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Syria's fighters are ready to fight in Afghanistan?

ISIS jihadist in Syria are ready to take part in Afghanistan?

Following the withdrawal of the US and its allies from Afghanistan after nearly two decades, there are grave fears in the west about the region. Because the presence of Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State (ISIS) in Afghanistan poses a great threat to its neighboring countries and to the west as well. The terrorist group ISIS-K, an offshoot of ISIS, claimed responsibility for the suicide attack on Kabul airport on August 26th, which killed 13 US service members and at least 170 Afghans.

President Joe Biden endorsed the withdrawal of US soldiers from Afghanistan In his address to the nation on Tuesday, but he vowed to fight terrorism and warned ISIS-K. He said, “To ISIS-K we are not done with you yet”. 

As this message shows, foot soldiers may be absent in Afghanistan in the future, but drones and airstrikes might still be used to attack terrorists.

In their peace negotiations, the Taliban's assurances to the US and the West that their turf would not be used to attack other nations. But there are still fears that it will be the next stop for foreign jihadists.

 Over 10,000 foreign fighters are present in Afghanistan, including members of al-Qaida and the Islamic State, according to the U.N Security Council.

Also, there is less clarity regarding the Taliban’s relations with al-Qaeda and how they would operate in the future. Many believe the Taliban will ask al-Qaeda to restrain its actions since their relations have not changed.

ISIS-K & Taliban

When it comes to ISIS-K and Taliban there is no love lost between them even both factions are devout Sunni Muslims. Although both claims to be the flag-bearers of jihad, they have disagreed on several points of theology and strategy. That conflict has resulted in violent warfare between the two groups, in 2019, in which the Taliban decimated the ISIS-K and they were failed to secure territory as its parent group did in the Middle East. 

ISIS pronouncements have referred to the Taliban as apostates, demonstrating the animosity between the two jihadist groups. ISIS-K considered the U.S. deal with the Taliban a betrayal of jihad, the fight against Islam's enemies. The group has criticized the Taliban's seizure of power in Afghanistan. In order to gain more power, ISIS-K is attempting to expand its recruitment of disenfranchised Taliban's members and educated extremists according to the US Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA).

Political instability and violence in Afghanistan have also aided them in their goals. Because Afghanistan is a perfect breeding ground for terrorist groups, both the US and the Taliban are keen to prevent ISIS-K from forming. It remains to be seen if this relationship will work since there is a lack of trust on both sides after fighting for almost two decades. Therefore, the whole world will be watching how the Taliban handle ISIS-K and foreign jihadi fighters.

Concerns over Foreign Fighters

In March 2019, the US-led coalition ended ISIS control of territory in Iraq and Syria. Since IS has been defeated in Iraq and Syria, it's not surprising that Jihadi’s and foreign fighters will arrive in Afghanistan. In 2015, ISIS-K demonstrated their allegiance to ISIS Middle East. 

Despite being defeated, ISIS continues to operate as a small and established insurgency group in rural areas of Iraq and Syria. According to the Pentagon, the ISIS strategy is to maintain prominence, rebuild trust among the local population, and restore a self-described "caliphate" in the region. ISIS fighters or sympathizers who see the Taliban's success and takeover in Afghanistan may become inspired, especially those in Syria, and may move to Afghanistan to fight.

There are reports that in Idlib, Syria, the extremist group "HTS or Liberation of the Levant", an al-Qaeda affiliate and US-designated terrorist organization, has applauded the Taliban's takeover. Even some who are opposed to HTS have praised the Taliban's. Observers believe this may be due to fear of being persecuted by HTS, which has been cracking down on groups espousing Al Qaeda-like ideologies.

To avoid harassment and unfair trials, civil society members and Jihadi warriors from Central Asian nations such as Uzbekistan and Tajikistan may try to flee Syria and other neighboring countries to Afghanistan.

Russia & Central Asia

Russians, as the US is also worried about ISIS-K, and they have little faith in the Taliban. Russia and its Central Asian allies Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan are concerned about their security, because of the Taliban's takeover. In order to protect its military base and gain further influence in the region, Russia moves cautiously toward the Taliban.

Turkish Fears

After the fight between ISIS and America, Turkey has the highest number of refugees. There were several bombings in Turkey, and many ISIS foreign militants have entered Iraq and Syria through its territory.

To prevent ISIS members from arriving in Afghanistan undetected, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan considers the Taliban's offer to help run the airport. However, the turkey will only operate the airport if the Taliban will allow them to maintain a security presence.

 Even in the midst of all this Turkey is keeping a tight eye on the situation in the Middle East. Since the presence of Jihadi forces in Idlib and the possibility for them to travel to Turkish-controlled areas in Syria poses a severe threat to Ankara's interests.

Final Thoughts

After the 2003 fiasco in Iraq by the United States and its allies, which gave birth to the so-called Islamic State and dread Once again, the world is concerned about what will happen in Afghanistan and how it will address their security concerns. Will there be an influx of local and foreign fighters to join ISIS in the region? Only the time will tell!

Written By: Olivium's Editor

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