A Singaporean researcher says that the recent deadly explosions in Afghanistan were plotted by ISIS to undermine the Taliban’s rule in Afghanistan.
AhlulBayt News Agency (ABNA): A Singaporean researcher says that the recent deadly explosions in Afghanistan were plotted by ISIS to undermine the Taliban’s rule in Afghanistan.
“The recent explosions in Afghanistan are attempts by the extremist groups of discrediting and delegitimizing the Taliban, making it look weak on the domestic turf and creating challenges for it internationally,” Asif Shuja tells the Tehran Times.
“Many of such explosions are claimed by the local offshoots of ISIS, known as the Islamic State in Khorasan Province (ISIS-K), from which the Taliban claimed to have secured its country,” Shuja says.
The researcher believes that through these attacks ISIS-K is testing the grip of the power of the Taliban and trying to undermine its legitimacy.
Following is the text of the interview:
Q: How do you assess the recent explosions in Afghanistan? What are the implications of such developments?
A: The recent explosions in Afghanistan are attempts by the extremist groups of discrediting and delegitimizing the Taliban, making it look weak on the domestic turf and creating challenges for it internationally. Many of such explosions are claimed by the local offshoots of ISIS, known as the Islamic State in Khorasan Province (ISIS-K), from which the Taliban claimed to have secured its country. While nullifying such claims, through these attacks ISIS-K is testing the grip of the power of the Taliban and trying to undermine its legitimacy.
Although most of the recent attacks are on Shia Muslims, it appears to be primarily because of the ease of such targets rather than the Shia-Sunni factor. For instance, last Friday’s attack on Kabul’s Khalifa Sahib Mosque which killed 50 people, as well as the attack on the Kunduz Mosque a week before which killed 33 people, were both against the Sunni Muslims. Since the Taliban has promised the security of the Shia minority in Afghanistan under their rule, such attacks not just discredit its rule domestically, but also delegitimize it in the international arena.
Q: Does the Taliban have the authority and power to run the country and maintain security?
A: After the withdrawal of the U.S., the Taliban has become the de facto ruler of Afghanistan, so it does have the authority to run the country. However, in its present political form, where Afghanistan remains largely unrecognized politically by the world, it happens to be in a unique position of having no external friends as well as no external enemies. This can be both liabilities as well as an opportunity. Taliban’s stiff stance of declining the demand of the world community to form an inclusive government and its conservative socio-religious views are the two major stumbling blocks coming in the way of its international recognition. Effectively, it is in the Taliban’s hands to turn the present adversity into an opportunity by accepting the world’s demands and getting down to the reconstruction of the country. It is only by confirming the international demand that the Taliban can have international cooperation to run the country and maintain security.
Q: How do you see the rivalry between ISIS and the Taliban? Would it be possible that a new wave of ISIS attacks sweep Afghanistan?
A: Both ISIS and the Taliban are Sunni Islamist groups. However, ISIS follows the ideology of the Caliphate, which implies transcending the political boundaries of states. This makes it an ideological opponent of the Taliban, which has established an Emirate of Afghanistan, confining itself to the territorial boundary. The two groups have been at odds since the beginning of ISIS's emergence in 2015. However, after the return of the Taliban to Afghanistan in August 2021, the conflict between ISIS and the Taliban has become that of between a non-state and state actor, injecting related dynamics. While the withdrawal of the U.S. and NATO forces from Afghanistan made the Taliban rulers of the country, the same factor is also considered by ISIS as an opportunity to regain its own lost grounds, making it resurgent in Afghanistan.
Since the deadly attack of ISIS-K at the Kabul airport during the time of the U.S. withdrawal and evacuation, its attacks within Afghanistan have continued. To stop this, a powerful opposing force is required. The Taliban, which is struggling to carry out its day-to-day functioning as a government due to financial constraints, is not in a position to acquire much-needed capabilities. As the Taliban shows flexibility, earns international legitimacy, and gets access to financial means, it can be better equipped to tackle ISIS, just as any other state handles its internal security issues. The absence of that scenario may imply that a new wave of ISIS attacks sweeping Afghanistan is more likely.
Q: To what extent does the Taliban need security cooperation with its neighbors, especially Iran and Pakistan, to prevent rivals such as ISIS from emerging?
A: Afghanistan is currently facing an insurmountable humanitarian crisis, which is a major distraction for the Taliban, making it unable to fight ISIS alone. Now that the major international powers have abandoned Afghanistan to its own fate, it is only with the security cooperation of its neighbors, especially Iran and Pakistan that Afghanistan can effectively meet its domestic challenges, including its fight with ISIS. In terms of their opposition to ISIS, all three countries – Pakistan, Iran, and Afghanistan – are on the same page. So, it appears obvious that the three countries should come together to prevent the emergence of ISIS. However, the Afghanistan-Pakistan border dispute and Taliban-Iran ideological differences may prevent them from forging such cooperation.
Since the establishment of the Durand Line in 1893, which separated Pakistan and Afghanistan, rulers of all ethnicities and politico-religious ideologies of Afghanistan have opposed this demarcation. This may compel one to deduce that a strong government in Afghanistan may not be in Pakistan’s interests as that might renew the demand for redrawing the Afghan-Pakistan border, causing Pakistan to lose large swaths of land on its side of the Durand Line. Such deep-rooted differences are reflected in the events such as Pakistan’s airstrikes in Khost and Kunar Provinces on 16th April and subsequent warnings to Pakistan by Afghanistan’s Acting Minister of Defence.
Although the Taliban’s Sunni ideology brings it into conflict with Shia Iran, the problems that the Taliban have with Tehran are easier to solve than what it has with Islamabad. In fact, Iran can be the most useful ally to Afghanistan – Iran hosts the largest number of Afghan refugees, and it has been an active participant in the two international platforms to help the Taliban resolve its challenges in ruling the country. These include the “Meeting of Foreign Ministers of Afghanistan’s Neighboring Countries + Russia” which includes Pakistan, and the “Delhi Regional Security Dialogue on Afghanistan”, which excludes Pakistan.
Q: Given the strict laws enforced by the Taliban in Afghanistan, can the group gain international legitimacy?
A: While faith and religion define the relationship between humans and God, relationships between nation-states are primarily determined by national interests, which are most material in nature. Be it a cursory look around, or a deep excavation into the history of international relations, what emerges is that regardless of the sufferings of the people of a particular country due to the nature of its domestic laws, its international relations are not solely determined by them. So, regardless of the sufferings of the Afghan people, the domestic laws of the Taliban are not the only reason coming in the way of its international recognition.
The United States and its allies did not invade Afghanistan because the Afghanis were suffering due to the strict laws of Mullah Omar; they ravaged the country because Mullah Omar gave refuge to Osama bin Laden, who was wanted by the Americans for his attacks on the U.S. soil. Although it is important for the Taliban to revisit its conservative views in the interests of the Afghan people, for the international legitimacy and support all it needs is to think about what Afghanistan can offer to the other countries. If Afghanistan has nothing else to offer, and the world is demanding from the Taliban only the revision of its domestic laws and inclusive government, then the Taliban has no other option but to offer these virtues to gain international legitimacy and support.