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Taliban rule offers safe haven to Al Qaeda in Afghanistan

Taliban, Al Qaeda, Islamic State, ISIS, BBC, London

Counterterrorism

Taliban rule offers safe haven to Al Qaeda in Afghanistan

While notorious Islamist militancy outfit Al Qaeda has started putting special emphasis in regaining and even increasing its strength and size as Taliban rule offers safe haven to it, in the United Kingdom, government’s flagship counter-extremism project is failing to engage local Muslim community in it.

UK government’s adviser Dame Sara Khan told BBC, a “vacuum” of information about its purpose had been left by the government, which was then being filled by Islamists.

She added the government must address the concerns of Muslim communities.

Dame Sara also said fears of racism accusations made some local authorities uncomfortable with tackling extremism.

The Prevent scheme was launched in 2007 and was designed to stop people becoming terrorists and to reduce the terror threat to the UK by stopping people from being drawn into terrorism.

In the year to March 2020, just over 6,000 people were referred to the scheme in England and Wales, because of concerns they were at risk of radicalization.

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However, it has long been criticized by some radical Muslim groups for what they see as an unfair focus on their communities.

Speaking on the BBC’s Political Thinking podcast, Dame Sara said the government had failed to explain what the counter-terror strategy is to Muslim communities, which “in essence… left a vacuum” about the purpose of the scheme to be “dominated” by Islamists.

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“So those types of challenges have continued and I think continuing to engage with communities, explaining what the program is, addressing concerns – that’s got to continue in a much better way than we’ve seen previously”, she added.

Dame Sara – a human rights campaigner who advises the UK government on social cohesion – has been a vocal supporter of Prevent, but has faced previous allegations of being too close to the Home Office.

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This intervention, from an adviser admired by Prime Minister Boris Johnson, comes as ministers are preparing to publish a review into how effective the strategy is.

Dame Sara, who now advises levelling up secretary Michael Gove on how local communities can counter extremism, also claimed that some groups have used accusations of Islamophobia as a cover for extremist practices.

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She said she had seen examples of local councilors who felt unable to push back against the radicalization of young Muslims.

Dame Sara is not the only Conservative critic of the scheme, with former justice secretary Robert Buckland arguing last year that it needs urgent work and a more “joined up” approach, following the killing of Sir David Amess.

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It later emerged that the man suspected of killing Sir David had been referred to Prevent in the past.

Here I would like to disagree with Ms. Dame Sara. The root cause of UK Muslims now joining this project in their radicalized mindset. We need to remember, Muslim population in England are becoming increasingly radicalized and inclined towards jihad and Caliphate madness. In England and other countries in the European Union as well as the United States, Canada and Australia, the number of religious conversions of Christians, Jews and Hindus into Islam is on alarming rise. Majority of such conversions are taking place under the garb of marriage, which is also known as Love Jihad. Muslim male and females are luring “non-Muslims” towards romantic trap and later forcing them towards religious conversion through emotional blackmailing. Once Muslims succeed in getting the targeted “non-Muslim” male or female towards religious conversion, in the next step they start frantic bids in brainwashing the victim with the ulterior motive of turning them into jihadist or at least supporters and fans of jihad.

According to media reports, London, for example has already emerged into the epicenter of radical Islam while Muslims, especially immigrants are enforcing sharia rule within their societies and even compelling “non-Muslim” Londoners in maintaining caution while inside those “sharia zones”.

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In England, local mosques and Muslim community centers are playing lead roles in spreading radical Islam within the societies, while hundreds of millions of dollars are flowing in from Afro-Arab nations, particularly Qatar for promoting radical Islam. It may be mentioned here that, mega-terror outfit Hamas, Iranian proxy Hezbollah and Islamist group such as Muslim Brotherhood are continuing activities in England, while the activities of Tablighi Jamaat is on rise. One of the main goals of Tablighi Jamaat is to radicalize people and recruit them for joining Al Qaeda, Islamic State and other radical Islamic militancy outfits.

Resurgence of Al Qaeda and Islamic State in Afghanistan

As Afghanistan’s Taliban rulers are maintaining close ties with al-Qaeda as they consolidate control over the country, and their main military threat is coming from the Islamic State extremist group and guerrilla-style attacks by former Afghan government security personnel, according to counterterrorism experts, Al Qaeda and Islamic State (ISIS) “is believed to be capable of mounting international attacks before 2023 at the earliest, regardless of their intent or of whether the Taliban acts to restrain them”.

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Nonetheless, it said the presence of ISIS, Al Qaeda, and “many other terrorist groups and fighters on Afghan soil” is raising concerns in neighboring countries and the wider international community.

Since their takeover of Afghanistan last August 15 as US and NATO forces were in the final stages of their chaotic withdrawal from the country after 20 years, the Taliban “have favored loyalty and seniority over competence, and their decision-making has been opaque and inconsistent”, the experts said.

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In the report, the panel monitoring sanctions against the Taliban said its leaders have appointed 41 men on the UN sanctions blacklist to the Cabinet and senior positions, and they have favored the country’s dominant Pashtun ethnic group, alienating minority communities including ethnic Tajiks and Uzbeks.

The Taliban’s primary concern has been to consolidate control “while seeking international recognition, to re-engage with the international financial system and to receive aid in order to deal with the growing economic and humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan”, the experts said.

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“Since taking power, however, there have been many factors creating internal tensions within the movement, leading to perceptions that the Taliban’s governance has been chaotic, disjointed and prone to reversing policies and going back on promises”, they said.

As the Taliban struggle to transition from an insurgency to a governing body, they have been divided between pragmatists and hardliners who have gained the upper hand and want to turn the clock back to the group’s harsh rule from 1996 until December 2001, when they were ousted from power by US forces following the 9/11 attacks on the United States.

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To date, their efforts to win recognition and aid from Western nations have floundered, largely because they have not formed a more representative government, and have restricted the rights of girls to education beyond elementary school, and of women to work and travel without a male relative’s oversight.

“The central dilemma is how a movement with an inflexible ideology can engage with a society that has evolved during the past 20 years,” the experts said. “Further stresses revolve around power, resources, and regional and ethnic divisions”.

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Despite these serious issues, the panel said the Taliban “appear confident in their ability to control the country and `wait out’ the international community to obtain eventual recognition of their government”.

“They assess that, even if they make no significant concessions, the international community will ultimately recognize them as the government of Afghanistan, especially in the absence of a government in exile or significant internal resistance”, the experts said.

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So far, not a single country has officially recognized the Taliban, and there is growing international anger at its treatment of girls and women and its failure to keep its promise of forming an inclusive government. There are also concerns about the Taliban’s inability to keep its promise not to allow terrorist groups to operate in Afghanistan.

The panel said the Haqqani Network, a militant Islamist group with close ties to the Taliban, moved quickly after their takeover to gain control of key portfolios and ministries including interior, intelligence, passports and migration. It now “largely controls security in Afghanistan, including the security of the capital, Kabul”, the experts said.

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“The Haqqani Network is still regarded as having the closest links to Al Qaeda”, the panel said, and the relationship between the Taliban and al-Qaeda also remains close. The experts pointed to the reported presence of al-Qaeda’s “core leadership” in eastern Afghanistan including its leader Ayman al-Zawahri.

To counter the Islamic State, the report quoted an unidentified country as saying the Taliban have created three battalions of special forces called “red units”.

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The emergence of the National Resistance Front and Afghanistan Freedom Front comprising former Afghan security personnel “has led the Taliban to adopt aggressive measures against populations suspected of supporting anti-Taliban operations”, the panel said.

What does that mean? Afghanistan is already becoming a jihadist launch-pad allowing Al Qaeda, Islamic State and other jihadist groups in regaining strength and ultimately spread terror throughout the region and beyond. The immediate consequence of such dangerous trend would potentially threaten domestic security of the United States and subsequently other European nations. The only man who should be held responsible for such situation is none other than the US President Joe Biden.

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

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