U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan opens way for terror alliance
Security officials have warned that an alliance of terror groups aimed at destabilizing peace in South Asia, including India’s Kashmir, is emerging in Afghanistan as U.S. troops pull out of the war-ravaged nation.
“Pakistan-based militant organizations, the Lashker-e-Taiba (LeT) and Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM), the Afghan Taliban and Islamic State-Khorasan, the local affiliate of the terror group, have come together to carry out raids on Indian assets in Kabul and also attacked a Sikh temple in the city”, the officials said.
The alliance is also planning to step up attacks in other regions in South Asia, including against troops in India’s Kashmir, they said.
This surge in terrorist activity in South Asia could result in diversion of resources needed to pull millions out of poverty and it may also lead to a confrontation between nuclear-armed India and Pakistan.
“The longstanding fear has been that such groups would simply ‘wait out’ the U.S. and international presence, and that once the international presence was gone, they would destabilize Afghanistan and the larger region,” said Alyssa Ayres, Washington-based senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and a former U.S. deputy assistant secretary of state.
Following a peace agreement with the Taliban, the Trump administration has decided to withdraw troops from Afghanistan. President Donald Trump, who is seeking re-election, had pledged to get his country out of “endless wars.”
After the agreement, the Taliban had also announced a three-day cease-fire during Eid al-Adha festival. And Afghanistan’s president, Ashraf Ghani, expressed his optimism on the announcement and was expecting to begin peace talks with the group within a week.
Shortly after Ghani’s remarks, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahed confirmed the cease-fire in a statement, but warned that attacks “must be met with a strong response.”
The Taliban were “maintaining good relationships” with regional and international terrorist organizations, including al-Qaeda, Islamic State, LeT and others, said Javid Faisal, the spokesman for Afghanistan’s National Security Council.
“This partnership between these terrorist organizations and the Taliban isn’t just destabilizing Afghanistan or this region, but the entire world,” Faisal said. “They were supposed to cut off their ties to these terrorist groups long ago, they haven’t done yet and they won’t do as they all share the same ideology.”
Indian officials pointed to an attack on the oldest Sikh temple in Kabul in March, which left 25 dead, as well as counter terror operations in the Nanghar Province in April where 14 terrorists belonging to Pakistan-based militant groups and the Taliban were killed, as examples of the tie-up. Multiple joint training facilities have been set up in southern and central Afghanistan to carry out frequent attacks, they added.
The South Asian region’s historical disputes are also hindering a coordinated response to this threat. At the heart of the animosity between India and Pakistan is the Kashmir region, governed in part by the neighbors but claimed in full by both.
Pakistan said U.S. troop withdrawal won’t lead to an increase of violence in the region, adding that the Kashmir situation was becoming volatile due to its mishandling by India. Last year, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government scrapped a key status for Jammu And Kashmir State and imposed federal rule.
“Trying to link the post-U.S. withdrawal Afghanistan to Kashmir issue is another malicious attempt by India to keep the region in a state of flux,” Pakistan’s defense forces media wing said in a statement. “The so-called intelligence reports alleging Pakistan to be following some kind of strategic design are simply baseless and laughable.”