‘Daish in Afghanistan- New wave of instability for the region’

Shehla Naz

Having emerged as an offshoot of Al-Qaeda in Iraq, Daesh grew to become ‘the most powerful and notorious terror group in the world’ in short span. Baghdadi’s main ambition was to create a caliphate based on Islamic Laws, stretching across the Middle East and North Africa. In August 2013, Daesh displayed a map that showed a borderless country stretching from the edge of Iran to the southern tip of the Arabian Peninsula and across North Africa, close to re-creation of the 8th Century Abbasid Caliphate, the second Islamic empire.

Baghdadi’s initial success and foothold in Raqqa, one of the capitals of Islam’s golden age, inspired a millenarian fervor among his followers strengthening his claim to prominence. Encouraged by the momentum of his gains initially focused on the land of Iraq and Syria, Baghdadi expanded his ideology to gain territory through terror in other parts of the world be establishing Wilayas including in Afghanistan namely Islamic State in Khurasan (ISKP)  in January 2015 posing a new challenge to the regional security. 

In the wake of claims about Daesh’s elimination in Syria and Iraq while thousands of foreign fighters are on their way back to their homes, future (territorial) ambitions of Daesh are not under much focus. Even before its defeat in Iraq and Syria, it had picked up Afghanistan as a next theater. Since long Daesh is struggling to maintain a presence in Afghanistan calling this land as ‘Wilayat Khorasan’ a reference to the historical region encompassing parts of Central Asia ,Iran, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. Afghanistan was considered by Daesh as a viable option where interwoven features of terrorism, incessantly increasing drug production, political violence, corruption, stagnating economy, resurgent Taliban and perpetual foreign military presence etc, provided fertile ground for its ingress. 

Pakistan has been fighting the war on terror, as a front line state, since September 2001. So far, the war has brought huge destruction to Pakistan by slowing down it’s economic growth, 71,000 casualties (LEAs & Civilians) and Rs 123 billion financial losses, devastating the social structure and harming the country politically etc. Pakistan being a frontline state in international counter terrorism campaign is seriously committed to safeguard world peace and security. Through world’s largest counterterrorism deployment surging from 20,000 troops in 2001 to over 202,000 at present, Pakistan has eliminated terrorist presence and infrastructure from its soil mainly as result of military operations Zarb-e-Azb and Radd-ul-Fassad. Pakistan has turned the tide against terrorism at a monumental human and socio-economic cost.

In this backdrop, rise of Daesh phenomena in Pakistan’s backyard is going to be a new mounting challenge for Pakistan’s security and stability. Despite US heavy investment, troops deployment, use of high tech weaponry and rising combat casualties, lasting peace in Afghanistan remains a pipedream. The security situation in Afghanistan is deteriorating day by the day. The casualty figure is quite worrying. Recently a surge in Daesh claimed attacks inside Afghanistan has been noticed with increase of 70% during 2018, as compared to 44% in 2017 and only 7% during 2016.

Daesh has been making its continuous efforts to establish its base in Pakistan with intent to further expand to other parts of the region but so far it has no organized presence in Pakistan. Outright growth of Daesh in Afghanistan, especially Pakistan’s neighboring provinces of Nangarhar and Kunar in East and Spin Boldak area of Kandahar is a looming threat to security matrix of Pakistan. Beside other areas, Daesh gains in Jowzjan (closer to Uzbekistan) and Jorjian (closer to border with Tajikistan and Turkmenistan) is alarming for Russia for likely penetration the countries of Central Asia and get to the border of Russia. 

The most daunting challenge to the successful completion of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is the security threat at internal and external level. Pakistan’s inimical forces are active against the CPEC, which are continuously assisting the militant groups and sub-nationalists to use the terrorist elements in Pakistan to threaten the CPEC project. The CPEC is destined to connect China’s largest province, Xinjiang, with Pakistan’s Gwadar port in Balochistan. Indian premier Modi’s support to Baloch separatists and violence aimed to sabotage CPEC is an open secret. The video lecture of Indian National Security Adviser Ajit Doval expressing his nefarious designs of interference in Pakistan’s internal affairs was viral on social media. Even the Afghan National Directorate of Security (NDS) and RAW have been alleged by Pakistani officials for supporting the anti-Pakistan groups in Afghanistan.   Pakistan’s Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee, Gen Zubair Mahmood Hayat, is on record to have alleged that India’s RAW had established a cell in 2015 dedicated to sabotage CPEC projects in Pakistan with a special allocation of over $500 million.

Russia has been alleging US for providing material support to Daesh. In this regard media reports about transportation of Daesh fighters within Afghanistan through US helicopters also came to fore. Rehman Malik in his book ‘Modi’s War Doctrine: Indian Anti-Pakistan Syndrome’ has clearly alluded to rising RSS and Daesh nexus  exposed by some Ambassador from Middle East posted in Dehli who confirmed training of numerous Indians by Daesh in Kurdistan. Combined actions of RAW and RSS are no more secret.  In view of having anti-Pakistan mindset and antagonistic stance towards CPEC, it is not a distant possibility that India in collaboration with US may use Daesh for her evil designs against Pakistan, as India leaves no opportunity of inflicting and hurting Pakistan. In 2013, Indian Army Chief Genral Vijay Kumar Singh admitted that following 2008 Mumbai attacks Indian Army raised a Technical Support Division (TSD) to carry out bomb blasts in Pakistan and doled out money to separatists in Baluchistan and other terrorists.

Above in view, Pakistan needs to be vigilant against the evil designs of hostile forces and keep the nation abreast of impending threat. Policymakers and practitioners need have focus on preventing radicalization and recruitment by the terrorists through coordinated response to avert their exploitation by inimical forces against the homeland.