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Islamic State strengthening in Afghanistan

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Courtesy : Reuters

By JK Verma

New Delhi. 02 February 2018. Pakistan abetted Haqqani network rocked the warn-torn city of Kabul on January 27 when an explosives laden ambulance was exploded in a crowded area, which killed more than 103 innocent civilians and injured about 158 others. It is a second attack within a week as terrorists also seized Inter Continental Hotel in Kabul on Jan 20 and killed more than 22 persons including 14 foreigners.

The IS and other terrorist outfits carried out numerous terrorist attacks in Afghanistan and analysts claim that more than 10000 personnel of Afghan Security forces were killed and about 16000 were injured in 2017 alone while the number of personnel killed or maimed of terrorist organisations during the corresponding period is much more. The United Nations data reveal that about 10 Afghan civilians were killed every day in the first nine months of 2017.

The influence of IS increased in many parts of Afghanistan and it carried out terrorist activities at several places including Kabul, Ghor, Jalalabad, Qushtipa etc. IS also carried out several terrorist acts in Sehwan, Peshawer, Khuzdar, Quetta, Charsada, Karachi etc in Pakistan and killed hundreds of civilians.

Courtesy : The Long War Journal

The influence of diverse terrorists’ organisations is increasing in Afghanistan and Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) is not able to control them, may be because of rampant corruption, ill-training, stale armaments and lack of zeal to fight the terrorists. Afghanistan is also suffering from tribal disputes, clashes on land and water issues, radicalisation, terrorism, ineffective law enforcing agencies and degenerated judicial system. The ordinary disputes of masses are also not resolved as at several places tribal heads became ineffective. The tribal chiefs who grabbed authoritative positions are either working for their personal benefits or for advantage of their tribes but fail to discharge their duties judiciously. The problem is further complicated because of rise of Islamic State (IS/ISIL/ISIS), strengthening of Taliban and assistance of creepy Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) to diverse terrorist outfits especially Haqqani network.

Courtesy : The Pashtun Times

The IS is exploiting the rise of dangerous Salafism which is anti West including United States, Jews and Hindus. The outfit has increased the gulf between Sunnis and Shias and IS carried out many noxious shooting and bombings against Shias by claiming that they are not true Muslims.  Besides Shias, IS also targets Sufi religious places as both are against Salafi ideology. As IS has lost ground in Iraq and Syria it is strengthening itself in radicalized Afghanistan and Pakistan.

IS constituted Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant-Khorasan Province (ISKP) in January 2015 and Hafiz Saeed Khan was appointed as its Chief. Its area of operation included Afghanistan, Pakistan, Tajikistan & Kashmir.  Fighters of diverse terrorist outfits, their splinter groups, Islamic fanatics especially of Afghan & Pakistan Taliban, Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, Jundallah, Jamaat-ul-Ahrar joined ISKP. Several dissidents of Lashker-e-Toiba (L-e-T), Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) also shifted their allegiance to IS. According to a rough estimate about 3000 fighters from different countries have already joined the outfit.

IS defeated Taliban in several areas and captured their territories and replaced their white flags from the black flags of IS. Terrorists from Uzbekistan have also settled in remote areas and recruiting Afghan and Pakistan youths for IS. Prominent Taliban commanders including Maulavi Assadullah, Mullah Sufu Qayum, Mullah Nemat Mufti etc changed their allegiance and joined IS with their followers.

IS before constituting ISKP met leaders of different terrorist outfits of Pakistan, Afghanistan and Tajikistan. Nonetheless IS continued its propaganda through internet, audios, videos, leaflets and pamphlets which were in Pashto, Dari and Urdu. The publicity material requested all true Muslims to join IS and owe allegiance to Abu-Bakr al Baghdadi. IS is also using mosques for recruiting and training of terrorists. According to reports IS forces the Imams of mosques in their areas of control to give sermons to radicalize the youths and join the outfit. IS attacks ANSF posts, indulge in timber smuggling and realise taxes from agriculture and businessmen.

Courtesy : Novinite.com

IS is also taking advantage of unemployment in the country and recruiting unemployed youths and training them to carryout terrorist activities. IS pays three times more than the salary offered by Afghan government. The outfit openly recruit young Afghans who are poor and could not get government jobs.  IS has proscribed opium cultivation which further increased unemployment and the youths are forced to join IS.

The influence and strength of various terrorist outfits including IS is increasing and Afghan government is constantly losing the territory. Afghan Taliban is fighting against IS. Al Qaeda although lost fighters and territory but still trying to gain prominence in the areas where Afghan government is fragile.

Iranian Intelligence Minister Mahmoud Alavi mentioned in a seminar on December 12 that although IS lost most of the territory but it still possess large stock of arms and ammunition hence it is still a big threat to region and the world. IS will also try to establish itself in Asia where it has already some influence. Besides Afghanistan and Pakistan IS is also trying to establish itself in Philippines, Caucasus, the Arabian Peninsula, northern and sub-Saharan Africa etc.

The escalating influence of ISKP in Pakistan-Afghanistan region is not only dangerous for the region but for the whole world. Hence US led NATO forces have conducted several operations against ISKP. The operations included dropping of bombs in Achin District of  Afghanistan in which more than 36 terrorists of ISKP were killed, their hiding places were destroyed and large cache of weapons were recovered. Besides copious bombardments and missile attacks on terrorist hideouts, joint operations were also launched in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Afghanistan cannot be left on the mercy of terrorist outfits as it will soon engulf several areas of Pakistan including Balochistan, Federally Administered Tribal areas (FATA), and Karachi where several Salafi organisations operate. However it is also a fact that an unstable Afghanistan will destabilise Pakistan too.  If US led NATO forces withdraw from Afghanistan without elimination of Salafi terrorists it would be a big moral victory for Salfists and they would propagate about the defeat of US all over the world. Withdrawal of US led NATO troops, breakup, collapse or a civil war in the country, all will be beneficial to IS.

IS is a bigger danger to the international community including Russia and Iran, as both the countries have sizable Sunni population and that is one reason that both these countries are helping Taliban. The other reason for helping Taliban is that they are harming their arch rival USA. Pakistan also helps Taliban and other terrorist outfits.  Few Middle Eastern countries also render assistance to diverse terrorist outfits keeping their religious and national interests in view. In this way terrorism in Afghanistan is flourishing because of international assistance and incompetence of ANSF.

In view of above the January 1st warning of President trump to Pakistan that the US gave $ 33 billion to Pakistan in last 15 years and in return Pakistan gave “safe haven to the terrorists “ US “hunts in Afghanistan”.  US administration has frozen USD 1 billion for military aid and another $ 900 million for counterterrorism operations. However freezing is not enough as Pakistan would not amend itself but will get the aid under one pretext or the other. Pakistan has waged a low intensity war against India and Afghanistan as it wishes to hamper India’s economic progress and wants to achieve strategic depth in Afghanistan.

It is also difficult for Pakistan to stop assistance and take actions against terrorist outfits as the common masses are so radicalised that they may revolt against the government and it will be difficult for the civil and military administration to control the resentment of masses. The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) team visited Pakistan on January 25 & 26 to monitor Pakistan’s observance of the sanctions put forward by UNO. Nonetheless Pakistan authorities stated that the visit is a routine visit and took measures just to mislead the team and no worthwhile action was taken against Jamat-ud-Dawa Chief Hafiz Saeed or his accomplices like Abdul Rehman Makki and other terrorist leaders.

The world community especially US must adopt stringent measures against terrorists operating from Pakistan and if the present government is unable to take actions against them because of their incompetence or due to the fear of resentment of the masses, the US led NATO forces should demolish the hideouts of terrorists. The leaders should be exterminated and their supporters in despicable ISI must be punished.

Afghanistan government should also improve its way of functioning and should try to resolve the grievances of the common man. Although IS is very brutal but still common Afghan considers it better than the corrupt and inept Afghan administration. The government should try to reduce unemployment and efforts should be made for the economic development of the country.

Afghanistan needs electoral reforms, strengthening of political parties, ministers and political leaders should be more accessible to common people and more technological and land reforms should be introduced. Slowly but steadily crimes should be controlled and the confidence of the masses in Afghan administration must be restored.

(Jai Kumar Verma is a Delhi-based strategic analyst and a retired senior intelligence officer. The views in the article are solely the author’s. He can be contacted at editor.adu@gmail.com)

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