Afghanistan’s Forgotten War: The Clash Between the Taliban and ISKP
Amid the Ukrainian war, the Afghan crisis accurately represents a forgotten conflict. Notably, the rivalry between the Taliban and the Islamic State in Khorasan Province (ISKP), personified by violence and instability, has, much to the detriment of analysts, continued to bleed the country dry. Additionally, food and health insecurity fuelled by climate change and COVID-19, suppression of women’s rights and freedoms due to distorted beliefs of de facto rulers, and intensifying border tensions with Pakistan have compounded uncertainty facing the Afghans. While these factors have added to the growing, multi-dimensional gordian knot mirroring the deteriorating conditions in Afghanistan, the security concerns shaped by the Taliban-ISKP rivalry are central to the Afghan quagmire.
Nevertheless, as the world rapidly shifted its attention from the fallout of the international coalition’s withdrawal from Afghanistan to the Russian military intervention in Ukraine and the subsequent humanitarian catastrophe, the graveyard of empires has continued to experience far-reaching turbulence.
Untangling Afghanistan’s security profile
The Afghan state’s security dilemma has widened over the past year due to the new regime’s ineptitude at eliminating incoming attacks staged by the ISKP. It stands true, as it did in the immediate aftermath of Kabul’s fall in August 2021, that ISKP will partially fill the security vacuum, challenging the Taliban’s authority without posing an existential threat. However, ISKP’s constant attacks operating interchangeably between high and low-intensity ones, and their impact – fatalities, sectarian tensions, fear, mistrust, and paranoia – are collectively dismantling the fragile security architecture instituted post-2001.
Since last year, ISKP-led attacks have repeatedly jolted the Afghans and those reportedly responsible for their security, in quick succession. This has prompted analysts to wonder about the veracity of claims made by the interim government about being in control of the country’s entirety. The ideological and resource-based competition driving such attacks and counter-retaliations by the emerging law and security-enforcement agencies have failed to derive a definitive victory for either faction. Furthermore, this has undermined any semblance of normalcy which could have taken root – for better or worse. Furthermore, the Taliban’s counter-response has adopted a flawed logic, driven by their ideological hostility towards Salafism, of which The ISKP has adopted a distorted interpretation – Salafist Jihadism. On the other hand, the Taliban are followers of the Hanafi-Deobandi school of thought.
Beginning with the blast at the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul in August 2021, the ISKP has routinely undermined chances of achieving relative security in Afghanistan after the regime change. Two bomb blasts rocked Kabul in the days preceding the Eid celebrations.
On 30th April 2022, at least one individual was killed, three were wounded when a passenger van exploded, and 10 (although the death toll was at least 50) were killed when a bomb was detonated inside a mosque on 29th April 2022. Although nobody assumed responsibility for the first attack, it aligns with the modus operandi of the ISKP.
Earlier, on 19th April 2022, bomb blasts at the Abdul Rahim Shahid High School injured at least 17 and fatally wounded six others. The death toll later catapulted to 20 in a predominantly Shia Hazara neighbourhood. This was closely aligned with ISKP’s operational style.
While the Salafist-Jihadists, i.e., the ISKP terrorists, have staged violent attacks against civilians, amid which senior commanders have also lost their lives, the Taliban has conveniently forgotten that not all followers of Islam’s Salafi doctrine have violent inclinations. Nevertheless, the Taliban leaders have stepped up their crackdown on Afghan Salafis to display that the fight against an opposing terrorist group is steadily attaining success.
For example, alleged reports about Salafist seminaries and mosques being raided or closed down have increasingly emerged since last year. While the ideological differences and ambition to wholly assert control over Afghanistan’s entirety are the rationale of the Taliban’s domestic policies, it is significant for the new regime to consider that such actions will prove detrimental to maintaining security.
A war with no end in sight?
This war will get more chaotic and bloody as the days go by, and the international coalition’s belief that the Taliban would be able to keep domestic and international security threats at bay has now been proven to be a critically incorrect presumption, even a disillusion perhaps.
Deadly incidents such as these are understandably a cause for concern and compounds the resentment of the restive population that cannot access essential services amid rising inflation and where at least one in five families are compelled to force their children to take up jobs as domestic help as financial insecurity has skyrocketed.
On the other hand, the Taliban’s counter-response will allow the ISKP to recruit moderate Salafists to swell its ranks. This will be a gradual process, yet all the more dangerous to the country’s security situation. It is so because vis-à-vis a more rapid pace of recruitment, a slow and steady process would be more inconspicuous and would occur more easily below the radar. Moreover, in a country where despite trillions of dollars of aid being pumped over twenty years, the intelligence apparatus proved inconsequential in determining and thwarting the Taliban’s advance, it would be at least a couple more decades before the incumbent regime could turn the tide around. Nevertheless, such improvements would prove rather challenging for an administration that is cash-strapped (on a legitimate front) and has proved unable to make a convincing case for its recognition by the global community.
Worsening the problem is the possibility of people taking up arms against the state in the face of food and financial insecurity, which will continue to mount as long as violence and instability continue to plague the society. Perhaps, defections from the Taliban could also take place in protest of deteriorating human security conditions and the leaders’ ineptitude at governing as per the Islamic traditions while vying to align closer to the western world.
It would also open small, albeit multiple fronts against the Taliban and the broader Hanafi-Deobandi adherents. The victims of attacks on places of worship have remained confined to the Shia Hazara community’s members. However, non-conforming Sunnis also perceived as heretics. A civil war with cross-sectarian colours would witness mass hysteria, bloodshed, and displacement. Additionally, the decimation of infrastructure – roads, government, health, etc. – and modes of connectivity would take a hit in the second round of impact.
On the other hand, neighbouring Pakistan, which is swiftly transforming itself into a polity dominated by militant-religious groups, could act as a quicksand, further fuelling the contentious disputes about the Durand Line and aggravating border conflicts, setting ablaze both itself and Afghanistan. After all, developments in either country have rarely remained independent, at least in the contemporary era. The power and security vacuum created under such circumstances invariably results in fomenting ground for foreign fighters to commercialise war and reap profits by fighting as mercenaries for the warring factions that pay the maximum rewards. Strategically straddling Central and South Asia, Afghanistan would be appropriately positioned to be the hub of terrorist haven, training camps, and centre of ideological spillover.
While this does not mean granting international recognition to the Taliban government, it means formulating a mechanism to continue delivering aid directly to the Afghans in the long term and empowering them. In addition, there is a necessity to ensure that an international peacekeeping mission is ready for deployment if a wider conflict engulfs Afghanistan. Since raising funds and equipped personnel for such tasks would be a long-drawn-out process, it is pertinent for invested stakeholders, including Russia and China – to carefully review the developments and, through a carrot and stick policy, contain any untoward dilemmas from arising. It has less to do with helping the interim rulers and more to do with assisting the ordinary Afghans in navigating the multi-pronged complexities and preventing the fallout of a broader war from permeating the borders these countries share with Afghanistan.
Rising Powers in the Asia-Pacific: Implications for Global Stability
For a long time, the Asia-Pacific region has been the epicentre of rising economic growth and strategic influence, gradually changing the dynamics of world power. Because of the rapid rise of China and India, the increasing influence of ASEAN, and the steady comebacks of Japan and South Korea, its significance has only increased in the twenty-first century. Given the ongoing challenges to the traditional dominance of Western powers, this shifting environment raises intriguing questions about the future of global stability.
The rise of China stands out as the most significant factor in this dynamic. China’s phenomenal economic growth, along with its more assertive foreign policy and military modernization, have propelled it to the forefront of the global stage since the economic reform policies of the late 1970s. The Belt and Road Initiative, companies like Alibaba, and military actions in the South China Sea are just a few of the ways it is increasingly challenging the US-led international order. Due to its second-largest economy, China’s actions and policies have a significant impact on the stability of the world.
Despite lagging behind China, India is another growing Asian power that has started on a path of significant economic expansion. It has the potential to play a significant role in the region due to its distinct demographic dividend, IT industry, and geostrategic location. However, it problems a insufficiency in infrastructure, social inequality, and enduring poverty hinder its potential and raise the level of complexity in the power dynamics of the area.
In the midst of this power shift, Japan and South Korea, two countries that are already major global players, have been rearranging their positions. The balance of power in the region is greatly influenced by their advanced economies, sizable military capabilities, and strategic alliances with the US. A crucial role in the region is also played by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). A seat at the table for shaping the future of the region has been secured for ASEAN despite its diversity and disparities thanks to its prominence in regional diplomatic structures like the East Asia Summit and the ASEAN Regional Forum.
Additionally crucial to this shifting dynamic are the Pacific powers, particularly the US and Australia. While the US remains the most powerful country on the planet, it must deal with these new regional forces, necessitating a reevaluation of its Asia-Pacific strategy. Australia’s position has changed as well as a result of its efforts to strike a balance between its regional economic interests and its long-standing alliances. The effects of these changing power dynamics on world stability are significant. First, there is a chance that a power vacuum in the area could cause unrest and possible conflict. This is amply demonstrated by the South China Sea dispute, in which numerous nations are asserting territorial claims and frequently supporting them with military showdowns.
Second, the spread of power might also create more significant opportunities for cooperation and multilateralism. However, much of this depends on these countries’ ability to manage disagreements and rivalries as well as build inclusive and effective regional institutions. Thirdly, these changes might result in new economic structures that reshape international economic relationships and structures. The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), a free trade agreement involving 15 countries in the Asia-Pacific, is a good illustration of this. Last but not least, the changes in power may significantly affect international institutions and norms. As Asia-Pacific nations gain power, they may try to change international institutions so that they better represent their interests.
The main worry, however, is that these changes could result in more tensions and conflicts as countries with various political ideologies and systems compete for influence. For instance, the rivalry between the US and China goes beyond merely a contest of political and economic power. Several things are essential to preserving global stability in the midst of these shifting power dynamics. First and foremost, it is essential to promote a cooperative regional order based on mutual respect and gain. Second, preventing the escalation of regional disputes into conflict requires ensuring that they are settled peacefully in accordance with international law. Third, safeguarding and bolstering regional and international institutions will be essential for preserving stability and offering forums for communication and cooperation.
In conclusion, it is undeniable that the power dynamics in the Asia-Pacific are shifting. For the stability of the world, this evolution poses both danger and promise. How well we navigate this shifting landscape, handle potential conflicts, and seize opportunities for cooperation will determine whether the world can continue to be peaceful and stable.
Beyond the Battlefield
Since the beginning of time, wars and conflicts have been an inextricable part of human history. As such, they have developed in lockstep with the complex interactions between social, political, and technological changes that have shaped our world. Warfare’s methods and goals have undergone a significant metamorphosis, moving from crude and simple engagements to ones that are sophisticated and complex. Armed conflicts have expanded to take on global proportions with the advent of destructive world wars, and are no longer restricted to simple tribal or regional skirmishes. In addition to transcending their religious roots, these conflicts are now driven by nationalistic imperatives, giving rise to wars with geopolitical goals.
However, in the fierce race to reach the pinnacle of technological achievement with the introduction of a revolutionary artificial intelligence-powered search engine, issues of veracity and the widespread dissemination of false information are the most crucial issues of our time. These worries are well-founded because the consequences of a poorly functioning search engine could distort reality, worsen the already virulent spread of false information, and cause irreparable harm to the fabric of truth.
Additionally, warfare has changed from being characterized by linear battles to being characterized by maneuver warfare, placing greater emphasis on flexibility, agility, and strategic maneuvering. Armed engagements have evolved from primitive first-generation manifestations to the complex dynamics of fourth-generation warfare. They now involve a variety of unconventional tactics such as asymmetric tactics, psychological operations, and information warfare. Thus, in order to successfully navigate the complexity of the modern battlefield, this evolution calls for both a thorough understanding of the many facets of modern warfare and the adoption of adaptive strategies.
Simultaneously, the concept of fifth-generation warfare, also known as hybrid warfare, denotes a paradigm shift in contemporary military tactics, where the importance of cultural warfare, information warfare, and unconventional methods surpasses the conventional use of brute force on the battlefield, as seen in third- and fourth-generation warfare. India is said to be using 5th-generation warfare strategies against Pakistan to sow seeds of enmity and spread false information in an effort to block Pakistan’s progress. Moreover, India is using all of its resources to undermine Pakistani society in a number of different domains. Pakistan to modernize its weaponry and armed forces given the strategic landscape of South Asia, which is becoming more complex and volatile, especially given India’s use of fifth-generation warfare against Pakistan.
Relatedly, information warfare has undeniably grown significantly important in the effort to effectively project Pakistan’s narrative both domestically and internationally. A well-calibrated national response reinforced by a clearly defined foreign policy is required in light of the double-edged nature of fifth-generation warfare. Modern times see a rapid spread of irregular wars across the spectrum of conflict, amid intensifying great power competition, as the nature of warfare changes continuously.
Modern warfare has undergone a sea change as a result of the advancement of information technology, which makes it easier for nontraditional actors like violent extremist groups to communicate. We find ourselves ensconced in a world permeated by high tension, accompanied by a flood of tweets, ranging from the tumultuous battlefields in Ukraine to a pernicious terrorist attack on mass transit inside the borders of the United States. Our insatiable appetite for knowledge is driven by a desire to protect our safety, show compassion for those who are suffering, or see wrongdoers brought to justice. Despite our desire for knowledge, we must maintain an appropriate level of skepticism toward the sources that provide it. After all, we are living in a time that is frequently referred to as the “golden age of fake news.”
Today’s conflicts are largely not fought between nation-states and their armies; instead, they are increasingly fought with the mighty arsenal of words rather than with traditional weapons. In recent years, policy discussions, popular discourse, and academic analyses have given priority to a particular breed of weaponry: “fake news” and viral disinformation. In reality, disinformation used in warfare in the digital age may not differ much from other forms of warfare; after all, wars are fought to establish power, with some reaping financial rewards while the most vulnerable suffer the most.
The problem of fake news has gotten worse since the Internet and social networks were invented. The conventional news model, which involved a small number of media outlets run by experienced journalists who interviewed reliable sources and meticulously verified the information before it was published, has been overturned by the current media environment. Today, there are numerous channels, a never-ending stream of messages, and an environment where contradictory information is frequently overlooked that all contribute to the relative ease with which conspiracy theories and rumors can spread. The temptation to cling to a simpler fiction rather than taking on the laborious task of dissecting a more complex reality grows as we are frequently presented with contradictory messages.
United States Donates $9 million in Weapons, Equipment to Support Somalia National Army
Official reports here said the United States through its diplomatic office in Mogadishu has presented $9 million in weapons, vehicles, medical supplies and other equipment to the Somali National Army (SNA). The ceremony was attended by Minister of Defense Abdulkadir Mohamed Nur Jama and U.S. Ambassador Larry André.
Aside from heavy weapons, equipment included support and construction vehicles, explosive ordinance disposal kits, medical supplies, and maintenance equipment for vehicles and weapons. Most of the supplies are already on their way to Hishabelle and Galmudug States to support SNA troops.
“We cheer the success achieved by Somali security forces in their historic fight to liberate Somali communities suffering under al-Shabaab,” said Ambassador André. “This is a Somali-led and Somali-fought campaign. The United States reaffirms commitment to support country’s efforts.”
Minister of Defense Abdulkadir Mohamed Nur Jama thanked the United States, saying, “Allow me to convey the appreciation of the Federal Government of Somalia to the Government of the United States of America for the continued support to Somalia’s peacebuilding process and the support for the fight against terrorism. This support comes at a critical time for our forces as we boost their capabilities to combat al-Shabaab.”
The Minister was joined by Chief of Defense Forces Brigadier General Odowaa Yusuf Rageh for the ceremony.
The weapons, including light and heavy machine guns were purchased with U.S. Department of Defense funding. They are marked and registered pursuant to the Federal Government of Somalia’s Weapons and Ammunition Management policy, designed to account for and control weapons within the Somali security forces and weapons captured on the battlefield.
Notification to the UN Security Council is conducted by the Federal Government of Somalia in close coordination with the Office of Security Cooperation of U.S. Embassy Mogadishu in accordance with UN Security Council resolutions.
The weapons will support SNA-Danab battalions, including battalions currently participating in operations in Hirshabelle and Galmudug. The weapons will provide a significant increase in the lethality and mobility of the SNA-Danab units participating in these operations. Somalia and its neighbouring States have come under frequent heightened militant attacks in the Horn of Africa.
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