By: Lailuma Noori
Pentagon in a report to congress has warned that a robust counterterrorism capability must remain in Afghanistan against groups including al-Qaeda, even if a peace deal with the Taliban is secured.
The Afghan government, the US and coalition partners will continue to face risks from al-Qaida, the Daesh of Iraq and Syria, as well as from the Taliban, the report says.
“Even if a successful political settlement with the Taliban emerges from ongoing talks, AQ, ISIS-K (Daesh), and some unknown number of Taliban hardliners will constitute a substantial threat to the Afghan government and its citizens, as well as to the United States and its coalition partners,” the report says.
According to the report, this enduring terrorist threat will require the United States, the international community, and the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces ANDSF to maintain a robust [counterterrorism] CT capability for the foreseeable future.
The report also said that the Daesh has gained control of territory in Afghanistan over the last six months. While the group’s power in Afghanistan remains limited compared with organizations such as the Taliban and al-Qaeda, it has continued to challenge Afghan, United States, and coalition forces, it said.
Since 2015, ISIS-Khurasan has started its activities in eastern areas of Afghanistan particularly Nangarhar and Kunar provinces. In recent years, the group has taken responsibility of the deadliest attacks including attacks on mosques, madarasas and sport stadiums of Shiites. Besides, one such attack occurred on April 20, when Daesh operatives attacked Afghanistan’s ministry of communications in the capital of Kabul, killing 16 civilians and six Afghan security forces members.
Deash wants to pose a threat to not only Afghanistan but the US, “which it continuously seeks to target for terrorist activity.” Similar to other terror groups like the Haqqani network, al Qaeda, and Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, Daesh has sanctuaries on both sides of the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, making it particularly difficult to counter. In past, Afghanistan was a good place for colonialists and foreign plotters of the region. Experience has proven that the country has been as a lab for foreign fighters and witnessed dreadful and dire incidents. During the past 17 years, the country has also experienced unpleasant presence of foreign terrorists fighting against the people and government. But, presence of Daesh is considered as the worst experience of the country. Although the group is not able to launch big attacks on districts and provinces of the country, it focuses on organizing deadly suicide attacks on civilians, civil and military institutions of the country. They are mostly active in the country’s east.
What the group wants in Afghanistan and the region? It is believed that Daesh’s last destination is not Afghanistan. The respective terrorist group wants to reach beyond Afghan borders as countries in central Asia and pose increasing threats to the countries of the Central Asia.
Daesh fighters are supported by powers in the region and currently under trained in some parts of Pakistan. The group recruits its fighters from former experienced fighters of the Taliban group so that they can pose serious threats to the region. Recently, Afghanistan National Directorate of Security (NDS) has informed of detaining four lecturers and students of Kabul University in accusation of membership of Daesh and their link in some terrorist attacks in Kabul.
Recruitment of the group from students of Islamic Sharia faculty of Kabul University has raised concern over increasing of extremism among students in the country.