suicide attack on a wedding in Kabul generated much attention towards the
fledgling Afghan peace talks that have gripped the attention of regional
players and the imagination of the West. However, the attack itself, both on
strategy and optics, reveals much more about the militant Islamic State (IS)
group than has gained notice.
to statistics made available by the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, IS
claimed 11 per cent of the 3,812 documented casualties in the first half of
2019. The Taliban, meanwhile, claimed 38pc.
IS was at its peak in 2014, its ‘Khorasan chapter’ in Afghanistan and Pakistan
never quite took off. While loyalties remain fluid in militancy, the group
failed to gather much traction. What it did succeed in doing was to issue a
call to young, radicalised youth in the West to participate in jihad and
protect the ‘caliphate’, and, in return, garner international fame. Near 2016,
that call for Iraq and Syria too died out as European countries and others
bolstered border control measures, revamped advanced passenger information
procedures and restructured criminal justice programmes to address the issue of
returning fighters. Between 2016-18, IS-inspired lone-wolf attacks increased in
Europe and the call to Libya also began dying out. Meanwhile, in South Asia, IS
(increasingly desperate to regain strength) claimed numerous attacks including
the July 2018 Mastung bombing that killed 149 people — the deadliest terrorist
attack in Pakistan since the 2014 APS attack.
Offers An Opportunity In Waiting.
control in Iraq and Syria, unable to establish a stronghold in Libya and a
steadily declining cadre of dispensable foreign fighters, IS has returned to a
standard form of explicit savagery designed to garner media attention and shock
the world — like a suicide attack on a wedding. Forced to adapt to physical and
technological attacks, IS maintains a deeply decentralised and non-hierarchical
structure, rendering any decapitation tactics to defeat the group useless.
While operationally the group may be fluid and flexible, a self-professed
caliphate ultimately must have land to gain any modicum of legitimacy. And
territory is where the answer lies.
political gaps and vulnerable environments to entrench itself and rule through
fear or a select few power brokers. Afghanistan offers an opportunity in
waiting. Two years ago, I interviewed scores of young men who had fled Mosul
soon after IS took over. The narrative was mostly the same — a known militant
group that promised security, economics and governance was accepted by the
people even if it came at the cost of giving up freedom. A select few, mostly
young men, were appointed to run the city’s affairs. There is no denying that
unlike Iraqis who may not have been as familiar with IS’s ruthless rule then,
Afghans are well aware of the brutality it inspires. However, propensity to
violence feeds on vulnerability, exclusion and desperation — and all three
appear to be present in bulk in Afghanistan.
is already a victim of a fragile political structure. Ongoing peace talks may
usher in a new era, but not necessarily as peaceful or liberal as the Taliban
claim it shall be. An election is likely to further complicate an already
perilous situation. In the midst of all of this is a viscous IS on the run,
eyeing contested territory, ready to sow chaos and discord on the heels of a
vulnerable and embryonic peace agreement.
Many in the
Taliban’s lower and younger ranks have challenged authority and subsequently
broken away. IS will step in to provide a ready and violent alternative; these
fresh recruits would breathe new life into a group very much on the verge of
demise. A hastily managed American withdrawal and a lack of capacity among
Afghan security forces will provide a welcoming environment.
processes as cohesive and inclusive as they initially set out to be can often
be hijacked by singular or dual key priorities — especially when two (or
multiple) parties are long-time adversaries and almost always when security
structures and concerns are on the table. More concessions are granted than
needed and collaterals pile up quicker than anticipated. In a drive to achieve
‘lasting peace’, or so it seems, inadvertent tunnel visions are put in place.
Afghanistan’s case, achieving a workable and accepted peace agreement is
difficult but attainable. Ensuring a lasting peace without capacitating a
government or security forces is challenging. Dangerous gaps in an already
fragile environment will provide IS with the opening it desperately needs. If
nothing else, it could rise as a ruthless opposition to the Taliban. And where
the US sees success in roping in an adversary into a political process, it is
forgetting what is almost always overlooked as part of ‘ushering peace’ in
fragile contexts without adequate security and governance measures in place:
There is a
far greater menace in the waiting.
Jawaid is a policy researcher.
Headline: A desperate IS
Source: The Dawn