Tuesday, January 31, 2023

ISKP Threat to Kabul and Taliban

By SS Ahmad 

The logic of terrorism, howsoever, convincingly used by Afghan Taliban rule to justify its retrograde policies towards women, political rivals and ethnic minorities not only legitimises the other terror outfits but emboldens them.  History also shows that terrorism boomerangs on its perpetrators. The rival Islamic Fundamentalist terror organisations have the potential to de-stabilise the Taliban regime in due course.

Recently the Islamic State Khorasan Province (ISKP) attacked “Longan Hotel” in Kabul that is known to host Chinese businessmen and other foreign nationals. Some observers opine that the attack signals the beginning of the next phase of terrorist disturbances in Afghanistan. In fact the ISKP has accelerated terror attacks in the last few years and is now seeking prominence in political matters of the state as well. It is finding terror attack as a handy tool to enhance its presence and control in the country. Although, the ISKP had indicated that the attack aimed to take revenge and caution China over its crackdown on Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang, the other underlying objective is to curb Beijing’s diplomatic overtures to the Taliban regime since it assumed power in August 2021. 

ISKP’s increased activism is clear from a series of terror attacks since August 2021. The attack on the Longan hotel came close on the heels of an assassination attempt on the Pakistan Charge d’Affaire Ubaid-ur-Rehman Nizamani, at his residence inside the Pakistani embassy compound, which shows frustration of the militant outfit. ISPK does not appreciate Taliban’s strategy to protect and expand Islam. 

ISPK apprehends that Taliban’s rule in Afghanistan is fast becoming inevitable and the world is slowly going to restart engagement with the Islamist party which has not been recognised so far by any country. ISKP projects itself as a transnational jihadi group and a better alternative to Taliban. It is opposed to the Taliban and hopes to make major gains in Afghanistan so as to dent Taliban’s influence. It accuses the Taliban of abandoning the jihadi ideology by making peace with the United States and betraying the cause of Muslims. ISKP also seeks to mobilise mass support for its actions by taking refuge in the tenets of Islam and the pretext of its protection.

The ISKP had also attacked Russian embassy.  It believes that Russia created the five Republics in the Soviet era to eradicate Islam from the region.  The triggers of ISKP attack on Russian embassy include confrontation in Syria and Iraq and Russian supply of weapons to Taliban, besides providing an international platform to the latter in “Moscow Format”. 

ISKP’s terror attacks are the product of a well calculated strategy to garner maximum publicity and impact. It has been targeting high profile land marks like embassies or the ethnic minorities like Shia’s and Hazaras. The series of attacks intend to compel Russia, China and other dominant influencers in Kabul to review their strategy and engagements in Afghanistan. ISKP is displaying contempt for the international powers which sympathize with the Taliban. Pakistan is also not an exception.

Analysts believe that the entry or resurgence of new terror outfits in Afghanistan is a bad omen and has the potential to boomerang on Afghan Taliban regime. It may jeopardise Taliban regime’s efforts to enhance its global strategic engagements including economic engagements. ISKP believes that the Taliban has compromised Islam for strategic engagements. These attacks have exposed Taliban’s constraints and undermined its capacity to protect the global partners as well as its own supremacy. It showed that it could not provide foolproof security for the diplomatic establishments. 

As Taliban suffers from limited counter-terrorism capabilities, it is likely that the ISKP would continue and accelerate terror attacks to prompt the diplomats in Kabul to take a step back in continuing their engagements with Taliban regime or even with other natives. The target of ISKP is to threaten diplomatic missions, international organizations such as the UN and various NGOs in the region. It also aims to challenge Taliban’s increased hobnobbing with China and the US. 

ISKP, the regional affiliate of terrorist group ISIS, is lodged in a power tussle with the Taliban in Afghanistan. The group appears to be growing in strength day by day and gaining momentum. It believes that the Taliban is betraying the cause of Muslims and considers it as “apostates” much like they consider Shias. It poses a major challenge to the Taliban as well as to regional powers. 

ISKP does not view Pakistan’s sympathy for the Taliban as good intentioned. Rather it views that Pakistan uses Taliban as a kind of vector to spread its influence. It also accuses the Taliban government of “working hard to implement the Pakistani version of Islam designed by ISI and CIA in US intelligence headquarters of Qatar.”

The ISKP, created in 2015 by disaffected Taliban in eastern Afghanistan has conducted numerous terrorist attacks in Afghanistan and Pakistan since then. In 2018, ISKP bombings killed 149 in Mustang, Pakistan. In May 2021, an ISKP bombing killed 90 in Kabul. Just after Taliban capture of power in August 2021, they killed 13 American military personnel and about 170 Afghans during the US evacuation of Kabul in August 2021. 

Seeing Afghanistan today it is clear that violence breeds violence. It is evidenced by the fact that the rise of the Taliban to power did not bring peace to Afghanistan. Contrary to it, different forms of political violence have either continued or emerged, including the Taliban regime’s extrajudicial executions and the anti-Taliban armed resistance. Now the culture of violence and terror is getting momentum as the other terror outfits have also become active in the country.

Realizing its strategic vision of expanding to the surrounding regions, ISKP has systematically shifted out of Eastern Afghanistan and infiltrated the Northern and Western provinces of the country. It has increased Kabul’s worries. Meanwhile, one of the major sympathisers of Taliban, Pakistan is also facing the ire of Pakistani Taliban, i.e., Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).

The Boomerang Effect of Terrorism

Terrorism has its own boomerang effects. Taliban cannot prevent other terrorist outfits from the acts it adopted as a strategy to capture power and bog down people to accept its version of Islamic precepts and practices, howsoever retrograde. Even in case of Pakistan, the double standards on Taliban has now boomeranged as the TTP have stepped up attacks across Pakistan with a spate of incidents over the past week. It has prompted the Shahbaz Sharif-led government to throw blame at the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government for a surge in terrorist activities. The blame is directed to the provincial government because it is led by Imran Khan-led Tehreek-e-Insaf. It may serve the Shahbaz government’s political interest, but the truth is that terrorism has always remained a tool of Pakistan’s domestic and foreign policy no matter which Party rules. 

State building is a difficult art and it cannot be premised on terrorism. The irony is that terror outfits were always present in Afghanistan and now new combinations are cropping up yet the regime is seeking peace and stability. Taliban is also known to have maintained close ties with Al-Qaeda. Since regaining control on the seat of power in Afghanistan, the Taliban have taken actions reminiscent of their brutal rule in the late 1990s. The other fundamentalist Islamic organisations are now raising hoods in a sort of power rivalry with the Taliban. The situation is getting worse and complex. ISKP is suspected to have joined hands with East Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM). Now, Taliban would not only find it difficult to maintain its supremacy, but also to seek international support as it is failing to contain terrorism and improve its human rights record. Peace would never be a reality without shunning terrorism and repression.

Note: The contents of the article are of sole responsibility of the author. Afghan Diaspora Network will not be responsible for any inaccurate or incorrect statement in the article.

Related Articles

Latest Articles