Night Watch

India-Afghanistan: Indian Minister of External Affairs Slaman Khurshid said on 15 February that India will provide helicopters to Afghanistan.

"We are giving them helicopters and we will be supplying them very soon," Khurshid told reporters accompanying him on a day-long visit to the Afghan city of Kandahar, where he inaugurated an agricultural university built with Indian aid. "We also have been giving them some logistical support and we hopefully will be able to upgrade and refurbish their transport aircraft."

Khurshid did not specify the number or type of helicopters to be provided to Afghanistan. Nor did he elaborate on transport aircraft contracts.

Comment: In combat operations since the Soviet intervention in 1979, attack helicopters have been critical to the survival of both Soviet and US/NATO forces in Afghanistan. In other words, limited pacification of one of the most primitive places on earth has required extensive use of one of the most sophisticated and complex weapons systems ever developed in support of ground forces.

NightWatch has contended for more than a dozen years that without fixed wing and helicopter support, the US and NATO combat force presence in Afghanistan always has been unsustainable.

Indian forces have ten kinds of helicopters, some of which Indian enterprises manufacture. Most of these, however, do not appear to be available for provision to Afghanistan.

India has reached an agreement with the US to purchase Apache attack helicopters that will replace its 20 Mi-35 Soviet-built attack helicopters. These appear to be the most likely candidates for early transfer to Afghanistan because they will become available soon and a core of Afghan pilots and technicians knows how to fly and maintain MI-35s. They are highly effective weapons systems, if well supported and maintained. The Indians will help.

The larger importance of the Indian announcement is that the government in New Delhi is not willing to surrender Afghanistan to the Taliban or to Pakistani intelligence without a fight. It appears committed to support an anti-Taliban government in Kabul and to the policy of supporting a two-front war threat to Pakistan.

There is symmetry in the Indian and Pakistani proxy fights. Pakistan supports the Kashmiri militants who tie down hundreds of thousands of Indian security forces. Indian support for the government in Kabul will force Pakistan to tie down significant resources to support the Pashtun Taliban whom Pakistani intelligence has protected in Quetta and Karachi for 13 years.


Night Watch

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