Afghanistan attacks Islamic State

On October 8, a terrible destroy struck worshipers attending Friday noon prayers at the Gozar-e-Sayed Abad Mosque in the Khan Abad neighborhood of Bandar, the capital of Kunduz, one of Afghanistan’s largest cities in its northern belt. It is a mosque frequented by Shia Muslims, who were referred as “our compatriots” by Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid. Forty-six people deceased immediately in the blast, and local authorities said scores more were injured in the incident. Shortly after, the Islamic State in Khorasan Province, ISKP (ISIS-K), took credit for the attack on its Telegram channel. The suicide bomber was identified as Mohammed al-Uyguri by ISIS-K.

By Vijay Prashad

The attacker’s name raised red flags across the region. He said he was from the Uyghur community and had connections with the Xinjiang region in western China, which is home to most of the world’s Uyghur population. That a Chinese extremist attacked a Shia mosque raised eyebrows in Beijing and Tehran.

Foreign terrorists

In June 2021, the United Nations reported on the presence of 8,000 to 10,000 “foreign terrorist fighters” in Afghanistan. The report further stated that these fighters came mainly “from Central Asia, the North Caucasus region of the Russian Federation, Pakistan and the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in China.” Although most fighters reported affiliation with the Taliban, “many also support Al-Qaida” and “[o]others are allied with ISIL or have sympathies for ISIL ”, noted The report. ISIL refers to Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, whose Afghan franchise is ISIS-K.

In 2019, in Turkey, I met a group of Uyghur fighters from various terrorist organizations, including the Islamic Movement of East Turkestan (ETIM), which is now called the Islamic Party of Turkestan (TIP). They were hardened fighters, whose main purpose was to fight the “infidels”; they didn’t seem interested in anything other than that. The United Nations placed the ETIM on their terrorists listing in 2002.

During the war against Syria, large sections of the ETIM – like the TIP – moved towards the Syrian-Turkish border. The TIP is now largely based in Idlib, Syria, which is the hub of various global jihadist organizations. When it became clear that the Taliban would seize power in Afghanistan, many jihadists from Central Asia, including China and Tajikistan, left Idlib for Afghanistan. ETIM leader Abdul Haq remains in Syria, where he is also member of the Al-Qaeda Shura Council.

Concerns abound in Iran …

On October 4, four days before the attack on the mosque in Afghanistan, an Iranian delegation arrived in Afghanistan to hold talks on cross-border trade and seek assurances that the Taliban will not allow attacks against Afghan Shiites or against Iran. Meanwhile, in Kabul, governors two neighboring border provinces of Khorasan Razavi in ​​Iran (Mohammad Sadegh Motamedian) and Herat in Afghanistan (Maulvi Abdul Qayum Rohani) agreed to further facilitate cross-border trade and ensure that there is no cross-border violence . In another meeting that took held on October 4 with Motamedian in the Iranian border town of Taybad, Rohani deputy Maulvi Sher Ahmad Ammar Mohajer noted that the Afghan government “will never allow foreign individuals or groups such as ISIS to use Afghan territory against the Islamic Republic of Iran.” “We (Iran and Afghanistan) have defeated the common enemy”, Maulvi Rohani noted with reference to the United States.

All signs point to some sincerity on the part of the Taliban government. On October 7, the day before the ISIS-K attack on the Shiite mosque in Kunduz, Maulvi Abdul Salam Hanafi, the Deputy Prime Minister of Afghanistan,meet with a group of former Shiites to to assure theirs that the Taliban would not allow anti-Shiite activity. Nonetheless, members of the Hazara community – which are the Shiite community of Afghanistan – tell me that they fear a return to the former Taliban regime; during this time, documented the massacres perpetrated by the Taliban against the Shiite Hazara community provided evidence of the sectarianism of the Taliban. This is why Iran has opposed the Taliban, and why Iran has not officially recognized the current government in Kabul. However, in recent years the Iranians have been job with the Taliban against ISIS and ISIS-K, with Iranian Brigadier General Esmail Qaani as liaison with the Taliban.

… And in China

In the 1990s, the Taliban government authorized ETIM and other Uyghur groups to operate from Afghanistan. This time, it is already proven that they will not officially allow such an activity. Earlier this year, ETIM fighters left Syria for Badakhshan province in Afghanistan; reports suggested that the fighters had gathered in the sparsely populated Wakhan corridor in the province, which leads to China. But in recent weeks, Taliban security has moved from towns surrounding the “Afghan-Chinese border” to other parts of Afghanistan (rumors circulate of the Taliban’s intention to extradite ETIM – if not all 2,000 Uyghurs from Afghanistan – to China , but these rumors are not confirmed).

At the end of August, Mattia Sorbi of the Italian newspaper La Repubblica met Taliban spokesperson Zabiullah Mujahid. This was an important interview for the Taliban because Italy is a partner of the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Mujahedin Recount Sorbi that China is currently helping Afghanistan with short-term funds (including $ 31 million in emergency funds) and that the Taliban see the BRI as their “passport to markets around the world”. China’s long-term concession of the Mes Aynak copper mine, south of Kabul, will allow it “to come back to life and modernize.” noted Mujahedin. The Taliban hold on to the BRI, he said, “which will lead to the revival of the old Silk Road.”

The BRI spans both sides of Afghanistan, the northern route through Tajikistan to Iran and the China-Pakistan economic corridor to the south. The mouth of the Wakhan Corridor would open a third road, going to Kabul and Iran (and connecting Pakistani agricultural products to markets in Central Asia and Russia).

The isolation of China and Iran is not a welcome thought in Kabul. The United States is prepare to reconnect with the Taliban, which could change the equations on the ground. If the United States allows Kabul access to the fundsin its central bank, Da Afghanistan Bank, (headquarters in New York) or the IMF funds, these funds will help provide a lifeline for the Taliban. But they are not a solution for Afghanistan, wedged between China and Iran and the possibility of its connection to the new Silk Road.

This article was produced by Globetrotter.

Vijay Prashad is an Indian historian, editor and journalist. He is editor and chief correspondent at Globetrotter. He is the director of Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research. He is a non-resident principal investigator at Chongyang Financial Studies Institute, Renmin University of China. He has written over 20 books, including The darkest nationsand The poorest nations. His latest book is Washington Balls, with an introduction by Evo Morales Ayma.

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