There seems to be no let-up in terror attacks across Afghanistan.
July saw countless incidents of violence and once it looked as if the Islamic State (IS) and Taliban are in a fierce competition to outdo each other in their attempts to target the infrastructure and civilian population causing devastation of huge proportions.
The most recent attack was witnessed on July 31 in the border town of Jalalabad, where the Afghan government’s office for refugees and repatriation was hit, killing at least 15 and injuring many. The bomb blasts wreaked havoc and left many bodies charred and mutilated beyond recognition. Insiders in the security agencies are disclosing that there was a gruelling exchange of fire between the security forces and the perpetrators of terror that lasted for nearly five hours. This should give us an idea as to what extent the Taliban or the IS are hell bent on causing destruction conveying the message that terror-linked forces are alive and still kicking.
An Afghan policeman inspects the site of an attack in Jalalabad on July 31. (Credit: Reuters photo)
Also, to signal that their writ is running and the government remains a mute spectator, failing miserably to control the deteriorating security situation. What’s more frustrating is the open abduction of civilians. Such a dastardly act implies that there is absolutely no deterrence measures against the terrorists. Things unfortunately have come to such a pass.
On July 28, there was an attack on a passenger bus, killing many. The IS has claimed responsibility for the attack. It’s well known that the IS has been violently active in parts of Syria and Iraq, but the activities on the Afghan soil adhering to IS modus operandi of killing is a very disturbing factor specially in the region. It is evident that the NATO and western forces have had no effect in reining in the spiralling terror acts.
There are estimated 10,000 IS-inspired terrorists present in Afghanistan and if the figures are accurate, then it is all the more demoralising that the West and pacifists have not succeeded at all to control terror activities.
This is a sad reflection on part of those trying to usher in peace. The IS-inspired and militants linked to the Taliban are highly radicalised and the youth continues to be indoctrinated. This is a dangerous sign.
To add to all that, the Pakistan-Afghanistan security cooperation is surely in tatters. Dispassionately speaking, Pakistan doesn't seem keen to see peace returning to Afghanistan. This is demonstrated in action when terror forces across the Afghan frontiers, from Pakistan, forge a collaboration with their counterparts and freely carry out attacks.
Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani looks helpless as well as clueless. How long can he look up to the US for help and directions? His intelligence machinery, which is crucial in the context of continued suicide bombings, is dysfunctional, or so it seems. Security analysts say there has not been any pin-pointed forewarning to alert the forces to preempt any terror misadventure.
Imran Khan's victory in Pakistan has raised 'hopes' for a productive peace process in Afghanistan. (Credit: Reuters photo)
Let’s take a look at the recent terror activities in July in Afghanistan. Not only the track record is far from satisfactory, there is a noticeable pattern in the attacks. In early July, nearly a score of Hindus and Sikhs were attacked and mostly fatal. Attacking the minority was perhaps a signal to India to keep off Afghanistan.
Again on July 11, Afghanistan education department building was targeted, killing 11. It is also clear from the attacks on minorities of Indian-origin that bigger forces are at work to wean Afghanistan away from India.
The needle of suspicion points to, quite naturally, Pakistan. Indian intelligence agencies must be in possession of evidence of a Pakistan hand in abetting terror in Afghanistan. Unless checked now, these forces will continue to call the shots, and Afghanistan will suffer with innocents paying the price without any rhyme or reason.
To contain IS-led terror threats in Afghanistan, intelligence chiefs of Russia, Pakistan, China and Iran met in Islamabad and discussed ways and means. The outcome of their meet must be made public and forces directly responsible for fomenting terror must be exposed. That’s eagerly awaited and one is not sure if the real content would be shared at all.
The game is getting more and more enigmatic in the absence of any transparency. With Imran Khan at the helm of Pakistan now and his claim to contain terror, Afghanistan has hopes, or at hopes have been raised, that he will work to control the terror menace. However, it looks unlikely as Imran Khan may not have much say in matters and policies of the "deep state" as allegedly seen during last week’s elections in Pakistan.
It is widely suspected that Pakistan's army and the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) was largely instrumental in supporting and ensuring Imran Khan’s victory. If that’s indeed the case, then one should not expect the ISI to make any efforts to bring peace in Afghanistan.
Pakistan security and intelligence cooperation with Afghanistan is just cosmetic. Imran Khan, therefore, will not be in a position to step in to rein in the terror forces. Afghanistan surely doesn’t deserve to be reeling under repeated suicide attacks. The international community with its advanced intelligence system and modern techniques must carry out all it could to contain terror.
Again, intelligence-sharing is a vital aspect to pre-empt many avoidable fatalities inflicted on Afghanistan. Only then the region will be safe and IS proliferation could be brought under check. Any free hand to the IS would mean their ideological warfare crossing boundaries and coming into India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. If terror-linked Jihadi political parties could be defeated in the elections that means they don't enjoy popular public support.