The scenario in Afghanistan’s capital, Kabul, escalated sharply Thursday after a suicide assault by militants from the native affiliate of the Islamic State killed over 100 Afghan civilians and 13 US troops at a gate to Hamid Karzai Worldwide Airport.
US Central Command head Gen. Kenneth “Frank” McKenzie stated American army management is in a state of readiness for brand spanking new assaults in Kabul by the Islamic State Khorasan (IS-Ok) terrorist group. “We’re ready to proceed the mission,” he advised reporters at a briefing Thursday. In response to him, america has shared restricted intelligence with the Taliban — who’re guarding the airport — about menace assessments and preparations by IS to commit terrorist assaults. “We imagine assaults have been thwarted by [the Taliban],” he added.
These assaults demonstrated that after america and its allies ceased their anti-terrorist actions within the nation because of the fast advance of the Taliban and their seize of the capital, the safety scenario started to deteriorate sharply.
The scenario additionally poses new challenges for Russia and its Central Asian allies comparable to Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan. Whereas the People had been current in Afghanistan, they might present counterterrorism measures that benefitted Afghanistan’s Central Asian neighbors. However after the arrival of the Taliban, a safety vacuum could emerge, and the Taliban could face critical difficulties in fixing this drawback. After the People left, Russia hoped that the Taliban would have the ability to take management of the safety scenario and destroy terrorist cells in Afghanistan, one thing Taliban representatives had repeatedly assured the Russians they might do.
Nonetheless, it ought to be borne in thoughts that the principle motive for the fast advance of Taliban forces was not a lot the group’s army energy because it was the collapse of the federal government in Kabul, which was unable to struggle with out exterior help. Such a fast institution of energy by the Taliban means that the group was capable of simply take full management of all areas from which authorities troops fled virtually with out a struggle, and the place fighters from different radical teams — together with the Islamic State — might now discover refuge.
Thus, it stays attainable that Afghanistan will as soon as once more turn into a base for worldwide Salafi jihadism. And the rationale for this can be not solely “gaps” within the actions of the Taliban to exert their energy, but additionally the purposeful place of some teams throughout the Taliban which have their very own views completely different from the management of the motion. For instance, this considerations the Taliban’s so-called Peshawar shura, or council, which turned a canopy for the actions of the shadowy Haqqani Community. The latter is the subgroup of the Taliban most ideologically near al-Qaeda and has used suicide bombers to assault civilian targets.
Regardless of statements by the Taliban that Afghanistan will not function a base for the actions of terrorist teams that threaten different states from its territory, along with the Islamic State there are nonetheless al-Qaeda militants who could attempt to begin profiting from the safety vacuum. These might be, for instance, worldwide jihadis remaining within the Taliban buildings from the so-called 055 Brigade, a company completely composed of al-Qaeda militants who dedicated quite a few crimes towards peaceable Afghans. The brigade was built-in into the Taliban military between 1995 and 2001.
Anton Mardasov, a nonresident scholar within the Center East Institute’s Syria Program, advised Al-Monitor that over the previous years the Taliban have actively been involved with the core of al-Qaeda in addition to its somewhat autonomous department al-Qaeda on the Indian Subcontinent. In response to Mardasov, members of al-Qaeda and al-Qaeda within the Indian Subcontinent are current in 13 provinces of the nation, together with Helmand and Kandahar. Al-Qaeda, he famous, has additionally strengthened its presence in Badakhshan, a province within the east of the nation that borders Tajikistan. There are different areas of al-Qaeda presence, together with Barmal County within the japanese Afghan province of Paktika the place the Haqqani Community dominates, and extra usually on the Afghan-Pakistani border the place al-Qaeda operates in shut cooperation with the Haqqani Community with the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba.
There’s additionally the potential for Afghanistan to see the arrival of radical teams from Syria’s Idlib province. Just lately Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), the phobia group that controls Idlib, started to pursue a coverage geared toward eradicating non-Syrian jihadis from its territory. On this regard, it’s extremely possible that below stress from HTS, quite a few such teams could transfer to Afghanistan. This might occur each with the approval of some buildings throughout the Taliban and despite them.
Such factions able to transit from Syria to Afghanistan could embody, for instance, Katibat al-Tawhid wa al-Jihad (to not be confused with the Iraqi group of the identical identify), consisting of fighters from the Central Asian republics, primarily Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, a lot of whom got here from Russia the place they had been on the lookout for work. Abu Salah al-Uzbeki (Sirojiddin Mukhtarov), the chief of this group, was arrested by HTS’s safety companies again in June. One other Uzbek radical Islamist, Abu Rofik al-Tartarstani (Sukhrob Baltabaev), was killed in motion by HTS militants.
Thus, the actions of the remaining radicals from Katibat al-Tawhid wa al-Jihad in Idlib are threatened and so they might attempt to infiltrate the territory of Afghanistan.
Imam Bukhari Jamaat is a reasonably large Uzbek group combating in Idlib. Though in the mean time the group has no battle with HTS, nonetheless — primarily based on HTS chief Abu Muhammad al-Jolani’s conviction of the necessity to “cleanse” the area from non-Syrian factions — it’s one other candidate for switch to Afghanistan.
As well as, the native department of the Uyghur Islamic Occasion of Turkestan, whose cells are additionally situated in Afghanistan, stays lively in Idlib. It’s attainable that below stress from the HTS, this group may transfer to the Afghan areas. The identical applies to the Caucasian jihadist teams — Junud al-Sham and Ajnad al-Kavkaz. Particularly, Junud al-Sham has already been disbanded by the HTS, and its militants are on the lookout for alternatives to proceed their actions directed primarily towards Russia in different international locations.
After all, a lot will rely on Turkey’s place on this difficulty and its readiness to offer a hall for the switch of overseas fighters from Syria to Afghanistan. Contemplating the present degree of relations between Ankara and Moscow on the one hand and the Central Asian republics on the opposite, it’s unlikely Turkey will present help to those teams. However their presence in Idlib and the potential for them to maneuver to the Turkish-controlled zones in Syria additionally threatens Ankara’s safety pursuits.
The areas the place militants from Idlib might probably transfer are the Afghan provinces of Badakhshan, Kunar and Nuristan. These areas turned often called the Afghan Waziristan and weren’t utterly managed by both the previous Afghan authorities or the Taliban. That is the place branches of varied radical Salafi teams have discovered their refuge.
For instance, in Badakhshan, fragments of the Islamic Motion of Uzbekistan (IMU) are nonetheless working — particularly, the a part of them that refused to be a part of the native department of IS-Ok. The latter additionally retains its presence there.
The Tajik radical group Jamaat Ansarullah, which cut up from the IMU and has carried out terrorist assaults in Tajikistan, can be working on this area. There are allegations that Ansarullah is carefully cooperating with the Taliban, and that it was even given the duty of securing a part of the Afghan-Tajik border. The Taliban denies these accusations.
As well as, these areas are a refuge for native Salafis with whom the Taliban have fairly critical ideological contradictions (the Taliban are Hanafis from the Deobandi faculty). But it surely was within the areas of Kunar and Nuristan that the Taliban had been pressured to permit the actions of Afghan Salafis, a few of whom function below the flags of the Taliban however on the similar time have their very own objectives and goals. Others, in the meantime, create impartial Salafi teams not managed by the Taliban.
Thus, the rise to energy of the Taliban leaves extra questions not solely in regards to the plans of the group itself but additionally its capacity to resolve duties entrusted to it by states working to develop ties and contacts with this motion.