Re-emergence of terror threat

Dr Syed Akhtar Ali Shah June 26, 2024
The author is a former Secretary to Government, Home & Tribal Affairs Department and a retired IG. He holds a PhD in Political Science and currently heads a think tank ‘Good Governance Forum’. He can be reached at


The signing of Doha Agreement was an indicator of the shifting priorities of the US. Engaged in strategic competition with China and Russia, the US and NATO shifted their focus to Indo-Pacific and Europe. Left to its own fate, Afghanistan, under the Taliban, again started drifting to militancy. Reports alleging Afghanistan’s soil being used for terrorism elsewhere soon started pouring in. Pakistan also voiced concerns over the emerging threats of terrorism from the war-ravished country, causing security concerns in the region, in particular.

The United States Institute of Peace (USIP), in its analytical report released recently, claims that terrorist threats from Afghanistan and Pakistan are increasing. The most worrying part of the report is that Afghanistan provides a conducive environment for terrorist groups. The Khorasan branch of Daesh has also been mentioned as a threat beyond the region.

The report further elaborates: “The group’s final report highlights how a terrorist incident in or emanating from Afghanistan or Pakistan could trigger a regional or international crisis, undermine U.S. alliances, and derail attention from strategic competition.” To avoid such a situation, the report offers preventive, sustainable measures that preserve national security interests without taking focus away from global strategic competition.

Voicing his concern, US House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Michael McCaul told The Washington Post, “I got a lot of briefings (about) the rise of the ISIS-K in Afghanistan. We don’t want Afghanistan to become a training ground for Al-Qaeda and ISIS-K again, but that is exactly what is happening, and it will become a threat to the homeland if we don’t pay attention to it.”

In the same vein, Maria Zakharova, a spokesperson for the Russian Foreign Ministry, said: “We would like to draw attention to the high level of interaction between the relevant authorities of Russia and Tajikistan in combating the terrorist threat. The objective basis for this is our similar positions on current issues of the international anti-terrorism and anti-extremism agenda, as well as the existence of common challenges and threats, including those related to the activities of several international terrorist organizations in Afghanistan and their harmful activities in spreading extremist ideology in the countries of the region.”

Although the Islamic Emirate has not commented on the USIP report or the Russian Foreign Ministry, it has previously vehemently denied the presence of terrorist groups on Afghan soil.

The Russian Defence Minister also labelled Afghanistan as a source of instability in Central Asia during a recent security meeting in Kyrgyzstan.

According to the USIP, more than 20 terrorists wings, including ISIS, are active in Afghanistan, significantly disturbing the security in the region. Acute poverty and unemployment provide a fertile environment to the terrorist organisations for recruitment and operations

The US, according to reports, is contemplating implementing a new counterterrorism strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan with an aim to deal with the rising threats of terrorism from the region. The proposed strategy may not be so expansive like in the past, but would adopt all measures short of intervention with boots. The focus of the strategy is to create deterrence and when necessary to disrupt terrorist threats in Afghanistan and Pakistan that could target the US and its interests overseas as well as its allies and major partners.

Suggestive measures in the USIP report include: continuing to publicly pressure Taliban to mitigate terrorist threats, and maintain communication channels, by adopting a carrot and stick policy; developing a public reporting mechanism to document and disseminate the Taliban’s compliance with the counterterrorism terms outlined in the 2020 Doha Agreement between the US and the Taliban; holding a meeting of regional countries to codify the Taliban’s counterterrorism commitments to each country, adding to the federal terrorism watch list, before sanctioning (under US Executive Order 13324), Taliban leaders and personnel assisting terrorists in the country; and increasing military and intelligence resources dedicated to counterterrorism in Afghanistan and Pakistan but keeping them below the withdrawal level.

The suggestive actions also include lethal action in Afghanistan against the groups intending to plan or are involved in plots against the US homeland and interests; employing drones as show of force against Taliban leaders and other terrorist groups such as al-Qaeda; and take steps to disrupt cyber-communication.

From the aforementioned reports, it can easily be deduced that the region is not only under the radar of superpowers, but the countries of the region also share the same concern. In such a situation, Pakistan is caught between the devil and the deep blue sea. Pressure for escalated action against militants is likely to increase on Pakistan too, apart from Afghanistan. There is thus a likelihood of a rise in terrorist incidents as a reaction. For this, preparedness is imperative. The new developments require a well though-out strategy based on the realisation that it is also a homegrown problem, with connections beyond the borders. Therefore, focus has to be on sleeper and active cells of the militants within the country. Apart from this, the supply chain of the network with connections abroad has to be broken.


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