US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken begins an overseas tour to India and Kuwait on Monday. The main topic will be Afghanistan, where the situation continues to escalate. Against the backdrop of the Taliban offensive, the United States is mobilizing both Western and Eastern allies to support the Afghan government and prevent the Taliban from seizing power in Kabul. The main stake in the region, the United States is making on India, for which the return of the Taliban, sponsored by the hostile Pakistan, poses the greatest threat. On the eve of the visit of the Secretary of State, there were reports that the Pakistani military had already entered the border areas of Afghanistan controlled by the Taliban.
Anthony Blinken’s visit to India will mark his first visit to Delhi since taking office and will include meetings with Indian Foreign Minister Subramaniyam Jaishankar and Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Washington has already made it clear that the escalation of the Afghan crisis will be the most acute topic at the talks.
The completion of the withdrawal of the US contingent from Afghanistan raises the question of which external players with the necessary resources and political will will be ready to fill the security vacuum and support the government of President Ashraf Ghani, which is losing control of the country. In this sense, the US administration makes a key stake on India: it is loyal to Washington and has the closest and most friendly relations with the Afghan leadership in the region. In addition, India does not see the Taliban (a terrorist group banned in the Russian Federation) as a negotiable political force ready to abandon the Islamist project.
“We proceed from the premise that it is in the interests of all countries in the region for Afghanistan to be stable and secure. Therefore, we will work with our Indian partners to achieve this goal, ”said on the eve of Anthony Blinken’s visit to Delhi and. O. Dean Thompson, Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs. The American diplomat called Delhi a key partner of the United States in the region and welcomed the efforts of the Indian side to resolve the Afghan crisis.
After the overthrow of the Taliban regime in 2001, Delhi spent $ 3 billion on supporting Kabul – an order of magnitude less than the United States, but more than any other neighboring state.
This is due to the fact that India has the greatest motivation to prevent the Taliban from coming to power in Kabul.
On the eve of Anthony Blinken’s visit, the Indian side received yet another signal indicating that the dynamics of the situation in Afghanistan requires more and more decisive action from it. Afghan broadcaster RTA has released footage of the movement of Pakistani troops in the Afghan border province of Kandahar, which is currently controlled by the Taliban. According to RTA, “the Pakistani armed forces entered Afghan territory at the Nazar security post in the Spin Boldak region of Kandahar province” (the international highway connecting Kandahar in Afghanistan with Quetta, the administrative center of the Pakistani province of Baluchistan, passes through Spin Boldak).
The Pakistani version of events was presented by Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed. As the Pakistani security official explained, “the troops were sent to the border with Afghanistan in order to stop its possible crossing by the military and militants.” According to him, the Pakistani military will replace the border police, which is engaged in preventing illegal border crossings. The Pakistani Interior Minister also noted that the conflict in Afghanistan is an internal affair of the country and Islamabad does not take any side.
In this situation, on the eve of his regional tour, Anthony Blinken made a new loud statement on Afghanistan, in which he admitted: the United States and its allies and partners have no leverage to exclude the use of force to overthrow the regime in Kabul, but the Taliban must realize that in this case the price of the issue is for them it will be very high.
“We have serious concerns about the actions of the Taliban, which indicate that they may try to seize power in the country by force. However, if this happens, Afghanistan will become a rogue state. He will not get the help he seeks and the Taliban say he needs. He will not receive the support from the international community, which, according to his statements, he needs, ”US Secretary of State Blinken warned in an interview with US TV channel MSNBC.
On the same day, US President Joe Biden held a telephone conversation with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani. In a White House statement released after the conversation, it is noted that “the ongoing offensive by the Taliban directly contradicts the movement’s statement of support for a negotiated settlement of the conflict.” During the conversation, Joe Biden also reiterated the United States’ willingness to continue to support the Afghan security forces. According to the press service of the White House, in the budget request to Congress for the 2022 fiscal year, it is proposed to allocate $ 3.3 billion for the Afghan Security Forces Fund. Of this amount, $ 1 billion is proposed to be directed to support the Afghan Air Force. The US administration wants to spend another $ 1 billion on the purchase and supply of supplies for the Afghan army, $ 700 million on salaries for Afghan soldiers.
In addition, in the notification that President Biden sent to Secretary of State Blinken last Friday, it is reported that his administration authorized the allocation of up to $ 100 million for the evacuation of Afghan citizens who provided various assistance to American troops.