Every other day bodies are left at the edge of Jalalabad, an eastern Afghan capital.
Some were shot, hung or beheaded. Many were found with handwritten notes inside their pockets that accused them of belonging to Afghanistan’s Islamic State branch.
The gruesome extra-judicial murders are not being claimed by anyone, though the Taliban are commonly believed to be at fault. IS, a rival to the Taliban, carried out an August suicide bombing outside Kabul’s airport. It killed over 150 people. They are currently engaged in a dark and bloody war. Jalalabad stands at the frontline.
After the Taliban’s fall, Afghanistan has become more tranquil. However, they are being attacked almost daily in Jalalabad. IS is also known as Daesh in the locality. They are using the same hit and run tactics as the Taliban to defeat the former government. IS charges the Taliban with being “apostates”, while the Taliban call IS heretical extremists.
The Taliban’s head of intelligence is Dr Bashir in Nangarhar, which is also home to Jalalabad. His reputation is one of the most ferocious. He was instrumental in driving IS from a weakhold that it established in Kunar.
Although Dr Bashir denied any connection to the bodies left at the roadside, he proudly stated that his men had arrested many IS fighters. Many IS fighters, who were previously imprisoned by the former government, escaped jail in the chaos of the Taliban overthrow.
Publicly, Dr Bashir (and the Taliban) downplay IS’s threat. They claim the war in Afghanistan was over and that they will bring peace and security to Afghanistan. Any effort to subvert this narrative is not welcome. According to Dr Bashir, IS is not officially present in Afghanistan, even though all evidence supports the claim.
He said that the name “Daesh” refers to Syria or Iraq. “It is not possible to find a miscreant group whose name is ‘Daesh,’ in Afghanistan.”
Instead, he calls the militants “a group traitors who rebel against our Islamic government”.
IS is actually not just formally present in Afghanistan. It has also established an “offshoot” or “province,” which covers that country. This “province,” which uses an old name for central Asia, was founded by IS. Although the Taliban overthrew the Taliban in 2015, IS first made its way into Afghanistan. It carried out horrific attacks during the years that followed. Since then it has been launching suicide bombings from areas where the militants have never been seen.
IS attacked several mosques belonging the Shia minority in Kunduz earlier this month and Kandahar’s Taliban stronghold.
However, Dr Bashir insists that there are no reasons to be concerned. Bashir says, “We advise the world to not worry.” “If a small group of traitors rises up and carries out such attacks, God willing, just as we defeated a coalition of 52 countries on the battlefield… they will be defeated too.” Bashir says that having fought insurgency warfare for 20 years, it is simple for them to stop a guerrilla conflict.
- Women are held in jail, while criminals can go free
- Taliban fighting against hunger
- A month of Taliban rule
Afghans are already tired from decades of war and bloodshed, as well the neighbouring nations and the West. But they fear that IS will grow. American officials warn that IS may be capable of launching attacks against foreign countries within six to one year.
IS currently does not have any territorial control in Afghanistan. Before being defeated by the Taliban and Afghan forces backed with airstrikes, IS had established bases in Kunar and Nangarhar provinces. There are only a few thousand Taliban fighters, while the rest of them have around 70,000. They now possess American weapons.
There are concerns that IS may recruit some other Central Asian or Pakistani foreign fighters based in Pakistan. US hopes to keep using “over-the-horizon” strikes launched from Afghanistan to attack IS. Taliban, however, believe they can take down the insurgents by themselves.
IS was a group of people who defected from IS to join the Taliban militants and Pakistani Taliban (a related but distinct group). I was told by a Taliban figure, who smiled darkly, that “we know them very well” and “they know us very well.”
Many IS members surrendered recently to Dr Bashir’s forces at Nangarhar. A former Taliban member tells us that he became disillusioned when he defected to IS.
Contrary to the Taliban, which have stated repeatedly that they only wanted to establish an Islamic Emirate (Afghanistan), IS have global ambitions, he says.
IS would threaten everyone and the entire world. He said that they wanted the world to be under their authority. He adds that words are not the same as actions. They aren’t powerful enough to control Afghanistan.”
Afghans refer tiredly to IS attacks’ increase as the “new beginning” of the Afghan game. It’s not only the Taliban that are under attack in Jalalabad. Abdul Rahman Mawen, civil society activist, was on the way home from his wedding in March when gunmen set fire to his car. As their father shot them, his two sons aged 12 and 10 hid in the vehicle. IS made a quick statement to claim responsibility.
Shad Noor’s brother is sad and speaking from their home. He states, “From my deepest heart, when Taliban became power, we were extremely happy and hopeful: that corruption, killings, explosions will be eradicated.”
We are now realising that a new phenomenon, the Daesh, is being forced upon us.
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