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Battle between the Taliban and Islamic State intensifies in Afghanistan

Taliban, ISIS-K, Islamic State of Khorasan, Islamic State, Americans, Kabul, Afghans

Counterterrorism

Battle between the Taliban and Islamic State intensifies in Afghanistan

Battle between the Taliban and Islamic State of Khorasan (ISIS-K) has been gradually intensifying merely couple of months after the US withdrew from Afghanistan leaving the country at the mercy of the radical Islamic jihadists.

According to media reports, ISIS-K launched a series of suicide bomb attacks and numerous Taliban convoys in the aftermath of the US troops leaving Afghanistan. Hundreds have been killed, with analysts warning that the violence will continue as ISIS-K tests the Taliban’s control of the country.

The Financial Times reported, some Taliban fighters who feel the new government has not gone far enough in restricting the rights of women and engaged in too many diplomatic talks with countries like the U.S. have switched allegiance to ISIS-K.

“The American war is over, but the Afghan wars are not”, Avinash Paliwal, deputy director of the School of Oriental and African Studies’ (SOAS) South Asia Institute and author of “My Enemy’s Enemy,” a book about Afghanistan, the newspaper said.

While the Taliban’s goal has been to establish an Islamic government in Afghanistan, ISIS-K seeks an Islamic caliphate across Afghanistan and Pakistan, as well as parts of India and Iran, the Financial Times reported. One analyst told the paper that ISIS-K militants see the Taliban as “filthy nationalists” who have gone against a greater cause.

“ISIS-K sees the Taliban as just another kind of political outfit — cutting a deal with the Americans — that is ideologically not pure. Their aim is to destabilize an already struggling regime”. Paliwal said.

Daesh, as ISIS-K is sometimes known, claimed responsibility for the Aug. 26 Kabul airport suicide bombing that killed 13 American service members and numerous Afghans. Bombers also attacked two mosques frequented by Afghanistan’s Shia minority during Friday prayers, killing more than 100 people, the Financial Times reported.

“These attacks are bringing down the credibility of the Taliban government”, Nasratullah Haqpal, a Kabul-based political analyst, told the Financial Times. “They have been claiming for years that ‘we are the only group that can secure and bring stability to Afghanistan’. But Daesh and their supporters are challenging this claim”.

Increased attacks on religious minorities in Afghanistan

The Islamic State of Khorasan Province, an ISIS affiliate group, has increased attacks on religious minorities in Afghanistan, Human Rights Watch said.

The Islamic State of Khorasan Province (ISKP) claimed responsibility for several violent attacks and bombings targeting the Shia religious minority that have killed hundreds of people in Afghanistan, according to Human Rights Watch (HRW). After a deadly ISKP suicide bombing, ISIS threatened Shia Muslims in their homes and places of worship across the country.

“The ISKP armed group has repeatedly carried out devastating attacks that appear designed to spread terror and inflict maximum suffering particularly on Afghanistan’s Hazara community”, HRW Associate Asia Director Patricia Gossman said in a statement. “The numerous attacks targeting Hazaras amount to crimes against humanity, and those responsible should be brought to justice”.

The United Nations implemented sanctions against ISKP in 2019 including travel bans, arms embargoes and asset freezes for the group’s members, according to HRW.

ISKP became a serious threat in 2015 when the group started attacking civilian institutions including schools, hospitals and places of worship, according to HRW. At least 1,500 civilians died and thousands more were injured in the attacks.

The group was less active in 2019 after a military hindrance but picked back up in 2020, according to HRW. ISKP attacks targeted journalists, activists, health workers and religious minorities including Hazaras, Sikhs and Hindus.

“ISKP’s horrific attacks on civilians have not abated since the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan and appear to be increasing”, Gossman said in a statement. “The Taliban authorities need to urgently adopt measures to protect religious minority communities from attack”.

Afghanistan’s ruling Taliban government promised increased security for religious minorities but committed large-scale murders of the Hazaras in the late 90s and more recently targeted Hazara journalists and communities, according to HRW.

The Taliban overran the Afghan government in mid-August and have struggled to run the country since, the Associated Press reported. A majority of Afghan citizens are at severe risk of falling below the poverty line and starvation as the economy continues to decline.

What is next in Afghanistan?

The battle of supremacy between Taliban jihadists and ISIS-K, there also is fear of the rise of Al Qaeda and Pakistan-backed radical Islamic terror outfits in the country. Afghanistan going under the control of jihadists would pose potential threats to regional and global securities.

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An internationally acclaimed multi-award-winning anti-militancy journalist, research-scholar, counter-terrorism specialist, and editor of Blitz. Follow his on Twitter Salah_Shoaib

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