Taliban will face IS threat after US withdraws

Taliban will face IS threat after US withdraws

A few days before the final withdrawal of US troops, a terrible terrorist attack took place at the Kabul airport. More than a hundred people were killed, over a thousand were injured. Why did this become possible, and what does this attack indicate?

So, on the evening of August 26, at about 18:00 local time, a double act of terrorism was committed near the Kabul airport - first near the airport building, then near the Baron hotel. The terrorists have chosen the right moment. Due to the fact that the Taliban (a movement banned in the Russian Federation) seized power, thousands of people are pounding into the air harbor of the capital of Afghanistan for the second week in a row to leave their homeland on foreign planes. People sleep and eat right on the ground under the scorching sun. In the first days after the Taliban took Kabul, many managed to break into the airport. But now it is almost impossible. The Taliban blocked the roads, and the Americans guarding the airport let people in there strictly on paper. One by one. Because of this, a crowd of many thousands was formed here.

Due to the high concentration of people, even a small explosion leads to large casualties. This is exactly what the militants of the "Islamic State of Khorosan" (an offshoot of the ISIS organization banned in the Russian Federation) were betting on, who claimed responsibility for the attacks. In order to understand the reason for the terrorist attack, let us briefly analyze what this structure is. The Islamic State of Khorasan is a terrorist organization created in 2015 in the wake of ISIS coming to power in Syria and Iraq. In fact, this is the branch of IS in Afghanistan. The northern and northeastern rural areas of the country are considered to be their strongholds. Three years ago, there were up to 2,000 militants. They drew their strength by recruiting terrorists who had broken away from the Taliban. The backbone of the Islamic State of Khorosan consists mainly of citizens of Afghanistan and Pakistan, and its small groups come from local Tajiks and Uzbeks living in Kunduz and Badakhshan.

According to the index of the Institute for Economics and Peace, it is one of the four most dangerous terrorist organizations. The main activity of this structure is the recruitment of supporters from other terrorist groups and large-scale terrorist attacks. They more than once beheaded foreign journalists, executed representatives of the national and religious minorities of Afghanistan - the Hazaras and Shiites. Over the past couple of years, under the attacks of the American and Afghan military, local ISIS members have been defeated. However, given that up to 10,000 foreign fighters are concentrated in the country, they can always replenish forces.

Now the US is leaving, the Taliban are trying to build power. This transitional period could be a chance for IS to remind of itself and even take over territories. According to Amira Yadun, an expert at the authoritative American West Point Academy, the Islamic State of Khorosan has set itself the goal of establishing itself as the leading extremist organization in the region. Moreover, unlike the Taliban, the IGH is not limited to the territory of Afghanistan, but is aimed at all of Central, South and Central Asia. In the short term, according to the estimates of the same expert, this organization wants to create chaos and uncertainty in Afghanistan. Through terrorist acts, they call into question the ability of any government to ensure the safety of the population.

Now power in Afghanistan, with the exception of the Panjshir Valley, is controlled by the Taliban. Therefore, even if the terrorist attack killed the American military and the attack took place near a US-guarded airport, the attacks undermine the authority of the Taliban. Of course, someone can speculate that the attack could have been committed in collusion with the Taliban, because they gave the United States an ultimatum to withdraw troops by September 31 and oppose the export of their citizens abroad. However, the creation of chaos in the country is extremely unprofitable for the Taliban. After all, over the past two weeks, the movement has shown with all its appearance that it is in control of the situation in Afghanistan.

The forgotten and defeated IS had to remind of itself and at the same time wipe its nose with its enemy. For IS, the Taliban are as much an enemy as the local pro-American government. In 2019, the Taliban, together with their opponents - the US and Afghan forces - attacked the ISIS. There are many reasons for the discrepancies between IS and the Taliban. First, IS is targeting the so-called "world Caliphate," while the Taliban are not, and IS supporters consider the Taliban "dirty nationalists". Secondly, they have an ideological abyss: the Taliban are supporters of the Deobandi school, and IS are Salafis, that is, they are more radical. IS militants call the Taliban "bad Muslims" because the Taliban made a deal with the United States, as a result of which the Americans are now leaving Afghanistan. So after the final withdrawal of the United States, the new authorities in the person of the Taliban will have to deal with a very dangerous rival.

Although Biden is threatening IS retaliation, the Americans are unlikely to be able to do anything about them. They leave on August 31, and this decision is final and irrevocable. It is difficult to say what will happen after this date. In general, the Taliban have every opportunity to defeat IS, but terrorists can always hide in remote mountainous areas and replenish their ranks at the expense of those dissatisfied with the new government. In an extreme case, ISIS may move north and try to shake stability in Central Asia. Therefore, Russia needs to strengthen military ties not only with the CSTO countries - Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan - but also with Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan.