The jihadists will remain a threat to the Taliban government

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Afghanistan Update

The author is a senior researcher at S Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS) in Singapore

The attack on Kabul Airport by Isis-K, a branch of Isis in Afghanistan, provided a severe test for Western participation in Afghanistan. The intervention that began in response to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 ended in the massacres of Americans and Afghans. It also emphasizes the complexity of the threat of terrorism in South Asia. From being mainly driven by al-Qaeda, it now involves a series of different organizations. The threats posed by these organizations may remain regional in the short to medium term, but in the long run it will undoubtedly cause instability affecting the West.

In many ways, the threat from Al Qaeda is fairly consistent. Osama bin Laden’s organization uses its funds and resources to support the Taliban. This allows it to establish a terrorist infrastructure in Afghanistan, which can then be used for jihad against the West and its “apostate” supporters in the Muslim world. Other groups operating on the territory of Afghanistan focus on replacing opponents, but operate on the same principles.

Some people worry that this situation may happen again. Whether the Taliban will attack organizations like Al Qaeda, which have fought side by side with them in the 20-year struggle with the United States, and shed blood is an open question. But even if we assume that they have found a way to contain them, this is no longer the only threat that may arise.

Although there is a certain degree of hysteria surrounding Isis-K, it has proved to be resilient and a local branch of an organization that still has considerable influence in the global jihadist community. It can be found in online chats that people may leave the Levant for Afghanistan because it provides a favorable environment for jihad. In the extreme, this may mean that ISIS will devote more resources to the establishment of a mini-caliphate in parts of Afghanistan. Or simply use the violence in the region to rebuild its eclipsed global brand.

However, these threats need to be viewed in perspective. The security forces in the west became better at detecting activities that could develop into attacks on the homeland. The greater danger is regional. As local extremists draw inspiration from the achievements of the Taliban, Pakistan in particular may find its domestic problems worse. The proliferation of high-quality weapons and sudden idle militants may lead to more violence in the country (and possibly in India, with a chain reaction to Islamabad).

Central Asia also has reason to worry. In the 1990s and early 2000s, many incidents related to Afghan groups occurred in the region. Iran seems to be pragmatically strengthening its relationship with the Taliban, but love between Tehran and Kabul has hardly been lost. China and Russia may be reveling in the humiliation of the West, but realize that they are closer to potential threats that may overflow. Groups targeting these countries may try to use Taliban control (or lack of control) and re-establish a presence in Afghanistan.

The risk in the west is less. This is not to eliminate potential threats. In particular, the United Kingdom has a deep connection with South Asia, which has exposed it to terrorist violence in the past, which may help explain the reason why the head of MI6 recently visited Pakistan. There are signs that terrorist organizations are rebuilding their capabilities, and there are reports that jihadists want to move from Syria to Afghanistan. In the story of the British voice intercepted by the Taliban radio, a possible connection with the United Kingdom can be found.But in the short to medium term this kind of brutality new Zealand What we have just faced is a more likely threat: lone, directionless extremists attacking compatriots.

The most direct threat from Afghanistan will be local. Whether it is Isis-K’s regional expansion, extremists using Afghanistan as a base to launch attacks on neighboring countries, or groups inspired by the Taliban’s victory trying to overthrow their own local superpowers. At a time when interest in and attention to the threat of terrorism is declining, this poses a series of distinct and less direct threats to Western security planners.

But this is the key lesson that needs to be learned from Afghanistan’s 20 years of participation. If the government does not pay attention, the problem may worsen and suddenly erupt. This happened in Iraq, when the United States withdrew its troops in the late 2000s, leaving an environment conducive to the brewing of ISIS. Although the exact same narrative is unlikely to be staged in Afghanistan, the background to the development of the problem of terrorism does exist. The United States and its allies may have left Afghanistan, but they cannot get rid of it.

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