Against the backdrop of increasing terrorist attacks in Afghanistan by the ‘Islamic State’ (Da’esh), Centre for Pakistan and Gulf Studies (CPGS) generated a poll to ascertain how people perceived the probability of Da’esh gaining a strong hold in the Af-Pak region?
As many as 48.4% of the respondents expressed uncertainty by marking the option of “Don’t know”. 32.3% believed that Da’esh is close to gaining a strong foothold in its so-called Khorasan Chapter. Whereas, only 19.4% opined that the militant group cannot gain a stronghold in the Af-Pak region.
Afghanistan has been the hub of instability and tension for about four decades now. The US and NATO’s invasion of the country only exacerbated the security dilemmas, and post 2001 we have seen the country take a turn for worse. Taliban uprisings, weakness of the Afghan civilian regime in gaining control of the country and weak defence forces have all resulted in destabilized Afghanistan.
Recently, we have also seen a wave of violence erupt in Afghanistan; this time it has been claimed by Da’es (also known as the ‘Islamic State’). The militant group which has its roots in the instability caused during the war in Iraq, has now called for global ‘jihad’ to set up an Islamic Caliphate. The perceived threat of the organization has been grossly miscalculated, leading to its gradual increase in strength. ‘IS’ first gained prominence on the world map when it captured the key city of Mosul, Iraq in June 2014. Since then the organization has spread across the Middle East, its tentacles reaching parts as far as South Asia, (especially Afghanistan) within the short span of two years.
IS’s presence in Afghanistan is viewed with animosity by both the Taliban and the Afghan Security Forces albeit for different reasons. Where the Taliban consider it a breach of their territory, Afghan forces view the presence of ‘IS’ as one more group creating instability inside Afghanistan and making it more difficult to govern.
However, recent events of escalating violence in Kabul City during a peaceful protest by the Hazara Community, and the continuous split of factions from the Afghan Taliban pledging loyalty with the ‘IS’ manifests the militant group’s advance towards gaining a strong foothold in Afghanistan. Some splinter groups of the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) have also announced allegiance with the Afghan Chapter of the ‘IS’.
Observers suggest that these developments can lead to the organization gaining a strong foothold in the ‘Af-Pak’ region, especially the border areas. Pakistan, which launched Operation Zarb-e-Azb in Northern Waziristan in 2014, has been partially successful in rooting out major hideouts of the militants especially in the FATA region, however, it is vital that systematic action is taken in Afghanistan against these militants operating from the Afghan soil.
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