killing of Daesh leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi in a US raid in Syria was welcomed
by the Afghan government, which termed the action a major blow to the group and
to terrorism in general. Regardless of the fact that insurgent groups have
historically exhibited resilience after losing a leader, Al-Baghdadi’s death
will definitely have a deep impact on Daesh’s activities in Afghanistan, at least
in the short term. Al-Baghdadi might have had limited or no operational
linkages with Daesh in Afghanistan, but he was an inspiration for the so-called
caliphate declared by the group.
affiliate of Daesh first emerged in Afghanistan in 2014, in the eastern
province of Nangarhar, and gradually made inroads into neighboring Kunar.
However, it maintained its stronghold in Nangarhar. In 2015, it named itself as
Daesh’s Khorasan Province. The name Khorasan is a historical name associated
with parts of Afghanistan, but it has never been used formally for the whole
country. While Afghanistan already suffered from an insurgency in the form of
the Taliban, the addition of Daesh has been another major security challenge
for the country.
has now also become active in other parts of northern Afghanistan. Compared to
the Taliban, Daesh has been even more violent, brutal and extremist in its
views and interpretation of Islam. Any Muslim that does not adhere to its
self-proclaimed version of Islam is considered to be a “Kafir” (non-believer)
and hence punishable by death.
military estimates the number of Daesh militants in Afghanistan to be about
2,000. However, this number could be higher and may grow as there are reports
of new recruits as well as defections from the Taliban.
carried out several brutal attacks targeting civilians.
it claimed responsibility for attacking a wedding hall, taking the lives of
dozens of innocent civilians. The attack was once again an eye-opener for Afghans
that, after the Taliban, another group is keen to victimize them. However, over
the past couple of years, the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces
(ANDSF) have conducted several successful operations against Daesh militants in
Nangarhar, weakening the group’s hold on its major territory. Some militants
even abandoned the group and surrendered to the provincial government.
between the US and the Taliban, when they were on the verge of sealing a deal,
must have been important for Daesh. If the talks resume and a peace agreement
is reached, Daesh will credit itself with being the sole insurgent group
challenging the Afghan government, society and any international intervention
it is opposed to. Daesh must be strongly banking on a segment of the population
being unhappy with the impending deal, along with defections from the Taliban
by militants who are more inspired by Daesh’s more extreme ideology.
Afghanistan, Daesh has been trying its best to attack mainly Shiite
neighborhoods to spur some kind of sectarian discord. But, luckily, they have
so far failed. The Shiite minority and Sunni majority have been living together
in the country for centuries, maintaining mutual respect and religious
also concerns that, since Daesh has been significantly weakened in Iraq and
Syria, it must be looking for an alternative stronghold, from where it can lead
and inspire its virtual caliphate. Afghanistan, it is feared, could become that
potential new home. Meanwhile, the Afghan leadership has vowed to eliminate all
of Daesh’s safe havens following the recent successful operations against the
Daesh’s major setbacks in Iraq and Syria, it is unlikely the group will stay in
Afghanistan much longer. But it all depends on the continuous support of the
international community for the ANDSF. The other point that contributes to the
defeat of Daesh in Afghanistan is the probable US peace deal with the Taliban.
The Taliban and Daesh consider each other as rivals and, if a peace agreement
is reached, it will definitely embolden the Afghan government to defeat Daesh
in a short space of time.
Shams, based in Kabul, is president of the Afghanistan Social Democratic Party.
He was a deputy minister in the national unity government and served as policy
adviser to Ashraf Ghani before his presidential bid.
Headline: How will Daesh’s Afghanistan affiliate respond to setbacks?
Source: The Arab News