Afghan forces confront growing ISIL threat as Taliban weaken

By Ziar


Suspected "Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant" (ISIL) and Taliban militants are brought before media in Jalalabad December 6. Afghan troops are focusing on ISIL after the Taliban suffered battlefield defeats. [NOORULLAH SHIRZADA/AFP]

KABUL -- As the Taliban continue to lose strength and support in Afghanistan, the government is redoubling its efforts to finish off the group and face the growing threat from the "Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant" (ISIL).

A series of operational failures, infighting, a crisis of leadership and financial woes have weakened the Taliban, and the Afghan National Defence and Security Forces (ANDSF) are taking advantage of the situation, officials and analysts say.

"The Taliban tried to destroy the government but to no avail," Kabul-based Afghan political analyst Mujib Rahman Lemar told Salaam Times. "They then decided to divide the country into two parts ... They failed again."

"They suffer from weakness," he said. "They also face serious hardship with regards to their financial resources, as [governments and organisations] have taken measures recently to dry up such sources."

Crisis of leadership

Intensifying conflicts among the Taliban's core leadership threaten the group.

"The Taliban don't have an undisputed leader," said Ghulam Qadir Sekandari, an adviser to Deputy Chief Executive of Afghanistan Mohammad Mohaqiq.

"A son of Mullah Omar claims leadership," he told Salaam Times, referring to the Taliban leader who died in 2013. "A brother of Mullah Omar also has leadership claims. Other groups have a claim to leadership."

This disunity has weakened the group beyond repair, he said.

"Their former strength has waned," he said, pointing to the Taliban's fractured focus. "One branch is fighting in the north, another branch in the south, and another branch may join forces with ISIL."

"The Taliban have been divided into 17 different groups," Nabi Mesdaq, a Kabul journalist and media affairs adviser to President Ashraf Ghani, told Salaam Times. "Their unity and power are gone."

Battling a new threat

The Afghan military and international partners must build on their success against the Taliban to crush ISIL swiftly, analysts say.

"A new threat to Afghanistan is the defeat of ISIL in Iraq and Syria and the possible influx of ISIL militants into Afghanistan," Sekandari said, urging the government to co-operate with its international allies "to prepare itself for a war against ISIL".

ISIL's most recent attack targeted the Afghan Supreme Court on February 7, killing at least 20 people.

Mesdaq shared similar concerns about ISIL.

"The Afghan government should ask for international help to put an end to ISIL's activities," he said.

ANDSF preparing to defeat ISIL

But the Afghan military, after its successes against the Taliban, is confident it can neutralise ISIL as well.

"We can detect some of the threats coming from ISIL," Ministry of Defence spokesman Gen. Mohammad Radmanesh told Salaam Times. "It wants to recruit fighters for the upcoming fighting season [...] and to cause a number of various concerns for the government."

"Therefore, we are preparing to defeat them," he said, pointing to recent successes against the group in Afghanistan.

"The group's activities in Farah, Helmand, Zabul, Ghazni, Paktia and Paktika provinces have been curtailed," he said. "Its activities in three districts of Nangarhar Province ... are the main source of concern."

"We cannot eliminate these threats within a short period," Radmanesh said, adding that coalition air support "greatly helps us" and is "of extreme importance".

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