Afghan militants roamed freely in Srinagar brandishing heavy weapons like LMGs and sniper rifles.

They shopped openly in city interiors. They could be easily recognized by their body structure, shoulder length hair and their language,” says Ghulam Ahmad, an elderly person from Batamaloo area of Srinagar, once a hotbed of militancy. However, by the end of the nineties, they started disappearing from the scene, Ahmad added.

“Many Pakistani and Afghan terrorists were either killed or arrested by the security forces in the nineties. It was a common sight then,” said a retired police officer who remained actively involved in anti-militancy operations and is now living a retired life amid heavy security.

Defence experts believe that the Kashmir situation may bear the effect of the Taliban takeover in Afghanistan. “Taliban and Pakistan connections are not a secret. Once the Taliban settle down, Pakistan would definitely seek their help in Kashmir,” said one of the experts. He added that hundreds of Pakistanis are operating along with Taliban and if not Afghanis, Pakistan’s terrorists are definitely going to trickle into Kashmir.

If media reports are to be believed, Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Masood Azhar has already had a meeting with Taliban leadership in the third week of August to seek their help in Kashmir. Reports said Azhar was in Kandahar after the Taliban took control of Afghanistan. “Masood’s presence in Kandahar definitely is not for a picnic. He means business and that is to foment trouble in Jammu and Kashmir,” said another defence expert.

Jaish-e-Mohammed is one of the most dreaded terror groups operating in Kashmir for the last two decades now. In fact, Jaish pioneered suicide attacks in Kashmir valley inflicting heavy casualties on the forces. During the counter operations by the forces, some of its top commanders were killed, including close relatives of Masood Azhar. In fact, two of his nephews were eliminated by the forces in two different operations.

On the ground, a lot has, however, changed during the last 20 years in Kashmir valley. The security grid is stronger and technologically sound now. Infiltration routes have been almost completely blocked with thick presence of the Army and BSF. Outposts have been consolidated with heavy weaponry which has helped to control the situation to a large extent. “It won’t be possible for large groups to infiltrate. But you cannot stop trickling of foreign terrorists in ones and twos. We have had Pakistani terrorists getting killed in the last month only,” said the defence expert.

Meanwhile, the security agencies in Kashmir are on maximum alert to tackle any threat of the foreign terrorists entering Kashmir. Addressing a joint press conference at Army’s Victor Force headquarters at Awantipora last week, the IGP Kashmir said police have activated human and technical intelligence to find out whether any foreign element, including Taliban, is planning to infiltrate into Kashmir. “If at all any such thing happens, I as a police officer assure the people of Kashmir that police, army and the other security forces will deal with the challenge professionally,” the IGP said.

Apart from Taliban elements entering Kashmir, another cause of concern would be highly sophisticated weapons left behind by US troops in Afghanistan. Sources said that there is a possibility that small weapons of high caliber may be smuggled into Kashmir from Afghanistan via Pakistan.

Security forces have seized number of US made weapons from slain foreign terrorists in Kashmir. This includes the M4 carbine, which is widely used by US forces.