ISIS-K's recent attacks fuel distrust among Afghanistan, Pakistan, Tajikistan

By Omar

Afghan security personnel stand guard last July in Kabul. [Wakil Kohsar / AFP]

Afghan security personnel stand guard last July in Kabul. [Wakil Kohsar / AFP]

HERAT -- Recent attacks by the Khorasan branch of the "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" (ISIS-K) in Afghanistan and neighboring countries have incited distrust and tension between Afghanistan and its neighbors, including Pakistan and Tajikistan.

ISIS-K employs a complex method: recruiting fighters from one country, using a second country as a safe haven and turning a third country into a transit route for carrying out its attacks, the Pakistani newspaper Dawn reported last week.

This strategy by ISIS has created disagreements among Afghanistan, Pakistan and Tajikistan, leading to accusation swapping by officials of these countries.

Further feuding between Afghanistan and its neighbors benefits ISIS, allowing the group to expand its activities in the region, particularly in Afghanistan, said Abdul Qader Kamel, a political analyst in Herat city.

"ISIS wants to fish in troubled waters. The more cooperation and trust decline among neighboring countries, the stronger ISIS becomes, and its influence grows," Kamel said.

"To suppress ISIS, regional and global cooperation is needed. Afghanistan and its neighbors should mobilize against ISIS instead of fanning mistrust and tension," he added.

Escalating regional conflict

ISIS's goal is not only to incite discord among these neighboring countries but conflict as well. In this regard, ISIS-K has had some success.

Fueling rancor between Afghanistan and its neighboring countries makes it easier for ISIS-K to achieve its goals, said Hamza Baloch, a military analyst based in Nimroz province.

"The activities of terrorist groups like ISIS-K and Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) in Afghanistan have significantly damaged Afghanistan's relations with Pakistan unlike any other time. These countries need to jointly fight against these threats," he said.

"One strategy to combat ISIS threats is to calm relations between Afghanistan and its neighbors. In this regard, Tajikistan plays a crucial role as a significant number of ISIS-K members are Tajik citizens," Baloch added.

Twenty years after 9/11, al-Qaeda intends to turn Afghanistan once again into a hub for planning and organizing terrorist attacks on other countries, Ahmad Zia Saraj, former director of the Afghan National Directorate of Security (NDS), previously warned.

The Dawn report continues to suggest that ISIS-K follows a pattern similar to al-Qaeda's.

"The ISKP [ISIS-K] seems intent on using the region as a staging ground for large-scale attacks in the US or Europe," the paper wrote.

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All countries must prevent terrorist groups such as ISIS, Al-Qaida, Israeli forces, etc.