Written by Dr. James M. Dorsey
Abu Omar Khorasani was taken from Kabul’s Pul-i-Charkhi prison and unceremoniously shot.
The first and only person to have been executed since the Taliban gained full control of Afghanistan, Mr. Khorasani was the head of the Islamic State in South Asia until he was arrested by government forces last year.
The precise circumstances of his execution are not known. His killing was, however, at least in part designed to send a message to the international community, and particularly Afghanistan’s neighbours, including China and Iran, as well as Russia, Central Asia’s security overlord.
The message was that the Taliban were cracking down on foreign jihadists and militants in Afghanistan.
Mr. Khorasani was an easy symbol. The Taliban and the Islamic State, whose ranks of foreigners are primarily populated by Pakistanis and a sprinkling of Central Asians, Uighurs, Russians, Turks, Iranians, Indonesians, Indians, and Frenchmen, have long been adversarial. The Islamic State recently accused the Taliban of being more nationalist than pious in their negotiations with the United States.
The Taliban message is a partial truth at best. What is true for the Islamic State is not true for Al–Qaeda and others such as the Uighur Turkestan Islamic Party (TIP) and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan.
The Taliban appear to believe that they can get away with the differentiation because they perceived the United States as more focused in the withdrawal negotiations on ensuring that the Islamic State, Al-Qaeda, and other militants will not be allowed to use Afghanistan as a base for international operations rather than on getting them expelled from the country.
The perceived US focus may have been rooted in a concern that if Taliban’s hands were forced, they would let militants slip out of the country and not hand them over to authorities. That would make it difficult to control their movements or ensure that they are either entered into deradicalization programs or, if warranted, brought to justice.
“It’s a Catch-22. The Taliban ensuring that Al Qaeda sticks to rule risks putting a fox in charge of the chicken coop. How much better that is than having foxes run wild remains to be seen,” said a retired counter-terrorism official.
Officials of the Trump administration that negotiated the agreement suggest that the continued presence of Al-Qaeda and other militants in Afghanistan would violate the accord with the Taliban.
Former Vice President Mike Pence as well as Trump era State Department counterterrorism coordinator Nathan Sales argued that the deal “required the Taliban…to refuse terrorists safe harbour.”
Russia and China, while publicly more measured in their statements, are likely to share western concerns. Russia held military drills earlier this month with Tajik and Uzbek troops in Tajikistan, 20 kilometres from the border with Afghanistan.
Al-Qaeda may have been boosted in recent weeks by multiple prison breaks in which the Taliban freed operatives of Al-Qaeda and other militant groups. It remains unclear however to what degree the breaks will help the group strengthen its presence in Afghanistan.
General Mark Milley, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, warned this week that al Qaeda and the Islamic State could quickly rebuild their networks in Afghanistan.
The United Nations recently reported that Al-Qaeda “is present in at least 15 Afghan provinces”, and that its affiliate in the Indian subcontinent, “operates under Taliban protection from Kandahar, Helmand and Nimruz provinces.”
“Without information on who exactly escaped, it is difficult to determine whether historically significant figures remain within AQ’s AfPak network, or if it is mainly composed of newer figures these days, whether local or regional foreign fighters,” cautioned political violence scholar Aaron Y. Zelin. Mr. Zelin was referring to Al-Qaeda’s Afghanistan-Pakistan network.
Also unclear is whether Al-Qaeda operatives in Iran will be allowed to relocate to Afghanistan.
The prison breaks further go to concerns about relying on the Taliban to police jihadists and other militants with aspirations beyond Afghanistan’s borders. Of particular concern is the fact that the balance of power has yet to be determined between Taliban leaders who in recent days have been eager to put a more moderate, accommodating foot forward with security guarantees for their opponents, minorities and women and the group’s far-flung less polished rank and file.
The concern about the Taliban’s ability and willingness to control militant activity on Afghan soil is magnified by worry regarding the continued existence of warlords with the power to organise violence, provide jobs and public services, and forge or strengthen ties with militants.
“Warlords will play an active role in the future of Afghanistan. They will remain businessmen and political leaders, connected to global economic processes and networks. They will develop the military power that they need to control territory and wage war. They will, finally, continue to fight for more autonomy and, in some cases, might even manage to partially form their old regional polities once again,” said Romain Malejacq, author of a book on Afghan warlords.
“Afghanistan’s availability as a sanctuary for terrorists is, to say the least, related to its status as a warlord-ridden wasteland,” said journalist and author Graeme Wood.
The Taliban’s refusal to expel militants not only complicates the group’s efforts to garner legitimacy in the international community and particularly its neighbours, even if Al-Qaeda has been significantly weakened since 9/11 and is less focussed on attacking the United States and more on the Muslim world.
It also strengthens those who fear that Afghanistan will again emerge as a launching pad for trans-national political violence. “We are going to go back to a pre-9/11 state—a breeding ground for terrorism,” warned Michael McCaul, the ranking Republican member of the US House Foreign Affairs Committee. “They (the Taliban) will not restrict terrorist groups, just ask them to operate low-key,” added Douglas London, a former head of CIA counterterrorism operations for South and Southwest Asia.
The Taliban proved already 20 years ago that they valued loyalty when they rejected US and Saudi pressure to hand over Osama bin Laden no matter the cost. The Taliban have since come to appreciate Al Qaeda’s fighting skills and contributions to the Afghan militants’ cause.
Taliban fighters this week, in a violation of their pledge to inclusiveness, demonstrated their ideological anti-Shiite affinity with Al-Qaeda by blowing up a statue of Abdul Ali Mazari, a Shiite Hazara militia leader killed by the Taliban when they first took power in 1996.
A podcast version of this story is available on Soundcloud,Itunes, Spotify, Stitcher, TuneIn, Spreaker, Pocket Casts, Tumblr, Podbean,Audecibel, Patreon and Castbox.
Dr. James M. Dorsey is an award-winning journalist and scholar and a senior fellow at the National University of Singapore’s Middle East Institute.
MORE ON THE TOPIC:
- An Even More General Amnesty: Taliban Released Thousands Of Al-Qaeda, ISIS Terrorists From Prison
- Taliban Open Fire On Protesters In Jalalabad, Asadabad Killing At Least 6 Total
Serious developments in Pakistan today – 1000’s of troops have been mobilised and moved towards the Durand Line following Taliban convey entering Pashtun tribal areas (Pakistan border lands).
Pakistan also moving heavy equipment and errecting road blocks on highways and passes, even barbed wire fencing in Pashtun tribal lands which has caused Taliban to respond (who have never recognised the current Afghan-Pakistan border).
Pakistan source says there are fears that newly equipped and confident Taliban will occupy disputed territory claimed by both Afghanistan and Pakistan and move as far the old border of the Indus (which would result in war with nuclear power Pakistan).
Main stream media beginning to pick this now: Arab news
That is weird. Thought that Taliban were supported by ISI?
ISI wasn’t a thing in Pakistan before it got poured by money from Wahhabi gangs from SA. Pakistani Government had and have problems with ISI.
“Pakistani Taliban’s emir renews allegiance to Afghan Taliban.”
The Pashtuns in Pakistan don’t want to live under the Pakistani government, they want to regroup with their Afghani Pashtuns. I have been saying that the Taliban most likely take / (move-in) Pakistan next, think about it. https://pbs.twimg.com/media/E9Je-tsUcAEbH5-?format=jpg&name=900×900
Pakistan and India are kids with guns, and useless, Taliban most likely free Pakistan next. Which I love to hear about, no more Pakistani Gays and no more Pakistani wh0res.
Pakistani soldier killed in rebel attack along pak afghan border
A lot of Muslims converted to Christianity in Punjab pakistan after getting fed up of feudal system in islam
Morocco and Tunisia almost become Muslim minority countries as vast majority of youth leave foolish religion called islam
Brother rapes sister in Kpk pakistan just like how Muhammad r@ped his sex slaves
No, just like Hindoos rape their sisters and mothers everyday and turn them into prostitutes Devadasi temple whores. Hindu religion is about Fucking and prostitution
Report -Vast number of young people leaving Islam in bangladesh and becoming atheists
Good, islam dont need them – they actually filthy cow worshipping pigs with hindooo blood
Durand line issue more a nationalist afghan issue than a Taliban issue. this is strange indeed.
I have looked into this and can confirm the following –
1) Many of the Tribesmen that form part of the Taliban have family in Pashtunistan (Pakistan border regions) and have always crossed the border in small numbers – sometimes armed – rarely with incident. This is not a big issue as long as the movements are routine and through established routes.
2) There have been several heavily armed Taliban conveys moving to and from Pakistan in the last few months. They have been identified as diplomatic missions. Again this may look strange to those who dont understand, but routine and expected to those who do. Pakistan actually protect these convoys too as there are very vulnerable to air / drone attack from the usual suspects.
3) The movements of Pakistani armed forces back and forth are again routine, however there has been a significant reinforcement along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border in the last week. This reinforcement and the movements of other equipment mentioned by the OP I can confirm are in response to the refugee crisis – not because of Taliban movements.
4) The Pakistan governenment and the Afghanistan government (whoever they are / will be) have no interest in escalating this border dispute. Basically Afghanistan will never except the current border and Pakistan will never except the tribal border. The current border exists as is, and likely will never change for many generations – unless a war between Pakistan and India redraws many of the borders in the region.
5) There is a lot of alarmist reporting from all sides at the moment. We need to be careful how we interpret. The debacle of the Kabul airport is rife with disinformation for example. Remember, there are vested interests in stoking fear between Afghanistan and Pakistan – we need to guard against this.
I hope the above helps those were concerned about the Pakistani troop movements – they are refugee control and nothing more.
Whats situation in Bazarak, Golbohar and Charikar province of Panshjir??
Mr Tahir says senior Taliban leadership in talks with Panjshiri religious and military leaders for peaceful handover of Panjshir province to the Taliban.
Thats anotherway of saying. “we’re giving you a chance to handover peacefully before we annhilate You”
Question is, will Saleh, who promised never to yield to the Taliban accept this?
Could it be that ISIS is a CIA creation?
hmmmmm, go on, I listing, you on to something big dude.
Al Qaeda is degraded in Afghanistan? The Taliban’s deputy emir is in bed with Al Qaeda. He’s also a SDGT. “Sirajuddin Haqqani … is also assessed to be a member of the wider Al-Qaida leadership …” per the United Nations Sanctions and Monitoring Team: https://undocs.org/en/S/2021/486
The US spent 20 years 100 000 lives and 10 trillion dollars to replace Al Qaida with ISIS.
Play stupid games. Win stupid prizes.
Report- Russia running out of airplanes as many planes have crashed in recent times
If putting the Taliban in charge of Afghanistan is “putting the fox in charge of the chicken coop”, then putting the Americans in ‘charge’ of Afghanistan is like putting the paedos in charge of the nursery school!
The US Gov is a terrorist Gov, millions of victims countless wars, for mineral and political control.