AS the Afghan Taliban regime tries to win international recognition, it must confront one plain truth: is it willing to take firm action against foreign terrorist groups based in Afghanistan working actively against neighbouring states? While the present rulers of Kabul have said they will not allow their soil to be used against others, there needs to be a firmer resolve to neutralise terrorist elements. Of course for the Afghan Taliban this is easier said than done as many of the groups, including the proscribed TTP, have in the past fought alongside the new rulers of Kabul. This history of cooperation with violent extremist outfits, and their role in providing safe haven to foreign terror groups, is the reason for the international community’s justifiable reluctance to recognise the Taliban.
Due to decades of chaos, foreign meddling and internal strife, Afghanistan has become an ideal base for religious extremist outfits of various origins. This includes Central Asian as well as Uighur militants, along with the TTP, while the feared Khorasan branch of the militant Islamic State group is quite active in Afghanistan. Apart from IS, the Afghan Taliban don’t appear to have adversarial relations with any of these militant actors. Where anti-Pakistan terrorists go, there is significant reason for concern, as the TTP is apparently regrouping in Afghanistan and there have been a number of terrorist attacks linked to the group inside this country. Moreover, efforts by the government to ‘negotiate’ with the TTP have crashed, indicating that the militants are in no mood for peace.
It should be remembered that when the Taliban were in power the first time around, sectarian militants responsible for major bloodbaths in Pakistan had found refuge in Afghanistan. The Afghan Taliban need to be pragmatic if they are serious about joining the global mainstream. No regional country, nor the international community, will be comfortable with dangerous terrorist outfits operating freely within Afghanistan, especially when these elements show no sign of giving up the way of the gun. Moreover, there will be few takers for the Afghan Taliban’s claim that they are protecting ‘guests’ in accordance with tribal codes. The message from the international community to Kabul is clear: get rid of the militants on your soil. Should the Afghan Taliban dilly-dally, more chaos will be likely and the instability Afghanistan has been seeing for the past several decades will only be perpetuated, while dangerous, violent actors seek to take advantage of the situation.
Published in Dawn, January 10th, 2022