RAW had recruited three warlords in Afghanistan, says book

RAW had recruited three warlords

By DHNS & Shemin Joy

The Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) had recruited three powerful warlords, including Ahmad Shah Massoud, in Afghanistan during the Soviet invasion and the US-Pakistan proxy war there, a new book on India’s external spy agency has said. The book ‘RAW: A History of India’s Covert Operations’ by investigative journalist Yatish Yadav, however, did not disclose the identity of the two other warlords, as they still occupy positions in Afghanistan politics.

At least three RAW spies involved in covert action in Afghanistan have claimed that Afghan armed forces were “demoralised and divided, remained practically inactive” during the Soviet army’s December 1979 invasion, the book, which will be released on Monday, said. The book, which provides details of RAW operations in Afghanistan and elsewhere, said that the mujahideen sought to fill this gap aided by the Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agents.

The US’ Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)’s partnership with the ISI was a “serious concern” for India and the RAW needed allies to counter the unlikely partnership of the mujahideens and the Pakistani spy agency. “In training the mujahideen, Pakistan planned to kill three birds with one stone: first, show its irreconcilable enemy, India, that it could use the Islamic block as global leverage to achieve its long-held desire to annex all of Kashmir; next, acquire arms and funds to strengthen itself against India and Afghanistan; and finally, threaten Moscow and entertain China,” the book said.

It claimed that the RAW helped Afghanistan’s fledgling security apparatus to fight back the ISI agents operating in the region and behind the scenes with its network providing accurate inputs on arms smuggled from Pakistan to insurgents in Kandahar. Sometime in April 1980, the Indian government was pressured by the United States to openly criticise the presence of Soviet troops in Afghanistan, but the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi had refused to yield.

“India’s concerns related to Afghanistan were manifold but at least two issues agitated the spies: the training of mujahideen that could be used by Pakistan against India and the unhindered arms supply by the US to the Pakistan army, which was virtually part of its intelligence unit, the ISI,” the book said. The book also claims that the US knew about the Indian activities in Afghanistan and the Americans launched propaganda against the RAW with stories appearing with Washington dateline, which said that the US supply of arms was a “sort of punishment” to India for failing to oppose the Soviet Union on Afghan soil and the Soviet-Vietnam interference in Cambodia.

Around September-October 1989, the book claims, the RAW officers armed with evidence of terror training camps confronted US officials. The Americans were told by the Indian spies that Pakistan was not preparing holy warriors for Afghanistan but terrorists who would haunt the Western powers in the future. The Indian spies, however, were rebuffed.

RAW also feared, the book said, that the Taliban would not waste time in killing former President of Afghanistan Mohammad Najibullah Ahmadzai once they gained dominance in the war. An Indian spy recalled the message the RAW sent to Najibullah, who was staying at the UN mission in Kabul, to leave the country but he refused outrightly. Another effort was made through a reluctant Massoud, but Najibullah rejected the offer once again, arguing that the Taliban may not attack him.

“Despite our insistence and warnings about the Pakistan-Taliban trickery, Najibullah waited for some kind of miracle to happen. It did not happen and he was brutally executed by the Taliban,” the book quotes an ex-spy as saying.

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