Friday, October 15, 2021

ISIS bomb attacks on Taliban raise threat of wider conflict

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – The ISIS terrorist group has claimed responsibility for a series of deadly roadside bombs targeting Taliban fighters in eastern Afghanistan, prompting widespread conflict between the country’s new Taliban rulers and their longtime rivals. The fear has increased.

Eight people, including Taliban fighters, were killed in explosions on Taliban vehicles over the weekend in the Afghan provincial city of Jalalabad. On Monday, three more explosions were heard in the city, an ISIS stronghold, with unconfirmed reports of additional Taliban casualties.

The Taliban are under pressure to stop ISIS militants, partly to fulfill a promise made to the international community that they would stop staging terrorist attacks from Afghan soil. There is also a widespread expectation among conflict-weary Afghans that the new ruler will at least restore public safety, despite fears and apprehensions about the Taliban.

“We thought that since the Taliban came, peace would come,” said Feda Mohammed, the brother of an 18-year-old rickshaw driver who was killed in Sunday’s blast, along with a 10-year-old cousin.

“But there is no peace, no security. You can hear nothing but news of the bombings,” said Mohammad, speaking at the family home, where relatives and neighbors gathered for a memorial ceremony, They were drinking black tea and reciting verses from the Quran.

The latest ISIS bombings come as the Taliban face the daunting task of ruling a country torn by four decades of war. The economy has collapsed, the health system has collapsed and thousands of members of the country’s educated elite have fled. International aid groups predict a worsening of drought, hunger and poverty.

“Our grief has reached its peak,” Abdullah, a Jalalabad-based shopkeeper, said on Monday, a day after ISIS claimed responsibility for the bombings in the city two days ago.

Abdullah said, “People have no jobs, people sell their carpets to buy flour…

The bomb blasts over the weekend reminded the terrorists of the menace. A few weeks ago, as US and foreign troops completed their withdrawal and frantic airlift from the country, ISIS suicide bombers targeted US evacuation efforts outside Kabul International Airport, one of the deadliest attacks in Afghanistan in years. The explosion killed 169 Afghans and 13 American service members.

The incidents have raised fears of more violence, as ISIS militants exploit the vulnerability of the Taliban government facing enormous security challenges and an economic slowdown.

“They are making a very dramatic comeback,” said ISIS, an International Crisis Group consultant and an independent research analyst, Abraham Bahis. “There can be long-term conflict between groups.”

For now, ISIS’s Afghan allies have turned away from attacks against the West and have maintained a local focus, but that could potentially change, Bahis said.

The ISIS affiliate’s motives in Afghanistan differ from those of the Taliban, who took control of the country just days before the withdrawal of US forces last month. While the Taliban fight to gain land in Afghanistan, the ISIS chapter seeks to incorporate swaths of the country into a broader self-styled caliphate, or Islamic kingdom, in the Middle East.

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The franchise, made up largely of Pakistani militants who were pushed across the border by military operations, fought the world against non-Muslims in the months after the group’s main fighters swept through Syria and Iraq in the summer of 2014. ISIS’s call for jihad was adopted throughout.

While they share animosity towards the US military and harsh interpretations of Sunni Islam, the Taliban and ISIS are arch enemies. Just as the Taliban fought US coalition troops in the protracted Afghan war, the group carried out a successful offensive to drive ISIS militants out of their enclaves in the north and east of the country – at times by the United States and the US-backed Afghan government. Assistance provided.

Despite years of US airstrikes and other military setbacks that decimated ISIS rank, the United Nations this year described the group as “remaining active and dangerous”, threatening Afghanistan and the wider region. The affiliate has carried out some of the country’s most brutal attacks on schools, mosques and even a maternity hospital in recent years, primarily targeting the Shia Muslim minority.

The ally has increasingly drawn Taliban hardliners and foreign fighters, with disillusionment with what they see as the Taliban’s ultra-moderate ways. The New York-based Soufan Center said in an analysis on Monday that the franchise “poses one of the most serious risks to the future of the Taliban… efforts have been intensified.

For now, Taliban forces outnumber ISIS militants and experts suspect the extremist group poses a potential threat to Afghanistan’s new rulers. But if the bombing continues, said Franz Marty, a Kabul-based fellow at the Swiss Institute for Global Affairs, “it could become a bigger problem.”

“It is affecting people’s perceptions. If the Taliban cannot fulfill its promise to secure the country, it could turn the tide of public sentiment in the past,” he said.

Despite residents’ concerns in Jalalabad, there has been a marked improvement in pubic security elsewhere, including in the capital of Kabul. Before the Taliban takeover, Kabul was plagued by a sharp increase in crime, and many residents feared leaving their homes after dark.

But the bereaved father of a 10-year-old boy killed in Sunday’s blast in Jalalabad called the recent attacks an ominous sign.

Zarif Khan said, “We live in poverty and we don’t even have security.” “Today my son’s life is lost, tomorrow others’ son’s life will be lost.”

By Isabelle Debre and Rahim Faiz

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This News Originally From – The Epoch Times

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