ISLAMABAD: Afghans were alarmed to say the least as Islamic State, or Daish as it is otherwise known, reached Kabul and killed over 80 civilians and injured nearly 200 others on July 23.
This was the group’s first ever major suicide bombing.
The growing concerns among the Afghans about IS are genuine as they were left surprised by the capability of the extremist group to orchestrate one of the deadliest attack since 2001.
People are questioning claims by Afghan leaders and foreign forces that IS militants have been eliminated from the region.
The Afghan defence ministry says the country’s senior military officials, at a trilateral meeting on Tuesday in Kabul, urged Pakistani counterparts to “stop IS terrorists from crossing the border”.
US top commander in Afghanistan, General John Nicholson, told Associated Press in Kabul on Wednesday that a “significant proportion of fighters” with IS in Afghanistan come from Orakzai Agency and are former members of a banned militant outfit across the border.
The question that arises is how the American troops, who have one of their major bases in Nangarhar, and their trained Afghan security forces, failed to check the crossing of militants into Afghanistan. US, which backed the Afghan Mujahideen against the erstwhile Soviets and had invaded Afghanistan nearly 16 years ago, would know the routes militants had been using to sneak into Afghanistan.
The US and Nato have around 15,000 troops and US President Obama expanded the mandate of US to target groups including the Taliban in Afghanistan. The country itself has over 200,000 security forces personnel, but despite the military might of the invading American and Nato forces, IS has emerged a serious threat to Afghanistan.
There had been public statements by some of senior Afghan leaders about security due the establishment’s support for IS when the group launched attacks in Nangarhar after recruitment.
In April 2015, then governor of Paktika province, Abdul Karim Mateen, disclosed that the National Security Council had supported IS and disbursed $200,000 among families that belonged to the group, claimed a Pajhwok news agency report.
Other Afghan media also reported Mateen’s comments which prompted a heated debate in the Parliament and MPs voiced suspicions of the collusion between government officials and IS.
“The National Security Council pays Daish and is helping this group,” Nangarhar MP Hazrat Ali told the lower house of Parliament last year, according to Tolo TV.
Other lawmakers also threw their weight behind the Paktika governor. “The governor of Paktika has told the truth, and I approve his statements,” Samangan MP Abdullah told the house.
Days later, Haji Zahir Qadir, first deputy of the Lower House of Parliament or Wolesi Jirga, also accused the National Security Council of supporting IS. He said the government could collapse if he presents documents do support his claim, the online Afghan Khaama Press had reported.
Political commentators also endorse the views of MPs about the suspected support to IS by certain circles within the government.
Nazar Mutmaeen, who writes for the Afghan and international media and speaks on TV channels, says a commander of government-backed militia known as “Arbakis” is now leading IS in Badakhshan province.
“There were reports that the IS commander in Badakhshan had been given US$300,000 in Kabul,” Mutmaeen told The Express Tribune on Sunday through WhatsApp.
Afghans familiar with the emergence of Daish in Afghanistan say the group was formally launched by an Afghan Taliban leader, Abdul Khaliq, known as Umar, from his village, Gurguri, in Deh Bala district in Nangarhar. Umar’s later was involved in fighting with the Taliban after the militant group seized his arms in Achin district.
Daish received a brief boost when an influential Afghan Taliban leader, Abdul Rauf Khadim, was officially appointed deputy for Khorasan region by Abu Bakar al-Baghdadi in early 2015. However, he was killed in a drone strike in southern Afghanistan weeks after his appointment. One of his nephews tried to work for IS in southern Afghanistan, but Taliban forced him to flee to Nangarhar, a Taliban leader said.
A former Guantanamo inmate, Abdul Rahim Moslim Dost, was the first Afghan who declared allegiance to IS, but, Baghdadi had never endorsed his credentials.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 30th, 2016.