The Platform

Photo illustration by John Lyman

Terrorism thrives in failed states. Afghanistan is a case in point.

The growth of the Islamic State – Khorasan Province (ISKP) in Afghanistan poses a significant threat not only to overwhelmed government but also to the security of the region. ISKP has a history of violence and extremism and could cause significant damage to the region’s social fabric, infrastructure, and economic growth. Recent reports by the United States and ongoing Afghan military operations against ISKP contradict claims by Afghan officials that there are no opposition groups in Afghanistan.

The international community has become increasingly alarmed at the deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan, and the continued presence of groups like ISKP and the resurgence of Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan is a significant concern.

One of the major challenges in dealing with the threat of terrorism in Afghanistan is the complex web of political and social factors that contribute to the problem. Afghanistan has been in a state of conflict for decades, and the country’s security situation remains fragile. There are deep-seated ethnic, tribal, and political divisions in the country that have been exploited by terrorist groups to further their agenda. Additionally, Afghanistan’s porous borders and weak governance structures have made it a haven for terrorist groups seeking to establish operational bases.

The situation has been further complicated by the withdrawal of U.S. forces from the country. The decision to withdraw U.S. troops was made in response to the Doha Agreement signed in February 2020. Under the agreement, the U.S. committed to withdrawing all of its troops from Afghanistan provided the Taliban agreed to certain conditions, including cutting ties with terrorist groups like al-Qaeda. However, the withdrawal of U.S. troops has left a security vacuum that terrorist groups have sought to exploit. In recent months, there has been an upswing in violence and attacks by these groups, and the situation is rapidly deteriorating.

The Afghan government has been taking steps to address the threat posed by ISKP. Afghanistan’s security forces have been conducting ongoing military operations against ISKP, resulting in the arrest of several militants and the killing of key commanders. Additionally, the Afghan government has also claimed to have found millions of dollars in an ISKP hideout in Mazar-e-Sharif. The efforts of the government are a welcoming development, but more needs to be done to address the root causes of terrorism. A comprehensive approach that includes political, economic, and military components is required to address the issue.

One of the key challenges in dealing with the threat of terrorism in Afghanistan is the lack of effective governance in the country. Previously, there was widespread corruption, and the government’s ability to provide basic services and security to its citizens was limited. The lack of effective governance has created a fertile ground for the growth of extremist ideologies and the recruitment of individuals into terrorist groups like ISKP.

To address this issue, the international community needs to work with the Afghan government, however unappealing that is, to strengthen governance structures and root out corruption. The international community can provide technical and financial assistance to help the government implement reforms and build institutions that are transparent and accountable. Another important component of a comprehensive approach to counterterrorism is addressing the country’s failed economy that has pushed Afghans to join ISKP.

Poverty and unemployment are widespread in Afghanistan, and these conditions are exploited by terrorist groups to recruit individuals into their ranks. To address this issue, the international community needs to invest in programs that create jobs and promote economic growth. The international community can also work with the government to improve education and promote tolerance and respect for diversity. Extremist ideologies thrive in environments where there is a lack of education and tolerance, and promoting these values can help counter the spread of extremism in Afghanistan.

Finally, there is a need for a coordinated and multilateral approach to address the threat of terrorism in Afghanistan. The international community needs to work together to share intelligence, resources, and expertise to identify and disrupt terrorist networks. This includes working closely with bordering states, such as Pakistan, Iran, and Uzbekistan, to secure Afghanistan’s borders and prevent the flow of weapons, fighters, and resources into the country.

The active presence of ISKP poses a significant regional threat. The ongoing military operations against ISKP and the recent claims by Afghan officials about the discovery of millions of dollars at an alleged ISKP hideout are undeniable proof of the presence of terrorist groups. The Afghan government and the international community need to take urgent action to address the root causes of terrorism in Afghanistan and promote peace and stability in the region. A comprehensive approach that includes political, economic, and military components is required to counter the threat of terrorism in Afghanistan. The international community needs to work together to address the issue and prevent Afghanistan from again becoming a hotbed of terrorism.

Most importantly, for any of this to work, the Taliban have to reevaluate their raison d’être. Meaning, any offers of assistance to the Afghan government have to be met with promises and actions on the ground that show the Taliban are willing to embrace moderation and demonstrate that they aren’t the same Taliban who battled coalition forces for over two decades. The first step would be to demonstrate a commitment to human rights by allowing women and girls to go to school. If the Taliban can show that it is willing to change then Western aid will begin to flow into the country.

Muhammad Imran is a journalist based in Karachi. He has a Master's degree in Journalism from the University of Karachi, Pakistan.