Worst-case scenario takes hold in Afghanistan
The deadly twin bombings near the international airport in Kabul that killed scores of people, including 13 American service members, marks another historical turning point in Afghanistan-centered international relations.
The attacks claimed by ISIL-Khorasan, or ISIL-K, came days before the completion of the mass evacuation of foreign troops and citizens as well as Afghans who had served NATO countries over the years. American and British intelligence officials continue to warn of more imminent terrorist attacks before the Aug. 31 deadline for the completion of evacuations from the war-torn country.
Unfortunately, this horrific and inhumane terror act in Kabul is just the beginning. Taliban seized power much quicker than many thought, but it seems impossible for the group to control the country and other Islamic extremist groups. The current power vacuum across the country can easily turn Afghanistan into a hotbed of various evil terror groups under the leadership of al-Qaeda, ISIL-K and others.
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, speaking to the reporters on Aug. 27, has drawn attention to this fact, underlining that the ISIL-K attacks have shown how dangerous this group is for regional and global stability. Turkey is among the countries that had severely been attacked by ISIL in recent years. Its militants had killed dozens of innocent people inside Turkey and controlled some parts of the Turkey-Syria border until the Turkish army dispersed them through a cross-border operation in August 2016.
In today’s world, ISIL and its variants are still active in Africa, particularly in the Sahel, in the Middle East, in Syria and Iraq as well as in central Asia. The current situation in Afghanistan will likely encourage radical extremists everywhere in the world for the resurrection, with ISIL and ISIL-K seen as the pioneer of the new terrorist campaign.
It’s a very big question to what extent Taliban may control the activities of these groups inside the country. As of today, there is no indication that it has such a capacity. Many experts argue any attempt by Taliban to stop ISIL-K or other groups will quickly turn into a civil war with no winners in sight.
In addition, U.S. President Joe Biden vowed retribution for the deadly attacks and informed that he ordered the commanders to develop operational plans to strike ISIL-K militants. He also stressed that he told the army that he would grant additional forces if needed to respond to the latest attacks. Biden, who has already been the target of fierce criticisms due to mismanaged Afghanistan policies, will want to restore his image by responding strongly to these attacks.
Amid sound and fury, Turkey is planning to complete the evacuations from Afghanistan and continue its talks with the Taliban, mainly on keeping the airport open and safe after the withdrawal of the NATO troops. Erdoğan informed about a lengthy meeting between Turkish officials and Taliban representatives, describing this contact as an effort to pursue a healthy process with the group. The key point is that Turkey still wants to lend technical-civilian support to Taliban to operate the airport but the deadly attacks are a clear message that the way ahead is very, very risky for those who want to stay in the country.
Remarks made by Erdoğan show that Turkey will not rush to accept the Taliban’s demand to run the airport, given the poor political and security conditions. At this stage, it’s better to stay away from the mess as the worst-case scenario is unfolding.