By New Delhi Times Bureau
Feb 29th, 2016
Once an up and coming rebel group, the Islamic State today stands at the frontline of rebel militant groups in the world. The mounting pile of beheaded corpses and the elongating bloody trails are just one of the proofs of the surging power of this zealot organisation. With the world becoming a hotbed for politico-religious expeditions by militant groups, ISIS is fast gaining stronghold in countries beyond Iraq and Syria.
Decreeing a global caliphate, ISIS has since 2014 claimed its authority, political and religious, over Muslims across the world and has been concentrating all its efforts in this direction. While the organisation has been condemned by religious and political leaders of the world for its actions against Islam as well as against the orders of the United Nations, ISIS is busy increasing its foothold in several countries, especially in Europe and Asia.
One such victim nation of the IS insurgency happens to be Afghanistan where several estranged members of the Taliban have begun pledging fealty to ISIS. Hinting at augmenting its presence in the Indian sub-continent, the Islamic State has been recruiting militants for its operations throughout Southern Asia, especially in the unstable country of Afghanistan. The black flags symbolic of the Islamic State have started becoming a common sight in the nation already terribly afflicted by Taliban.
Violent skirmishes between militants and the Afghan forces, blazing houses and beheaded cadavers are all indicative of the gradual rise of the dreaded organisation in Afghanistan. The aggressive attacks by Islamic State on the more established Taliban point to the increased influence of ISIS in the region, just as what occurred in Iraq and Syria when it got involved in scuffles with the already consolidated Al-Qaeda units.
Bearing in mind the establishment of caliphate as the ultimate objective, the Islamic State has begun to shrewdly exploit the political tensions rampant in Afghanistan in its own stride. The public beheadings of security personnel as well as local residents along with the swelling contingent of foreign militants enticed by the extremist interpretation of Sharia laws by ISIS has managed to further sabotage the security of Afghan populace and the peace of the land.
With US winding down its presence in Afghanistan and the Afghan military occupied in conflicts with Taliban and al-Qaeda militants, it was an opportune moment for the ISIS to enter the conflicted land. Much to the chagrin of the Afghan authorities, the emergence of Islamic State has exacerbated the peace and stability scenario of the nation, with no visible hopes for improvement in the near future.
The confirmation by American security personnel that the Afghan Islamic State militants really do have an association with the main ISIS group has been slightly compensated by their assertion that the situation is not as grave as it is in the Middle East. Nonetheless the fact remains that emergence of Islamic State in Afghanistan is a worrying development, how-so-ever diminutive.
Even though the Islamic State faction in Afghanistan is a cause of worry, it has been observed that the extent of their operations in the Afghan land, even after a year, remains very limited. To seek expansion the extremist group will have to vie with the local dynamics of the land- ethno-sectarian, militant and cultural. It is such factors more than any other development or guidance which shall dictate the advancement of Islamic State in Afghanistan.
While the Islamic State links of Afghan militants are alarming for the nation, it comes as a small respite that the organisation failed to make the desired impact in Afghanistan. It is believed that militants pledging allegiance to the extremist Islamist group are none other than the antagonized members of the Taliban group. Links with the main Islamic State or not, the Islamic State faction of Afghanistan is supposedly recruiting foreign fighters as well as the disgruntled Taliban members for the expansion of its activities in the nation.
While the IS faction is busy promoting and expanding its programme for consolidation of its powers in Afghanistan, it has faced frequent backlash from its rival group Taliban. The skirmishes between the two groups had had frequently increasingly unrest as the corollary, leading the path to a relatively precarious future for the nation. With the Taliban deeply entrenched in Afghan politics and with the emergence of new insurgent groups, the unpredictable milieu has pervaded the political and security aspects of the nation. With clashes among the consolidated anti-state organisations, ISIS and the Afghan military, there has been a considerable surge in insecurity in the nation.
While the number of militants switching sides remains comparatively low, nonetheless ISIS is steadily gaining supporters in Afghanistan who favour Baghdadi’s aim of a global caliphate. With Afghan IS consisting of former Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistanis and disgruntled Talibani fighters, the war scenario has becoming more complex, decreasing the likelihood of a peaceful resolution.
Even though the undeniable existence of ISIS in Afghanistan has sparked suspicions of the group’s expansion beyond Iraq and Syria, it is highly unlikely that it will gain a stronghold in Afghanistan the way Taliban does. While violent struggles between IS and other militant groups in Afghanistan are likely to continue this year, the Taliban will still remain the strongest anti-state actor in Afghanistan.
The emergence of Islamic State in Afghanistan is not only being seen as an existential threat to the existing insurgent groups, however weak the threat may be right now, but it has also posed speculations of interruptions at attempted peace talks of the government with Taliban. Also further fragmentations of the Taliban will likely put erstwhile Taliban members into IS ranks, exacerbating the current threat. It is only through forging local cooperative measures that the government can combat the insurgent forces and hope for a peaceful and secure nation.