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The ‘young Taliban democracy’ established after a victorious fleeing operation by US forces has been passing through the an of challenges. Complex economic and social problems created by years of the occupation and war are fueled by an array of security issues. The first and the foremost of them is the dramatically increased activity of ISIS in the central and northern parts of the country. In previous years, mainstream experts were urging international audience that Taliban and ISIS were in a de-facto alliance. Now, when the smokescreen of MSM reports is dispelled, it is clearly seen that ISIS alongside with the foreign invaders were among the main Taliban enemies.
In early December, the Taliban carried out a series of operations against ISIS cells in the provinces of Nangarhar, Kabul and Lowgar. The most tense situation is in the Nangarhar capital – Jalalabad. In November, ISIS attacked several Taliban units moving in police districts 1 and 3. The Taliban responded by cracking down an ISIS cell detected in Police District 1. After a series of clashes, the cell was eliminated. Nonetheless, this is far from enough to re-establish security in the province or at least in its capital. As of December 3, ISIS cells remain active in the area despite permanent Taliban security efforts against them.
The Taliban is also has problems with establishing security in Kabul. On November 30, at least six people, including Taliban members, were allegedly killed and 7 others injured in an IED attack on Dar-ul-Aman Avenue. On December 2, a roadside bomb exploded in the Charahi Salim Karwan area, but reportedly led to no casualties. This attack became the most recent but apparently not the last in a recent spate of sabotage attacks that targeted Taliban personnel and civilian targets in the country. Large cities almost always remain the source of permanent instability and terrorist threats in countries staggered by prolonged conflicts. Nonetheless, if the Taliban seeks to entrench results of its previous military successes, it needs to demonstrate that the movement can not only fight long guerrilla wars, but also protect people under its government. So far, the Taliban leadership has had apparent difficulties with this goal.
On December 1, Taliban fighters even clashed with Iranian border guards near the Milak border crossing. Afghani media rushed to claim Taliban success in the brief fight as Iranian forces allegedly lost control of 5 outposts during the incident. Nonetheless, these reports were not confirmed. In turn, Iranian media said the clashes erupted because of local ‘misunderstanding’.
On top of this, the so-called National Resistance Front of Afghanistan continues to hamper the Taliban from the Panjshir Valley area. The ‘large-scale anti-Taliban resistance’ initially declared by MSM appeared to be not so large with almost no chances to regain control over the country. Nonetheless, it is enough to remain a constant reminder of the complex situation on the Afghan political and security landscape. Over the course of the previous months, the Taliban conducted several operations against the Resistance Front but was not able to fully dismantle opposing forces in the Panjshir Valley. So, now, in the best traditions of Afghanistan, both sides regularly issue not very fact-based statements that they both carrying out successful operations each against other.
The situation becomes even more complex because of the once again increased instability in the Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Region of neighboring Tajikistan. The growing internal tensions there are caused by attempts of local elites to gain more power in the light of the collapse of the previous government in Afghanistan. Furthermore, Gorno-Badakhshan has always had an additional impulse towards the increase of militancy and radical trends because of the historically conflict environment and close links with factions operating in Afghanistan.
In the case of a negative scenario developing the situation in Gorno-Badakhshan, the erupted crisis will contribute to the deterioration of the security situation not only in Tajikistan, but will also serve as a factor of instability for the entire region. Expectedly, this could throw additional gasoline onto the fire of military tensions in Afghanistan.