IS and its disastrous influence in Afghanistan

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IS and its disastrous influence in Afghanistan

After losing the war in Iraq and Syria, Afghanistan and Pakistan are the new target for the Islamic State. While the world must unite to destroy its bases, the Afghan Government must take the lead

After uprooting from Iraq and Syria, the Islamic State (IS) is trying to establish itself in Afghanistan and Pakistan as both these countries are totally radicalised and, hence, it will be easier for them to set their bases over there. The creation of Islamic State Khorasan Province (ISK-P) by the IS fascinated large number of semi-literate, fanatic and disenchanted Muslim youths all over the world who came to Afghanistan and joined the outfit. The ISK-P earned the support of not just extremist Muslims but several Muslim writers, thinkers and intellectuals also extended their assistance.

ISK-P contacted leaders of various terrorist outfits in Afghanistan and Pakistan and persuaded them to join ISK-P. The organisation also made alliances with few groups while encouraging smaller groups to amalgamate in the IS. Besides these groups, dissidents of numerous terrorist outfits, especially of Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), Afghan and Pakistan Taliban, Al Qaeda, Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan joined the IS. Haji Mehsud, former Chief of TTP, and several important Afghan Taliban leaders, particularly Mullah Nemat Mufti, Mullah Sufu Qayum and Mullah Rasool also joined the IS with their followers.

The outfit is against Shias and alleges that they “pretend” to be Muslims and should be purged even before non-Muslims. Hence, fighters from anti-Shia organisations like Jundullah, Lashlar-e-Jhangvi al Alami, Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan also joined the IS.

ISK-P announced Hafiz Saeed Khan as its leader while Mullah Abdul Rauf Aliza as its deputy leader. Hafiz Saeed was from Pakistan and leader of TTP, while Mullah Aliza was an Afghan national. In this way, the IS inculcated its sway both in Pakistan as well as in Afghanistan and fighters from both these countries joined the outfit. Saeed was killed in 2016 while Aliza lost life in 2015 but both of them worked hard to popularise ISK-P.

Afghanistan being a poor country and unemployment rate at about 40 per cent, it was easy for ISK-P to recruit Afghans. They were paying more than double the amount paid by the Afghan Government. Hence, several personnel of the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) joined the IS along with their weapons. Large number of Afghans are uneducated and are ready to sacrifice their lives in the name of Islam. This is why more and more people are joining the outfit.

ISK-P distributed literature in Dari and Pashto languages, denouncing the Taliban and Al Qaeda and mentioning that the IS is the only organisation which can save Muslims from persecution and establish Islamic rule based on Shariat. In literature, the IS also mentioned about several terrorist activities carried by the outfit.

Large number of foreign fighters mainly from Pakistan, Tajikistan, Chechnya and Uzbekistan also joined the IS. Besides these countries, fighters from African countries and European countries, especially from France, Algeria and the UK, are also residing in Afghanistan. Analysts claim that the number of foreign fighters in Afghanistan are more than 3,000 and it will further enhance once the IS is completely ousted from Iraq and Syria as most foreign fighters would not return back to their native soil but will reach Afghanistan to reinforce the IS.

The IS successfully carried out several terrorist attacks in the recent past in different places in Afghanistan. On January 20, terrorists laid siege into Kabul’s Intercontinental Hotel and killed more than 20 persons, including four foreigners. On January 27, terrorists attacked with an ambulance full of explosives in Kabul in which death toll crossed 100. Again, on January 28, few terrorists attacked an Army post near military academy, Kabul, and killed 11 soldiers. Few days after, terrorists also attacked an NGO office in Jalalabad. ISK-P also killed 41 Shias in a cultural centre while more than 150 persons were exterminated in Kabul. The IS also successfully carried out terrorist acts in Ghor, Qushtapa and other places.

Analysts claim that terrorists killed more than 10,000 Afghan security personnel and injured more than 15,000 persons in 2017 alone. This year appears to be bloodier and more security personnel and civilians would be killed if effective measures are not taken by the Afghan Government and the US-led NATO troops. ANSF is unable to control the mounting pressure by terrorists, especially the IS, because of rampant corruption, lack of will to fight, old and rusted weapons, unsatisfactory training and no actionable intelligence. In fact, the intelligence machinery of terrorists is working better than the intelligence setup of ANSF.

The Afghan Government is losing ground and according to analysts, about seventy per cent of the area is under control of terrorists including, the IS. Besides Afghanistan, quite a few areas of Pakistan abutting Afghanistan, including Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), Waziristan, Balochistan among others, are also under the control of terrorists. Recent surge in terrorist activities also indicate that only aerial bombings would not wipe out terrorist outfits and there will be no use negotiating with them as terrorist outfits utilise time of negotiations in regrouping themselves. 

The strength of NATO troops must be enhanced as 15,000 troops would fail to control various terrorist outfits in the country. If NATO troops leave Afghanistan before eradicating the IS, it will be disastrous not only for the region but for the whole world. The world powers, which jointly or separately ruined the IS in Iraq and Syria, should work together to destroy it from Afghanistan. Hence, it is essential that all world powers opposed to the IS work together to destroy it permanently. The US dropped most powerful non-nuclear bomb in Achin district in April 2017 and destroyed weapons, tunnels and killed more than 90 IS fighters. It conducted more than 400 air raids in February and March 2017 against IS strongholds but air raids are not enough. Land forces are required for area domination.

Terrorist activities in Afghanistan cannot be curbed unless Pakistan, which is providing safe heaven to various terrorist outfits, is controlled. Although US President Donald Trump has suspended $1.9 billion aid to Pakistan but it is not enough as China has promised to compensate. NATO troops should bombard the infrastructure created by sinister Inter-Services Intelligence to train and shelter the terrorists. The NATO troops should not only destroy terrorists’ hideouts but should also exterminate their trainers. Leaders of terrorist outfits should also be eliminated either by bombardments or by special operations. Pakistan Government cannot take action against terrorist outfits as their leaders have mass following but NATO troops can destroy them.

The Afghan Government must galvanise ANSF and personnel should be well-trained and must be provided with latest weapons. Working conditions and salary structure should be improved and feeling of patriotism should be inculcated. The intelligence network of the country is in shambles, no security forces can trounce terrorist outfits unless the intelligence organisations provide pin-pointed actionable intelligence. The Afghan Government should send intelligence personnel to India so that they are methodically trained in collection, analysis and timely dissemination of intelligence.

The Government should take stringent action against corrupt officials and rectify genuine problems of the masses. The Government should also try to win the confidence of the masses through launching poverty elimination and employment generation schemes. Leaders of political parties must contact the masses and broaden their base. The election system should be honest and transparent so that the public does not give any importance to the allegations of defeated candidates about the use of malpractices by the winning candidates.

(The writer is member of United Services Institute of India, and the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses)

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