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The looming threat of ISKP in Afghanistan

As the United States withdraws from Afghanistan, it is important to examine the role Islamic State Khorasan Province (ISKP) may play in the country’s future security landscape. In this regard, Talha Ahmad, a freelance journalist, discusses the attacks conducted by ISKP on Kabul and why they are a threat to the Taliban rule in Afghanistan.

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The horrific attack on Kabul airport surprised many, which resulted in the death of over 113 people including 13 US servicemen, 28 Taliban, and 72 Afghan civilians. But many intelligence reports raised alarms regarding the possibility of such attacks. Many analysts also saw this coming. People are analyzing how and who enabled this attack, with many blaming it on the US, calling it a false flag attack with others pointing out at lack of security measures by the Taliban.

But is this a black swan attack? The answer lies in what unfolded in the last 2 years, starting with the very first that ISKP was always there. Taliban, US & Afghan National Army have been hunting Islamic State Khorasan Province for years. But the fact of the matter is that despite the efforts by the US and ANA ISKP greater threat in Afghanistan was eliminated by the Taliban particularly the Haqqani Network. Taliban anti-ISKP drive consisted of two domains one was the ideological front which was led by scholars affiliated with the Taliban, who paved the way to contain the recruitment of ISKP.

Read more: Indian recruits in ISKP responsible for Kabul attack

The second domain was the decisive operation by Haqqani Network, especially in Eastern Afghanistan. During this war between the ISKP and IEA, ISKP countered the Taliban on both fronts by targeting Scholars as well as Taliban top commanders who took part in this Anti-ISKP drive. Taliban managed to eliminate much of the threat of ISKP from rural particularly in Eastern Afghanistan including Nangarhar and Kunar, this pushed ISKP towards Urban. ISKP established strong footholds in major urban cities with Kabul being on the top of the list.

Understanding the re-emergence of ISKP

The threat was so immediate and big that Amrullah Saleh took over the charge of Kabul security in October 2020. But Amrullah Saleh failed to contain the threat of ISKP, quite contrary to that ISKP carried out dozens of major attacks/bombings in Kabul, mostly targeting schools and Universities. Saleh used these attacks as an opportunity to run the agenda of his Anti-Peace talks but failed to establish any framework to counter this threat. Even during the last days of the Kabul regime, ISKP managed to carry out an attack even near the Presidential Palace in Kabul, which is considered as one of the safest places.

So calling these attacks a failure of the Taliban is both technically and factually wrong plus this also undermines the reality and nature of the threat which ISKP poses especially in Kabul. On the other hand, the US leaving Afghanistan on a weak foot (least to say) does not suit the administration in Washington. Moreover, the US in the past was relying on local networks of NDS to deal with the threat in urban, just like they are relying on the Taliban now, as mentioned by the CENTCOM General McKenzie in his last night briefing.

Read more: Military partnership with Taliban?: Biden promises revenge against ISKP

This leaves behind little space for the US to counter and eliminate such threats. What triggered all of this? It was the rapid collapse of the whole State structure in just “11 days”. Americans vacated the Bagram base because they relied on the Kabul regime to secure Kabul at least till late September, especially when the Taliban announced they won’t bring the fight inside Kabul because of its urban nature. The rapid collapse of state structure triggered chain reactions, which started with a security vacuum inside the city followed by panic and chaos at different levels.

US withdrawal has unleashed a chaos

Additionally, the US announcement to evacuate US and allies’ collaborators, created more chaos as hundreds if not thousands from across Afghanistan started moving towards the Kabul airport. Haqqani network trained badari 313 brigades and took over the charge of security around the airport. Haqqani Network, US servicemen, and hundreds of people at the same place, and even the place which has strong ISKP networks, provided ISKP a perfect opportunity for a hard comeback. Unfortunately, they exactly did that but this horrific attack is enough to understand the future prospect of counter-terrorism in the region and particularly in Afghanistan.

This attack also indicates the lack of a dedicated counter-terrorism institute and counter-terrorism policy. This should be the first priority of the future Afghan government but the question is will the regional and global Powers entertain the Taliban lead government in containing the threat of ISKP. Will, we see another example of “No permanent enemies, and no permanent friends, only permanent interests.”

Read more: Major terrorist network neutralized in Pakistan as India keeps denying ties

The author is a freelance journalist with a keen interest in geopolitics and international relations. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.

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