Understanding the Islamic State Offshoot behind the Kabul Bombings

Aug. 27 2021

The bombings in Kabul that took the lives of more than a dozen U.S. troops, and nearly 100 Afghans, appear to be the work of Islamic State’s “Khorasan Province” (ISKP or ISIS-K), the group’s branch in Afghanistan and Pakistan. In negotiating the current withdrawal from the country, the U.S. government has claimed that the Taliban might in fact restrain both al-Qaeda and ISKP. While ISKP and the Taliban have indeed fought in recent years, such a plan will never work, as Kyle Orton explains:

The Taliban cannot fight al-Qaeda. Al-Qaeda has sworn an oath of allegiance to the Taliban’s leader, and on the battlefield they are completely intertwined. One of the most visible Taliban leaders in Kabul has been Khalil Haqqani, who is a senior operative in the Haqqani Network. This network is deeply woven into al-Qaeda’s presence in Afghanistan and has leaders simultaneously holding senior positions in the Taliban. These organizational overlaps are reinforced by family ties. In short, there is no real-world distinction between the Taliban and al-Qaeda.

There is a distinction between the Taliban and ISKP, and indeed a venomous hatred. But what is clear from the attack at the airport is that either the Taliban was complicit—by halting an evacuation of Afghans who helped [the West]—or the Taliban was unable to stop this. In either case it is risible to suggest that the Taliban can assist in counterterrorism.

At root, the distinction between ISKP and the Taliban is [that] ISKP is a non-state actor and the Taliban is a wing of the Pakistani state. The network of jihadists that has just taken over Afghanistan—led by the Taliban and the Haqqani Network—is just the latest iteration of Pakistan’s jihad project in Afghanistan, which began no later than 1974.

It is too late to save Afghanistan, but at least it might set us—at long last—on a better policy track in dealing with Pakistan as it is: a state sponsor of terror that has killed thousands of our people and tens of thousands of Afghans.

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Read more at UnHerd

More about: Afghanistan, Al Qaeda, ISIS, Pakistan, Taliban, U.S. Foreign policy

Don’t Let Iran Go Nuclear

Sept. 29 2022

In an interview on Sunday, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan stated that the Biden administration remains committed to nuclear negotiations with the Islamic Republic, even as it pursues its brutal crackdown on the protests that have swept the country. Robert Satloff argues not only that it is foolish to pursue the renewal of the 2015 nuclear deal, but also that the White House’s current approach is failing on its own terms:

[The] nuclear threat is much worse today than it was when President Biden took office. Oddly, Washington hasn’t really done much about it. On the diplomatic front, the administration has sweetened its offer to entice Iran into a new nuclear deal. While it quite rightly held firm on Iran’s demand to remove the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps from an official list of “foreign terrorist organizations,” Washington has given ground on many other items.

On the nuclear side of the agreement, the United States has purportedly agreed to allow Iran to keep, in storage, thousands of advanced centrifuges it has made contrary to the terms of the original deal. . . . And on economic matters, the new deal purportedly gives Iran immediate access to a certain amount of blocked assets, before it even exports most of its massive stockpile of enriched uranium for safekeeping in a third country. . . . Even with these added incentives, Iran is still holding out on an agreement. Indeed, according to the most recent reports, Tehran has actually hardened its position.

Regardless of the exact reason why, the menacing reality is that Iran’s nuclear program is galloping ahead—and the United States is doing very little about it. . . . The result has been a stunning passivity in U.S. policy toward the Iran nuclear issue.

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Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Iran nuclear deal, Joseph Biden, U.S. Foreign policy