2021: When Taliban conquered Afghanistan and ISKP decided to stay at logger-heads
New Delhi, Dec 11: On August 15 this year, the Taliban took over Afghanistan in a breeze with the US troops pulling out. Fear loomed large with fears of the earlier Taliban's ruthless regime bringing back fresh memories.
The government formation in Afghanistan took a while with the Taliban and Haqqani Network sparring.
It was the ISI chief of Pakistan who finally brokered peace and set up the government. He also gave a clear indication of the meddling by Pakistan in the nation.
However the transition was not smooth for the Taliban. The Islamic State Khorasan Province was breathing down its neck. It staged multiple attacks giving a clear indicator that it intends being at logger heads with the Taliban.
The ISIS which established the ISKP in the Nangarhar Province of eastern Afghanistan in January 2015 has however struggled to find its foothold in the country.
When the ISKP was formed, Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansour had written to the ISIS chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi to stop the recruitment drive. The ISIS had started recruiting disgruntled Taliban fighters. Mansour had said in the letter that any activity by the ISIS in Afghanistan should be carried out under the leadership of the Taliban.
However the letter was not paid heed to and fighting broke out between the two factions within the Taliban in Zabul Province on whether or not to join the ISIS. In April 2017, the ISIS took into captivity several drug dealers who were selling opium to raise funds for the Taliban. This led to more clashes and 20 terrorists were killed in the fighting.
In July there were more conflicts and the ISIS suffered further setbacks. It was in February 2020 the Donald Trump Administration signed a peace accord with the Taliban in Doha and the outfit pledged that it would keep the ISIS and other extremist groups out of Afghanistan. Currently, according to estimates there are around 2,000 ISIS terrorists remaining in Afghanistan. It may be recalled that around 23 persons from Kerala too had left for Afghanistan to join the ISIS. Many have died, while some have been captured.
Following the takeover of Afghanistan, the Taliban in a major move against its rival ISIS executed its former chief Zia ul Haq alias Abu Umar Khurasani. He was killed iii the Pul-i-Charkhi prison at Kabul after the Taliban took control. A report in the Wall Street Journal said that Khorasani was taken from an Afghan government prison and executed. Khorasani had been arrested by the Afghan security forces in May 2020. He headed the group's operations in Afghanistan. However at the time of his arrest, he had been replaced by Mawlawi Aslam Farooqi.
With the Taliban completely in control, the ISIS could struggle even further to expand its footprint in Afghanistan, according to experts that OneIndia spoke with. The Taliban has the support of Jaish-e-Mohammad, Lashkar-e-Tayiba, Pakistani Taliban as well as the Tehreek-e-Taliban. The TTP in a statement pledged its support to the Afghan Taliban leadership and said that it would support the Islamic Emirates of Afghanistan.
Leon Panetta, former US Secretary of Defence however told NPR's All Things Concerned that the Taliban are terrorists and they will support terrorists. There is no question in my mind that they will provide a safe haven for the Al-Qaeda, the ISIS and terrorism in general, he had said earlier this month.
The experts cited above however said that it needs to be seen how the relations between the Taliban and ISIS will shape out. Whether the ISIS would join hands with the Taliban or not largely depends on whether the former would wave the peace flag.