marsh
Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Saad Yousaf |

Since the 2001 US invasion, the rapidly changing dynamics of the Afghan insurgency have stumped the strategic elite of regional countries. The phenomenon of IS Khorasan (IS Chapter in Afghanistan) has made the dynamics of this insurgency more complex. IS-K has been making inroads into Afghanistan since last few years, but now it has grown so strong that it took over the cave complex of Tora Bora from the Afghan Taliban. The ascendancy of IS-K poses a perceptible threat to all regional countries.

IS-K and recent attacks in Afghanistan

The series of deadly attacks in Afghanistan have been an eye opener. After those attacks, common Afghans took to the streets and protested against Kabul Regime officials, whom they believed are in bed with IS-K elements.Afghan media even reported that the truck used in Kabul attack,which killed 150 people, belonged to the company owned by Mirwais Yasini,an Afghan MP.

Read more:The Afghan Quagmire: Kabul is not the only victim!

Ethno-political dynamics play a major role in Afghan society. Afghanistan’s Foreign Minister Salahuddin Rabbani also blamed elements within Ashraf Ghani led Kabul regime for the attacks. The Afghan protestors believed that the successive attacks especially the three suicide attacks during the funeral were aimed at wiping out the entire Non-Pashtun leadership taking part in funeral prayers of those who were killed in Kabul attacks.

Numerous media reports attributed to US commanders on ground stated that IS-K basically comprises of former TTP elements who escaped FATA and took refuge in Afghanistan following operations by Pakistan Army.

The return of Hekmatyar has further exacerbated internal ethnic fault lines within Afghan political landscape.Recently, in Ankara, a new political front is emerging which involves Vice President Abdul Rashid Dostum ,Chief Executive Jamiat-e-Islami Atta Muhammad Noor and Deputy Chief Executive Officer of Afghanistan Mohammad Mohaqiq. It is clear, that ethno-political dynamics have played a role in formation of this front as they perceive Kabul Regime to be a Pashtun Ethno-Nationalist Regime.

Read more:Afghanistan: From Soviet occupation to American ‘Liberatio

Background of IS-Khorasan

Numerous media reports attributed to US commanders on ground stated that IS-K basically comprises of former TTP elements who escaped FATA and took refuge in Afghanistan following operations by Pakistan Army. Security forces carried out a massive military operation in 2014 and dispossessed the miscreants of territory to continue their carnage,something which is depicted by the considerable decrease in the number of terrorist attacks in the country.

The arrest and subsequent confessional statement of former Jamat-ur-Ahrar spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan, also reveals that along with IS-Khorasan, Afghan Intelligence has also given safe heaven to IS-K affiliated Jamat-ul-Ahrar (JuA) terrorist network in Afghanistan’s Nangarhar province.

Another interesting event took place in 2013. TTP, second in command, Latif Mehsud was arrested by US Special forces from an Afghan Intelligence (NDS) convoy. According to New York Times, Kabul Regime planned to use TTP for subversion in Pakistan. Later Americans handed over Latif Mehsud to Pakistan, where he confessed working for hostile intelligence agencies. Pakistani authorities hanged Latif  Mehsud in 2016.

Read more:Chinese mediation to end Pakistan-Afghanistan animosity

An Afghan Investigative Journalist Borhan Osman, also revealed how self-defeatist policies of Kabul Regime led to creation of IS-Khorasan on Afghan soil. He revealed that Afghan Intelligence (NDS) gave refuge to fleeing elements of TTP in Afghanistan, especially in Nangarhar, where they later former IS-Khorasan. These elements who had been nurtured by Kabul Regime later started killing Afghan civilians after forming IS-Khorasan. The arrest and subsequent confessional statement of former Jamat-ur-Ahrar spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan, also reveals that along with IS-Khorasan, Afghan Intelligence has also given safe heaven to IS-K affiliated Jamat-ul-Ahrar (JuA) terrorist network in Afghanistan’s Nangarhar province.

Impact on regional countries

Emergence of IS-K poses a national security threat to Pakistan, Iran, Central Asia, China’s Xinjiang province and as well as Russia. Afghan security have lost almost half of Afghanistan to Afghan Taliban over the recent years. Afghan National Army faces a high desertion rate and rabid corruption.  Regional countries are increasingly viewing Afghan Taliban as an effective bulwark against IS-Khorasan. In the words of President Putin’s Special Envoy to Kabul, Mr Zamir Kabulov, IS-Khorasan has global ambitions while Afghan Taliban is a “national force”

China

China is investing approximately $57 Billion in China-Pakistan-Economic-Corridor (CPEC) project in Pakistan, which is the reason Chinese Foreign Minister resorted to shuttle diplomacy to revive the Quadrilateral Coordination Framework to ensure there is a working relationship between Pakistan and Afghanistan. Few months ago, a delegation of Afghan Taliban also visited Beijing.

Foreign Affairs Magazine reported that Mullah Akhtar Mansoor lived in Iran for two months before he was killed in Pakistan, while on his way to Afghanistan. Resorting to realpolitik, Iranian strategic circles perceive that the emergence of IS-Khorasan can be checkmated by bolstering Afghan Taliban.

Russia

Russia’s role in Afghanistan is also set to increase in near future. Moscow has arranged multilateral talks to resolve Afghan conundrum. Both China and Russia have stated the top leadership of Afghan Taliban should be delisted from UN sanctions list to encourage them to come to the negotiating table. IS-Khorasan can destabilise Central Asia and Russia, especially after reports that Uzbek and Tajik fighters of ISIS were shifting from Syria to Afghanistan. Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan is also allied to IS-Khorasan.  Russia has bitter experience of insurgency in Chechnya in recent past. Russian military presence in 201 st base in Tajikistan betokens that it is taking threats emerging from Afghanistan seriously. American media and US Secretary of Defence James Mattis even accused Russia of backing Afghan Taliban. Bloomberg even reported that Russia has officially backed Afghan Taliban’s demand for withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghan soil.

Read more:Threats to regional peace: The implications of a disrupted Afghanistan

Iran

Iran had been a traditional adversary of Afghan Taliban regime when the latter ruled Afghanistan from 1996-2001. However, media reports indicate that Iran is also providing support to Afghan Taliban as it perceives IS-Khorasan to be a bigger threat. Foreign Affairs Magazine reported that Mullah Akhtar Mansoor lived in Iran for two months before he was killed in Pakistan, while on his way to Afghanistan. Resorting to realpolitik, Iranian strategic circles perceive that the emergence of IS-Khorasan can be checkmated by bolstering Afghan Taliban.

Pakistan

Pakistan has the highest stakes in stability of Afghanistan. Any instability in Afghanistan, negatively affects Pakistan. Pakistan has hosted four million Afghan refugees for over three decades. Pakistan has also invested $500 million in various infrastructural projects in Afghanistan, including hospitals, schools and universities.

One can also argue that all states support sub-state actors in “quasi-states” like Afghanistan and Syria to protect their interests. United States backs Salafist extremist militants and PKK/YPG ethno-terrorists in Syria to protect its interests.

Kabul Regime and US have long accused Pakistan of supporting Afghan Taliban and Haqqani Network. According to Washington Post, in 2016 Kabul Regime only controlled 57% of Afghanistan while rest was under insurgents, mostly Afghan Taliban. Kabul Regime has lost more territory since then. One can argue, if Afghan Taliban control almost half of Afghanistan and control the momentum on battlefield from Helmand in South to Kunduz in North (close to Tajikistan ) , why would they need any safe heaven in Pakistan.

Read more:The key to peace in Afghanistan: Bringing all the regional players…

One can also argue that all states support sub-state actors in “quasi-states” like Afghanistan and Syria to protect their interests. United States backs Salafist extremist militants and PKK/YPG ethno-terrorists in Syria to protect its interests. Iran uses its own sectarian armed proxies recruited from regional countries for its war in Syria. What options does Pakistan have?

It is evident that there is an evolving entente between all regional countries especially Pakistan, Russia and China with regards to the fact that Afghan Taliban are a major sub-state actor in Afghanistan who can’t be ignored and should be recognized as a political force.

Afghanistan based IS-Khorasan and JuA , both covertly backed by Afghan Intelligence have killed hundreds of innocent people in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Most of the Afghan people who protested in Kabul against the Afghan government spoke openly against the subversive nexus between IS-Khorasan and Kabul Regime officials. If all regional countries are covertly supporting substate actors in Afghanistan to pursue their perceived interests, why is Pakistan being specifically blamed?

Read more:The US “Mini-surge” in  Afghanistan: Tough times ahead for Pakistan?

It is evident that there is an evolving entente between all regional countries especially Pakistan, Russia and China with regards to the fact that Afghan Taliban are a major sub-state actor in Afghanistan who can’t be ignored and should be recognized as a political force. These countries view Afghan Taliban as a belligerent group rather than an insurgent group, a substate actor which is party to Afghan conflict as it controls almost half of Afghanistan. Through centuries invaders have only controlled Afghanistan through deals with locals. It would be a strategic blunder if Americans think, that militarism alone will resolve Afghan fiasco.

Saad Yousaf holds a BAS Honors degree from York University, Toronto. His interests include International Relations and Diplomacy. The views presented in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Global Village Space’s editorial policy.

 

Saad Yousaf holds a BAS Honors degree from York University, Toronto. His interests include International Relations and Diplomacy.

Comments & Discussion