A strategic analysis of Taliban takeover of Afghanistan
August has been a terrible month for Afghanistan. It started with the lightning speed at which the Taliban captured territories culminating with the takeover of Kabul amidst no opposition from Afghanistan’s republic forces; who by then had completely lost the will to fight the war. The US and its NATO allies besides other countries are racing to get their people out of Afghanistan with a stark reality of thousands of their Afghan allies left behind.
Things have gone from bad to worse with the Taliban taking over and have hit the crescendo when a series of bomb blasts ripped through the perimeters of the Kabul airport on 26th August evening killing hundreds of beleaguered Afghans who were begging the fleeing Western forces to schlep them along liberating them from the shackles of a brutal Taliban rule awaiting them. Several American soldiers have lost their lives. ISIS’s affiliate in Afghanistan known as Islamic State Khorasan Province (ISKP) is the one to which Biden is alluding.
The question is why execute a deadly suicide terror attack now when the Americans and her allies are rushing to leave Afghanistan?
Rise of ISKP
One might wonder from where did the dormant and defeated ISKP have reared its ugly head suddenly. The popular narrative is ISKP is a different terror organization at loggerheads with the Taliban. The narrative being spun is to show ISIS as a global terror group ought to establish an Islamic Caliphate; whereas the Taliban is projected as Afghan nationalists who fought for their nation. However, nothing other than this assumption could be further from the truth. The ISKP were incapacitated way back in 2018. Just like a bankrupt firm being taken over by a competitor to milk its brand value; the ISKP was taken over completely by Pakistan’s ISI-backed Haqqani network. The same Haqqani network who is a prominent part of the Taliban and ironically being entrusted with the security of Kabul including the Kabul airport perimeters.
Respected Spanish journalist Amador Guallar Perez (@AmadorGuallar) who has reported extensively from Afghanistan and has first-hand knowledge on the machinations of the Haqqani network shared several tweets describing the unholy nexus of Pakistan’s ISI and Haqqani network; with the Haqqani’s Jekyll and Hyde act being part of Taliban as well as executing terror strikes in the name of ISKP.
Por qué la Red Haqqani se camufla como Estado Islamico, con propaganda y todo. No sólo para enmascarar masacres, sino para presionar a quien da las órdenes, un servicio secreto vecino, para que rompa su relación con USA. Esto de 2012 @nytimes https://t.co/djnEZLByFE #KabulAiport
— Amador Guallar (@AmadorGuallar) August 26, 2021
English Translation: Why the Haqqani Network camouflages itself as an Islamic State, with propaganda and all. Not only to mask massacres but to pressure whoever gives the orders, a neighboring secret service, to break their relationship with the US. This 2012 @nytimes#KabulAiport.
Explosión en #KabulAiport. Los talibanes más radicales se impacientan. El ISK afgano está controlado por los Haqqani, que son parte de la dirección del grupo yihadista. Durante días se ha esperado, el horror en #Afganistan continúa.
Fotos vía @jmscaronte pic.twitter.com/dpw7uXWeGn
— Amador Guallar (@AmadorGuallar) August 26, 2021
English Translation: “Blast in #KabulAiport. The most radical Taliban are getting impatient. The Afghan ISK is controlled by the Haqqani, who is part of the leadership of the jihadist group. For days it has waited, the horror in #Afganistan keep going. Photos via @jmscaronte“.
— mikel ayestaran (@mikelayestaran) August 26, 2021
English Translation: The Afghan ISK was taken over by the Haqqani network in 2020, following the 2015 and 2018 debacles in Jawzan. They have long been at your command and feed off your fighters and equipment. I have been following its evolution for many years. This is an attack by the radical wing of the Emirate, not an outside group.
En algún podcast te he escuchado que los Haqqani eran los que estaban detrás de ISIS en Afganistán, eso cuadra poco con el protagonismo que están tomando en las negociaciones en nombre de los talibán
— González Abrisketa (@gabritzblas) August 26, 2021
English Translation: Then he had another big battle in 2018, also in Jawzan. They lost and many gave up. Then the group stumbled until 2020, especially in Nangarhar, where, besieged, dead, they passed under the wing of the Haqqani, but retaining their seal to diversify operations.
Pakistan’s double face
A popular video clip circa 2014 going viral of Former chief of Pakistan’s secret service ISI where he brags to a cheering audience of Pakistanis claiming, “When history is written, it will be stated that the ISI defeated the Soviet Union in Afghanistan with the help of America, Then there will be another sentence. The ISI, with the help of America, defeated America.” This perhaps defines the Janus-faced state policy of Pakistan the best. Pakistan shows a moderate face through its democratic face terming itself an ally of the West in its fight against terror; often gaining sympathy calling itself a victim of terror. The other face is the scheming, deceptive and cunning deep state led by their secret service ISI; which has not just created and fostered the Afghan Taliban, but also helped morph into multiple avatars of which one among them is Islamic State Khorasan Province (ISKP) – an alter ego of ISI-controlled Haqqani network.
So, the question is why execute a deadly suicide terror attack now when the Americans and her allies are rushing to leave?
- This may be an attempt by the Pakistani deep state to keep the Americans and NATO invested in Afghanistan by creating a pseudo terror group namely ISKP. The Pakistanis want Americans to throw more dollars at them as they chase ISKP terrorists who no longer exist; rather the Haqqanis are unleashing terror under the garb of ISKP. With the Americans leaving for good, Pakistan no longer holds the leverage over the West as their ports and entry points are no longer needed for the West to run a military campaign in land-locked Afghanistan.
- This attack has been quickly owned by the ISKP and swiftly condemned by the Taliban. This shows a clear attempt by the Taliban at making them look like the victims and earn international legitimacy. They clearly want Americans to see this attack from an evil ISIS-Khorasan, and to draw a clear distinction between the Taliban and ISIS-K. Whereas, the reality as the fog over the war clears shows that Pakistan’s ISI-controlled Haqqani network and the ISKP are one and the same. This makes Taliban, Haqqani network, ISKP all different veritable arms of the Pakistani ISI. The West has been fooled all along by Pakistan but their Janus-face is finally unraveling and their imprints getting clearer in Afghanistan’s never-ending turmoil.
1. Text in Blue points to additional data on the topic.
2. The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of PGurus.
 Islamic State claims responsibility for Kabul airport blasts – Aug 26, 2021, The Guardian
 New Boldness From Militants Poses Risk to U.S.-Pakistan Ties – Jul 30, 2012, NY Times