Islamic State Khorasan Province or ISIS-K, an offshoot of the Islamic State or ISIS terrorist group mounted an attack on Kabul Airport on Thursday 26th August killing more than a hundred and seventy-five people. Those who lost their lives included United States service personnel, British service personnel, Taliban soldiers, and Afghan citizens seeking to access the airport to be evacuated after the Taliban took over Afghanistan.
The attack was a suicide bomber attack by the now resurging terrorist group that is fiercely against the Taliban. ISIS-K is regarded as one of the most ruthless terrorist groups there is and has fundamental and ideological differences with the Taliban. The attack killed 13 United States service personnel including troops, making it one of the deadliest attacks for the United States in Afghanistan. The U.S has since retaliated and today confirmed that two high-profile members of ISIS-K, “a planner and a facilitator”, had been targeted and killed and one wounded in a drone attack.
The Taliban Failed in their Role to Protect the Airport Entrance
The Taliban it seems were caught unawares by the attack as was everyone else. The road leading to the airport and near the entry was under the watch of the Taliban who had been tasked with securing the perimeter. However, ISIS-K terrorists were able to launch the attack in a crowd of thousands gathered to seek entry into the airport in an attempt to get onto one of the evacuation planes leaving Afghanistan. The attack left horrifying scenes and battered an already traumatized Afghanistan. The attack brought up the question of whether the United States and allied forces can really depend on the Taliban to ensure the security of their personnel. There has, however, been ‘collaboration’ between the U.S and Taliban forces facilitating the current mass evacuations taking place in Afghanistan. A part of the two working together was ensuring that those who have the correct documents can safely get to the airport and be evacuated. The Taliban failed to do that.
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Did the U.S Hand the Taliban a ‘Kill List’?
A section of analysts and political leaders in the United States have alleged that the U.S handed the Taliban a list of people it was looking to evacuate. This was done to ensure that the people on that list would be let through the various Taliban checkpoints on the way to the Hamad Karzai International Airport where evacuations are currently ongoing. The political leaders, however, argue that by doing so, the U.S essentially handed the Taliban a “kill list”. The leaders believe that such actions are tantamount to giving the Taliban names of people to target and thus endangering their security.
There were even speculations that the Taliban may have collaborated with the attackers of the Kabul airport attack but this seems unlikely. ISIS-K claimed responsibility for the attack and is believed to pose a major security threat to Afghanistan, especially in the few coming days before the August 31 deadline for evacuations. The Taliban are fierce enemies of ISIS-K and have ideological differences and do not share quite the same beliefs. As such, it is unlikely that ISIS-K collaborated in any way with the Taliban to instigate the Thursday attack on Kabul Airport.
ISIL-K: a Major Threat to Local and Global Security
ISIS-K or ISIL-K is believed to be an offshoot of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, ISIL also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, ISIS, which until a few years back had mounted a huge terrorist campaign that was largely distinguished. ISIL was fought relentlessly by the U.S with the help of Kurdish forces, the People’s Defense Unit, and had been a major threat to security in the Middle East. To some extent, the group is resurging and is still believed to pose a major threat to local and global security. ISIS-K is one example of this resurgence and since it has been seen that the group is willing and able to launch attacks, then it may well become the revolting force against the Taliban.
ISIS-K is believed to have launched the Kabul airport attack with the intent to target and kill as many people as possible. The group is also said to have been bolstered by Taliban prison breaks of prisons all over Afghanistan where some of the group’s fighters were incarcerated. The Taliban were the insurgence in Afghan for the better part of the last twenty years and now, ISIS-K could well become the new insurgence and mount attacks against the Taliban and Afghanistan as a whole.
President Biden Warns ISIS-K that the U.S Will “Make them Pay”
President Biden offered his condolences to the families of those who lost their lives in the Kabul attack on Thursday. Joe Biden held a moment of silence for those who lost their lives and said that he understood what it was like to lose a loved one due to war. Joe Biden’s son, Beau Biden, lost his life due to a cancerous brain tumor that was a result of deployment to war while serving in the U.S Army. President Biden held a very somber press conference and was almost teary. He also gave a stern warning and vowed to find those behind the attacks and “make them pay”. A day later, the U.S government announced that it had targeted and killed high-profile officials of ISIS-K through a drone strike. As ISIS-K and similar groups are likely to mount an insurgence in Afghanistan, and against the Taliban, it could well be that the United States may have to collaborate with the Taliban to fight such groups in the future.
Could this be the Beginning of a ‘Remote War’?
Even as the Afghan War has ended and foreign troops are being withdrawn, the U.S and allied forces including NATO forces will likely mount remote surveillance and security operations in Afghanistan to protect their interests in the region. This ‘remote war’, albeit reliant on drones and airstrikes, will need ground coordination and facilitation and it may well be that in the future the Taliban is tasked with offering such support. The Taliban could be incentivized to do so if it’s in their interest and the interest of the United States, NATO, and allied forces. Ironically, the very group that had been fighting the U.S and allied forces for two decades is the one that is today helping them secure the airport for evacuations and could as well be the one collaborating with allied forces for future Afghan security.
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August 31 Evacuations Deadline Quickly Approaching
The United Kingdom has already finished its evacuations ahead of schedule with only a hundred or so of the Afghans that helped them not evacuated and left behind. Britain evacuated over 15,000 eligible Afghans. The evacuations have been slated to be completed by the deadline set for the 31st of August, as per an agreement between the U.S and the Taliban. The initial deal was that the U.S withdraws its troops by the 1st of May but this deadline was then extended to the 31st of August.
The initial deal was negotiated by former U.S President Donald Trump, and analysts say a lot of the failure of the current evacuations can be traced back to that deal. Analysts say that it was a crazy deal to withdraw all troops in war-torn Afghanistan and not only do that but also do it in such a short period of time and without ensuring enough security in Afghanistan to warrant that the people of Afghanistan will not suffer due to the withdrawal. Fast forward and now Afghanistan is back to being under Taliban rule and the U.S is racing against time to evacuate tens of thousands of its personnel and Afghan interpreters and citizens who assisted it to fight the Afghan War.
Evacuations have been ramped up and tens of thousands are being evacuated every day. The set evacuation deadline is the 31st of August, after which the Taliban has vowed that those who want to leave will be able to leave using commercial airplanes if they have the right documentation. The Taliban has also said that it will announce its government after foreign troops leave. The Kabul airport attack came after numerous warnings from numerous intelligence services of a likely attack and Kabul airport is still on high alert. Those who are leaving are being asked not to crowd near the airport and the Taliban has since expanded the perimeter and are doing more rigorous checks. They are even letting through and escorting some people into the airport. However, at a place where there are thousands hurdled up in such a small space desperate to leave, it is increasingly difficult to draw out possible terrorists and suicide bombers.
Current Situation on the Ground in Afghanistan
As it is, there is a warning of a likely terrorist attack in the next 24-36 hours. Afghans are still flocking the airport and some have been and are still living there waiting for a chance to be evacuated. Afghans have literally been sleeping at the entrance road of the airport, waiting for a chance to be evacuated, including those without the necessary papers but are desperate to leave. The Taliban has been dispersing crowds by firing gunshots into the air. Numerous Afghans have also been flocking border points with countries such as Pakistan, including the Spin-Boldak border crossing. Here, they need Pakistani residence documents or medical records to be allowed into the country.
The Taliban Accused of Retribution against Collaborators with the U.S and Allied Forces
The Taliban has been accused of retribution in some provinces where they have killed some collaborators of the U.S and allied forces. The group is also likely to have difficulty governing Afghanistan as it lacks the skills and expertise to undertake administrative functions. In its ranks, the Taliban is battle-hardened but has no experience or even the finances to run a country. Numerous workers including government workers have been flocking to banks. However, most are now closed and there have been protests today by government workers who say they have not been paid for the last three months. Banks have been capping withdrawal amounts to $200 to $350 and numerous people have not been paid and do not even have anything to withdraw. The Afghan economy is on a free fall and the Taliban will need American dollars to run the country as will the people to trade and buy what they need. However, the U.S has currently frozen billions of dollars of Afghanistan Central Bank’s reserves in the U.S, and Afghanistan’s financial pool is going dry.