Showing posts from August, 2021

AfPak takes on a new meaning with the rise of the Taliban

  By James M. Dorsey Recent attacks on Kabul’s international airport by the Islamic State’s Afghan affiliate raise multiple questions as well as the spectre of paradigm shifts in the drivers and expanding geography of political violence. The attacks have called into question the Taliban’s ability to maintain security and keep a lid on the activities of multiple militant groups in Afghanistan. Long at war with the Islamic State (IS), the Taliban have promised to ensure that neither IS nor groups with which it maintains good relations will be allowed to use the Central Asian state for cross border attacks in the region.   That may be easier said than done even though Al Qaeda, which launched the most spectacular and successful of jihadist attacks on 9/11 almost two decades ago, may turn out to be the least of the Taliban’s jihadist worries. Analyst Abdul Sayed noted that Al Qaeda, in an effort to prevent the United States from driving it out of Afghanistan and Pakistan, has “ shi

Taliban victory threatens to be a double-edged sword for Pakistan and China

  By James M. Dorsey Pakistani efforts to exploit the Taliban victory in Afghanistan threaten to reinforce ultra-conservative inclinations in Pakistan itself, the world’s second-most populous Muslim majority country, long accused of supporting militant religious groups. The notion that religious ultra-conservatism may not remain contained to Afghanistan may be one reason why US President Joe Biden decided to effectively abandon Central Asia with his withdrawal of US forces from the Central Asian country. “Islamic militancy will cause Russia and China heartburn. It makes sense for the United States to say: ‘This is not an American problem. We are out of here. The Chinese and Russians can deal with it. Going forward we will focus on what is important, the Indo Pacific,’” said a non-American government official empathetic to US concerns. “The ironic truth for China is that the only thing worse than US soldiers near its borders is not having them there at all ,” added Bloomberg col

Hedging Saudi bets: Iran looms, Israel beckons, and Taliban cause goosebumps

  By James M. Dorsey Prince Khalid bin Salman may not have planned it that way but the timing of his visit to Moscow last week and message to Washington resounded loud and clear. The Saudi deputy defence minister was signalling by not postponing the visit that he was trying to hedge the kingdom’s bets by signing a defence cooperation agreement with Russia as the United States fumbled to evacuate thousands from Afghanistan after Kabul was captured by the Taliban. Saudi Arabia would have wanted to be seen to be hedging its bets with and without the US debacle. The kingdom, moreover, realizes that Russia will exploit opportunities created by the fiasco but is neither willing nor capable to replace the United States as the Gulf’s security guarantor. Nevertheless, Saudi Arabia likely wants to capitalize on jitters in the United States as Washington tries to get a grip on what went wrong and come to terms with the fact that the Central Asian country will again be governed by the ver

Putting the Taliban and Mustafa Kemal on par: Mullah Omar and Ataturk would both turn in their grave

  By James M. Dorsey Dogu Perincek is celebrating the perceived defeat of US forces in Afghanistan. The staunchly anti-American Turkish politician doesn’t fare well in elections and has no official position in government but his sway on official thinking should not be underestimated. His response to the US withdrawal from Afghanistan suggests that it is not just Islamists and jihadists who are having a field day with the American setback. So are civilisationalists who think in terms of a civilizational rather than a nation-state and ultra-nationalists who propagate the notion of a Eurasia-dominated world. “The Afghan nation has waged a war for the past 20 years against the US under the leadership of the Taliban,” Mr. Perincek said on television. “The Taliban have beaten US imperialism. The Taliban were successful in Afghanistan’s war of independence like Mustafa Kemal Pasha did in Turkey .” The bizarre comparison by Mr. Perincek, a left-wing secularist who has long advocated a

Afghanistan debacle potentially puts UAE on the spot

  By James M. Dorsey Afghanistan is showing the United Arab Emirates the downside of being a haven for deposed leaders and exiled politicians whose wealth is reportedly parked without question in Emirati financial institutions. The latest arrival in the UAE, former Afghan president Ashraf Ghani, denied this week allegations by Afghanistan’s ambassador to Tajikistan, Zahir Aghbar, that he had stolen US$169 million from state coffers and an assertion by the Russian embassy in Kabul that he had fled with four cars and a helicopter full of cash. There was no independent confirmation of the allegations. Mr. Ghani said after the UAE announced that it was hosting him for “humanitarian” reasons that he had left his country “with one set of traditional clothes, a vest and the sandals” he was wearing. "I was expelled from Afghanistan in such a way that I didn't even get the chance to take my slippers off my feet and pull on my boots." Mr. Ghani, a former World Bank officia

Taliban and Al Qaeda: Putting a fox in charge of the chicken coop?

  By James M. Dorsey Abu Omar Khorasani was taken from Kabul’s Pul-i-Charkhi prison and unceremoniously shot . The first and only person to have been executed since the Taliban gained full control of Afghanistan, Mr. Khorasani was the head of the Islamic State in South Asia until he was arrested by government forces last year. The precise circumstances of his execution are not known. His killing was, however, at least in part designed to send a message to the international community, and particularly Afghanistan’s neighbours, including China and Iran, as well as Russia, Central Asia’s security overlord. The message was that the Taliban were cracking down on foreign jihadists and militants in Afghanistan. Mr. Khorasani was an easy symbol. The Taliban and the Islamic State, whose ranks of foreigners are primarily populated by Pakistanis and a sprinkling of Central Asians, Uighurs, Russians, Turks, Iranians, Indonesians, Indians, and Frenchmen, have long been adversarial. The Is