January 24, 2002
1600 IST

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India protests airlift of Pakistanis
from Kunduz

India has protested to the United States and Britain over Pakistan's airlifting of its nationals and Taliban fighters after they were cornered in Kunduz during American action in Afghanistan, National Security Adviser Brajesh Mishra was quoted as saying.

Diplomatic notes protesting the airlift were sent to the US and Britain. Neither responded, investigative journalist Seymour Hersh quoted Mishra as saying in an article in New Yorker magazine.

Mishra said 5,000 Pakistanis and Taliban fighters were airlifted by Pakistan after the fall of Kunduz.

Indian intelligence agencies were convinced that many of the airlifted fighters would soon infiltrate into Kashmir, the article said.

Referring to the December 13 attack on Parliament, which took place three weeks after the airlift, Mishra said if it had resulted in a more significant number of casualties "there would have been mayhem".

"Nobody in India wants war, but other options are not ruled out," Mishra said.

The article quoted one of India's "most senior intelligence officials" as saying that Pakistan President Pervez "Musharraf cannot afford to keep the Taliban fighters in Pakistan. They're dangerous to his regime. Our reading is that the fighters can go only to Kashmir".

The US had denied reports of the airlift, but the article quoted its intelligence and military officials as saying they indeed took place at Musharraf's instance.

The article said India's Research and Analysis had excellent access to the Northern Alliance and a highly sophisticated ability to intercept electronic communications.

An Indian military adviser was quoted as saying that when the airlift began, "we knew within minutes".

The Indian officials repeatedly declared that the airlift had rescued not only members of the Pakistani military, but Al Qaeda fighters as well.

The article quoted RAW's senior analyst for Pakistani and Afghan issues as saying the most extensive rescue efforts took place on three nights at the time of the fall of Kunduz.

Indian agents had concluded that 8,000 or more men were trapped inside the city in the last days of the siege, roughly half of whom were Pakistanis, with Afghans, Uzbeks, Chechens, and various Arab mercenaries making up the rest.

At least five flights were specifically "confirmed" by India's informants, the RAW analyst said, and many more were believed to have taken place.

In India's assessment, the article said, 33,00 prisoners surrendered to a Northern Alliance tribal faction headed by General Abdul Rashid Dostum. A few hundred Taliban were also turned over to other tribal leaders. That left between 4,000-5,000 men unaccounted for.


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