The UAE Ambassador visited, with a diplomatic delegation, the guesthouse of the governor of Kandahar in a humanitarian mission; he wanted to lay the cornerstone of Dar Khalifa bin Zayed and sign the Kardan Scholarships agreement. Suddenly, a thunderous explosion ripped through the place, killing the humanitarian team. The chaotic scenes have put Afghanistan in a difficult situation, because the Taliban have not claimed responsibility for the attack. Rather it has claimed responsibility for the bombing in Helmand and the capital Kabul, where two sui-cide bombers blew themselves up when the staff were getting out of the Parliament offices, killing at least 30 people.
The involvement of ISIS in these operations cannot be ruled out, especially after the defection of Taliban commanders to join the terror network. Since March 2015, there have been reports about a strong spread of the organization, particularly in the border areas. General John Campbell, the American officer in charge of NATO forces had said that the “Taliban’s pres-ence is in decline while loyalty pledge for ISIS is on the rise. The way things are going should worry the Afghan president Ashraf Ghani and it is worrying me.”
Let us go back to two reports that were published: one was written by Hammoud Rahmani on October 19, 2015 in Kabul, entitled ‘ISIS is expanding aggressively in Afghanistan over the Taliban’ and included information confirming that ‘ISIS seeks to expand in regions of ten-sion, especially in the north and north-east of the country; ISIS can expand in Faryab and Farah provinces, both located in the northeast of Afghanistan, because they are both close to Central Asian countries and have Chechen, Uzbeks, Tajiks and East Turkistan fighters affili-ated to ISIS there.”
The second report was written by Walid Abdul Rahman: ISIS is active in the largest tribal re-gion on the borders between Pakistan and Afghanistan, on February 8, 2016. He mentioned that “among the Taliban leaders who have declared allegiance to ISIS, there are princes like Orakzai’s Saeed Khan, Kurram’s Dolat Khan, Khyber’s Fateh Gul Zaman, Hangu’s Khaled Mansour and Peshawar’s Mufti Hassan”.
I believe there is a conflict in areas of control between the two most prominent rival groups, Taliban and ISIS, following the decline of al-Qaeda and its influence. US figures show the striking degeneration of al-Qaeda, with just 100 fighters remaining. The strength of ISIS lies in Taliban cadres and leaders who defected and joined ISIS; this is what paved the way for its expansion, facilitated the entry of suicide bombers to areas that are supposed to be safe, and provided a cross-border logistical support in line with the Taliban’s political experience. The most important thing for ISIS is that those who defected and joined the organization, will be a tribal incubator across the country since Taliban is a Pashtun phenomenon according to the famous American definition.
The turmoil in Afghanistan and bordering Pakistan could be due to the American failure in assessing the situation and Obama’s reliance on more than one attitude, opinion and strategy since the slogan of the “right war” and the decision to send 40,000 fighters, in addition to the other strategy related to the dialogue between the Taliban and Pakistan, led by Obama’s en-voy for Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard Holbrooke in Islamabad in 2010; he partially suc-ceeded in uniting the two parties, but his ardor with Secretary Clinton’s, were not enough for Obama. Destiny did not let Holbrooke achieve the deal as he was killed in his office on De-cember 10; his realistic plan to “put pressure through war and force for peace” fell with him.
Holbrooke had met King Abdullah, offering him the US strategy in Afghanistan; the king ad-vised the US to work on a strategy that would address “the roots of Taliban’s problem” rather than just emphasizing on trivial issues. However, Obama got rid of all the strategies at the end and decided to limit himself to fighting terrorism in Afghanistan, without thinking about the reconstruction, construction or changing the environment nurturing terrorist organizations. This is the reason why other countries like China, were able to escape to Afghanistan and Pa-kistan by building bridges and symbolic installations through which they have won rounds against the United States there. Wali Nasr, Holbrooke’s advisor, draws these concerns and confusion in a complex and thorny boring file. Many have felt that the US-Afghan strategic stalemate has begun when Mullah Mohammad Omar and Osama bin Laden survived the US bombing in the Tora Bora in 2001, amid suspicious behavior of Afghan and Pakistani intelli-gence that could be labeled as treason.
If the US keeps failing in Afghanistan, other powers may take over its precious influence that America has paid for through half a century of financial and military sacrifices. However, reaching stability is nearly impossible because of the many problems, disarrays, overlapping of parties on the ground and the continuous qualitative emergence of groups that are tribally and socially accepted. One of Obama’s electoral promises and priorities was the recovery of Af-ghanistan, a promise that was not kept. His envoy Holbrooke commented on the promise say-ing: “If we were able to achieve the recovery of Afghanistan, it would be the end of Ameri-ca’s wars in the Islamic world. Nevertheless, if the situation deteriorated, it would be the eruption of eternal wars.”
This is Afghanistan’s situation today; Kandahar’s massacre of the UAE’s diplomatic mission for humanitarian purpose shows that there is no hope for stability in that part of the world. It paved the way for senseless wars and bloody plots.
Fahad Shoqiran is a Saudi writer and researcher who also founded the Riyadh philosophers group. His writings have appeared in pan-Arab newspaper Asharq al-Awsat, Alarabiya.net, among others. He also blogs on philosophies, cultures and arts. He tweets @shoqiran.