The attack on a mosque near Kabul on Friday, a long weekend due to Eidul Fitr, sends a reminder of the long road ahead for peace in Afghanistan. The Taliban, who are normally considered among the usual suspect in such attacks, had declared a three-day Eid truce with the Afghan government. That truce was in effect when the attack took place. The Taliban vehemently denied any role in the attack, which is very much believable. This is because the attack bore all the hallmarks of Daesh, or rather, the primary one — it served no military purpose and was only intended to cause pain and suffering to innocent civilians. While the Taliban have killed civilians in the past, they have attempted to use some kind of military justification — however weak — for their targets, and have even admitted to ‘accidentally’ attacking the wrong target. For Daesh, there is no such thing as a ‘wrong’ target.
To their credit, the Afghan government did not go for the knee-jerk approach in blaming the Taliban. In their hearts, even they know that the Taliban are rebranding themselves as freedom fighters, while Daesh continues to proudly wear the tag of butchers. But the government’s reaction may also have to do with its pointless finger-pointing from days earlier. The fact is that the mosque attack was not even the worst thing to happen in Kabul, let alone Afghanistan, in the past week. On May 11, over 80 schoolgirls were murdered and 150 injured in the Afghan capital by at least three bombs outside the school. The victims were predominantly poor, Hazara, and Shia. All three of those make them targets for Daesh.
Let us also not forget that Daesh has rarely been one to make allies. In its short history around the Middle East and Central Asia, the group has gained infamy for its tendency to make war with everybody — local governments, foreign troops, opposition militias, other terrorist groups, religious and ethnic minorities, and yes, even children. The group is a rare example of one that fits every single definition of terrorist. This dark fact could actually be an ice breaker for Afghan peace talks. Perhaps the Taliban and the government in Kabul can prove their commitment to peace by extending the truce and joining hands to take out Daesh.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 17th, 2021.