Jalalabad’s Prison attack

Jalalabad’s Prison attack

A group of IS affiliate militants stormed a prison in Jalabad, capital of eastern Nangrahar Province of Afghanistan, when a suicide bomber of this terrorist organisation drove an explosive-laden vehicle into the entrance of the building. The attack was launched in a bid to set free the group’s members from jail. Jalalabad Prison had about 1500 inmates; of which several hundreds were believed to be militants associated with IS Khorasan. The attack came a day after the operation of Afghan Security forces in which a senior IS commander was killed. Although the majority of prisoners have been recaptured, more than 300 are still at large. Afghan Special forces have besieged the jail promises. The attack had left 37 people dead including 8 militants, prisoners and jail guards and personnel of security forces.

After the elimination of IS in Iraq and Syria, its battle hardened cadres made their entry into the Afghan war theater in 2017, arriving by unmarked helicopters. It was viewed as an alarming development by the countries of regions, having common borders with Afghanistan, Central Asian States and Russia. On the contrary, the United States had not shown that much concern, Drone attacks on the sanctuary of this group notwithstanding. The threat of IS Khorsan has been a major factor of Russia’s proactive diplomacy for restoring peace and stability in Afghanistan. It has hosted four peace conferences in Moscow since December 2016 in addition to attending the Washington moot with the US and China in 2019. In his opening remarks at Afghanistan Peace Conference in Moscow on November 9, 2018, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov emphasised the threat posed by IS militants’ presence in this war torn country to peace and stability of the region and said that the terrorist group has relied on foreign sponsors in a bid to “turn Afghanistan into a springboard for its expansion in Central Asia.” It was because of this threat to regional peace and stability that in a four-party moot in Moscow in 2019, comprising Pakistan, China, Russia and the US, the former three countries had urged for resumption of US-Taliban talks and reaching a peace agreement.

The US-Taliban agreement was signed in Doha, Qatar in February. It kindled a ray of hope for starting of intra-Afghan dialogue. But the process could not be started soon and no bold indication has emerged so far to hold even the first round of these talks. In a telephone conversation the other day, Prime Minister Imran Khan, while exchanging Eid greetings with President Ashraf Ghani, stressed for forward movement on Afghan peace process to pave the way for holding intra-Afghan talks to reach a political settlement of decades’ long conflict.

The noteworthy feature of the Afghan peace agreement is the commitment on the part of the Taliban that the soil of Afghanistan shall not be allowed to be used by terrorist organisations such as IS and Al-Qaida and the outfits that operate under the umbrella of these international terrorist organisations. It merits mention that splinter groups of former TTP such a Jamiatul Ahrar and other factions are operating under IS and carry out terrorist attacks inside Pakistan. Russia, China and Iran are genuinely worried about the existence of IS strongholds inside Afghanistan. . India does not want a peaceful and stable Afghanistan. It is playing a visible role of spoiler to torpedo the US-Taliban peace deal. The spike in terrorist attacks inside Afghanistan on civilians and Afghan government forces in the past few months by IS Khorasan and other terrorist outfits under its umbrella amply explains it.

If all US and NATO troops leave Afghanistan and an inclusive political settlement is not reached, then the wiping out of IS and other terrorist groups under its umbrella will become very difficult for the Afghan forces alone.  The stakeholders must give space to each other for starting intra-Afghan serious dialogue. In the meanwhile the United States should lead a strong and successful Iraq-Syria style military campaign to eliminate IS Khorasan, if it really wants the return of peace in Afghanistan on which stability of the entire region depends. The re-emergence post-Soviet troop’s withdrawal dangerous scenario of late 80s and early 90s will certainly endanger worlds’ peace.

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