Daesh is now faced with the threat of extinction in Afghanistan. The odds against the brutal terrorist outfit are increasing. Its numbers are diminishing, and rank and file Afghans are distancing themselves from its rabid, eccentric ideology.
Daesh inducted itself into Afghanistan in the year 2014-15 and made inroads into parts of Eastern Afghanistan. The organization penetrated into Kunar, Laghman and Nangarhar provinces and in parts of Kabul. It began to recruit volunteers offering hefty salaries. There was no dearth of resources because Daesh had ruthlessly plundered oil installations in Iraq and their coffers were full.
It is possible the group might make a comeback in some areas if there is continuing chaos leading to the disruption of security and collapse of order
With a pledge to promote the goals of their fundamentalist ideology and ability to reward those who would agree to fight in their cause, the movement began to attract a large number of desperate, hungry, hardcore volunteers who saw a rare opportunity to make hay while the sun shines.
Soon the ugly face of the group was further exposed as it launched fatal attacks on all those it considered to be posing a threat — government and foreign forces, Taliban, all institutions and installations in the country.
There was no regard given to the type or number of casualties — whether civilians, foreigners, military personnel, or innocent men, women and children. Schools, hospitals and public offices were routinely targeted causing large numbers of fatalities besides heavy damage to infrastructure.
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The Taliban realized very soon that Daesh was operating at their expense, in that the Taliban volunteers were falling prey to the monetary inducements offered by Daesh. This fuelled a clash of interests between the two groups. But there was another dimension to the confrontation. In a twist of irony, the Taliban began to reject the philosophy and doctrines of Daesh and their extraordinarily cruel methods of enforcing control and writ.
As the resources of Daesh began to shrink and as their strategy of spreading fear and chaos began to backfire, people began to leave the ranks of the terrorist group. Many were shocked over the senseless killing of innocent people. Many more were disillusioned with the treatment of women. It became common practice to hold women as hostages.
Forced marriages spread alarm, and hatred and hostility grew against the whole group and its paranoid ways of establishing control over vulnerable areas. The death of Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi, founder of the movement, caused a stir and jolted the organization. The defeat of the group in Syria and Iraq sent shock waves to its followers across the world.
Schools, hospitals and public offices were routinely targeted causing large numbers of fatalities besides heavy damage to infrastructure
This also paved the way for many in Afghanistan to rethink their alliance with Daesh. As public support vanished, many Afghans decided to abandon the group and either withdraw completely from militancy or seek to rejoin the Taliban. The greatest dent to the power structure of the group was however caused by a relentless Taliban onslaught with the support of the local population.
Eventually, the situation for Daesh became unbearable and last week, a large number of Daesh volunteers surrendered to the government, with the Afghan President announcing the group had been defeated. Unsurprisingly, the President did not mention the role of the Taliban in weakening the group and rendering it ineffective in many areas.
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But it is wrong to assume that the group is finished as far as its potency and the threat it poses is concerned. Daesh still has a large number of supporters and a considerable number of those who would be prepared to mount assaults on chosen targets. There is no room for complacency — though it is true that the movement has certainly lost its immense potency and capacity to find recruits to its cause of extremism, exclusion, and brutality.
It is possible the group might make a comeback in some areas if there is continuing chaos leading to the disruption of security and collapse of order. That can happen if the reconciliation process breaks down and people lose hope in any prospect of peace and stability. Before that happens, there is a need for a genuine reconciliation process to get underway.
Rustam Shah Mohmand is a former interior secretary and a former ambassador. The article originally appeared at Arab News Pakistan Edition and has been republished with the author’s permission. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.