PICTURED: Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani at the London Conference on Afghanistan on 4 December 2014, co-hosted by the governments of the UK and Afghanistan. Photo credit UK Department for Int. Development. CC 2.0
KABUL, Afghanistan. November 19th, 2019. Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani tweeted on Tuesday that Afghan Security Forces had “obliterated” Daesh (A common proper noun used to describe the Islamic State faction in Afghanistan) claiming that as many as 600 IS fighters surrendered with their families.
The Kabul government said the fighters surrendered as a result of “airstrikes, financial problems, and low morale”.
“Now that Daesh [IS] militants have surrendered, I ask authorities to treat their families humanely,” Ghani added, according to Reuters.
Daesh and ISIS
While they may share some similarities aesthetically with the now-defunct caliphate in western Syria and eastern Iraq, Daesh is made up of a different sort of individual.
Afghan journalist Ali M. Latifi writing for thinkprogress.org quotes a parliamentarian from Nangarhar Province who explains the individual differences between the young men who decide to join Daesh or the Taliban.
“When you see people who claim to be part of Daesh they are young boys from the universities and the high schools,” he writes.
“The Taliban,” writes Latifi, “are more likely to be students of religious schools, many of which are located in territories disputed between Afghanistan and Pakistan”.
Paradoxically it seems, the students of the religious schools tend to take up the political struggle of the Taliban, while the students of secular universities take up the charge of Islamic extremism.
the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (or the Levant) known as ISIS (or ISIL) represented different splinter factions from groups like Al-Nusra and the more fundamentalist members of al-Qaeda. These breakaways tended to be hardened fighters from the War in Iraq, and the exceptionally “moderate” of the “moderate rebels” from Libya and Syria armed up by Former CIA Director John Brennan during the opening salvos of the Syrian Civil War.
And in the same way ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi had notable disagreements with al-Qaeda leader Zawahiri, according to Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid, there’s allegedly no love lost between his “Islamic Emirate” and Daesh. On one hand, there’s obviously many problems with taking the words of the Taliban press corps to heart.
On the other, the United States officially negotiated with a Taliban delegation for 9 months, going so far as to exclude their own allies in Ashraf Ghani’s administration, before talks fell apart.
According to Alaraby, Zabihullah Mujahid, one of two official spokesmen for the Taliban, said the claim that Ghani and Kabul defeated ISIS was “absurd”.
“[the] Kabul administration had zero percent role in defeat of Daesh and the proud people of Nangarhar are witnesses,” Zabihullah Mujahid tweeted.
“Kabul admin & their foreign backers created hurdles for Mujahidin (the Taliban) in support for Daesh thus prolonging the operation. In the end, Daesh elements holed up & under siege of Mujahidin were rescued by #Kabul admin – a clear proof of their support & affinity towards this group,” he claimed in another tweet.
Where does this leave CENTCOM?
Former Sec. of Defense under President Trump James Mattis maintained, even while Trump and his special envoy Khalilzad were negotiating with the Taliban around the possibility of the U.S. closing up shop in the war-ravaged South Asian country, that U.S. interests in the region demand the retention of military capabilities to the tune of 14,000 U.S. troops for training and security.
Citing the “safe haven” myth, that a U.S. withdrawal will cause a flood of terrorists back into the country who can regroup and rearm for future attacks across the Atlantic, Mattis criticized Trump’s attempts to parley with the Taliban.
The myth of safe haven has been perpetrated throughout the last three American presidencies. In his book Fool’s Errand, writer and radio host Scott Horton describes the crucial flaws in the safe haven argument.
“…terrorists don’t need safe havens from which to strike,” writes Horton. “As we’ve seen in recent attacks in the United States and Europe, one or two men with rifles or a truck can do plenty of damage with no more preparation space than a rented apartment”.
“The September 11 hijackers, none of whom were Afghans,” Horton continues, “gained entry to the United States under regular tourist and student visas. The terrorists launched the attacks from Massachusetts, Virginia, and New Jersey. They had planned them in Malaysia, Germany, Spain, California, Florida, and Maryland”.
If there’s no proof the safe haven myth prevents terrorists from carrying out attacks, and both the U.S.-backed regime in Kabul and the Taliban Islamic Emirate, who control more of Afghanistan than they did when the United States first arrived on her shores in 2002 are bickering over who gets the credit for destroying America’s enemies, then what possible justification could remain for keeping 14,000 troops and several large military bases stationed there?
Real decisions have to be made soon, as the vague and multi-faceted conflict has just this year made more than 5,000 women and children into casualties, while on Wednesday, 2 more U.S. servicemen, far from home, died when their helicopter crashed.
Continue exploring this topic — Afghanistan Strike Numbers For September Make This Backwards Conflict Seem Like WW2
Narrated by the author, Fool’s Errand: Time to End the War in Afghanistan, is available for free with a 30-day free trial of Audible. If you sign up through our link HERE, World at Large will receive a commission, which we use to fulfil our administration costs.