It may be tempting for some analysts to surmise that through the terror attack outside the Kabul airport that killed over 170 last Thursday, the Islamic State-Khorasan that has claimed credit was handed a bloody “parting gift” to the US and others scrambling to quit. But all indications point to continuing and prolonged violence emanating from Afghanistan under its new rulers.
And since the new rulers are supported by, and beholden to, Pakistan where favorable conditions have ripened further under Prime Minister Imran Khan’s government, the eastern neighbor could well be the springboard.
Immediately threatened could well be India, particularly its disputed Jammu and Kashmir region. But in a repeat of what the “Afghan war veterans” of the 1990s did, also Bangladesh where the Harkat-ul-Jihad Islami (HUJI) and Jamatul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) are already active. Bangladesh also has elements of Rohingya refugees from Myanmar active with these banned bodies.
Nepal, the Maldives, and Sri Lanka, where Pakistan’s ISI has always been active cannot remain unscathed since the Islamists everywhere are enthused.
A rare to-each-its-own situation has developed after the shocking return of an unapologetic Taliban in Afghanistan. They are yet to settle down, but that they have made no specific promise to any country, big or small, about responding to their concern about militancy and terrorism, even at this critical stage. For Pakistan, China, and Iran, the satisfaction of seeing the US and NATO troops leave after two decades has proved to be a mirage.
Note the way Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping have agreed to step up efforts to counter “threats” emerging from Afghanistan following the Taliban’s takeover. German Chancellor Angela Merkel has also said the international community must maintain dialogue with the group if it wanted to protect “improvements made” in the country during two decades of Nato deployment there.
According to the Kremlin, during a telephone call the Russian and Chinese leaders “expressed their readiness to step up efforts to combat threats of terrorism and drug trafficking coming from the territory of Afghanistan”.
They also spoke of the “importance of establishing peace” in Afghanistan and “preventing the spread of instability to adjacent regions”.
Several ex-Soviet republics in Central Asia – where Moscow holds military bases – share a border both with Afghanistan and China are worried about a resurgence of the Islamists since ethnic groups from their region have been active as affiliates of the IS and Al Qaeda.
While Moscow has been cautiously optimistic about the new leadership in Kabul, Putin has warned of Afghan militants entering neighboring countries as refugees.
While all players have been unanimous about urging the Taliban to hold talks and work for an “inclusive” government, they are worried that this is not likely to happen anytime soon.
Putin has said Russia wanted to work with China to fight terrorism and drug smuggling and to prevent the security risks from “spilling out” of Afghanistan.
Pakistani analysts, while generally happy at the emergence of a “friendly” government in Kabul, are apprehensive about cooperation from the Taliban on refugees’ influx, smuggling of arms and drugs, and most notably, Kabul’s curbing the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).
In his editorial in the Friday Times (August 27, 2021, Najam Sethi has lambasted Imran Khan for congratulating the Taliban, “gleefully”, for “breaking the chains of slavery” on seizing Kabul, without realizing the implications for Pakistan.
On the Afghan Taliban’s pronouncements for peace and end of violence, Sethi notes that “serious doubts persist about the ability or willingness of the new Taliban regime to guarantee such an outcome for each of the stakeholders”.
His worry is particularly about Pakistan’s seeking curbs on the TTP.