Last Thursday’s deadly bombing outside the Kabul airport during the evacuation of U.S. citizens from Taliban-controlled Afghanistan was a devastating blow. It was a blow to the families and friends of the 13 American military personnel and scores of Afghan men, women and children murdered, to the many more who were injured, to the evacuation effort itself and to the beleaguered Biden administration.
But it was also a deeply distressing indication of the resurgence of the Islamic State, which took “credit” for the carnage.
The day of the attack, a social media post shared by Al-Adiyat, a pro-IS Media Foundation, urged supporters to promote “news, photos, and reactions to the grand martyrdom attack that shattered the illusions of those dreaming of peace, and shattered the bodies of… the apostates in Kabul.”
Although al-Qaida and IS are longtime enemies, prominent al-Qaida supporter Warith Al-Qassam shared a post of his own celebrating the attack and lamenting the fact that “some sick souls are refraining from celebrating the death of Americans!!” Bloodthirsty hatred apparently unites such otherwise quarrelsome birds of prey.
It’s hard to keep all the heinous, violent and repressive Islamist groups straight.
The Taliban, whose recapture of Afghanistan in the wake of the long-planned but hastily executed withdrawal of American troops from the land, are actually, at the moment, assisting the U.S. in getting its citizens out. And they have traditionally limited their activities to Afghanistan.
Official high-level talks with the Taliban were initiated during the Trump administration, and the relationship, such as it is, continues at present with the current administration, resulting in the Taliban’s facilitation of the evacuation.
But the group’s radicalness, misogyny and murderousness are legend, and the lives of thousands of Afghans who assisted the U.S. over the years remain in grave danger of Taliban retribution if the U.S. doesn’t extend its evacuation deadline to allow their departure.
Al-Qaida is the terrorist group that brought us September 11, 2001, and which we sought to destroy or degrade by occupying Afghanistan. It has fought side-by-side with the Taliban in the past, and both loathe, and are loathed by, IS.
In fact, IS scoffed at the Taliban victory, and considers its fellow Islamists insufficiently dedicated to Islam. The most ideologically extreme, vicious, and potentially disruptive force, IS has murdered dozens of people in attacks in Afghanistan over the past year.
“They have a higher proclivity to target civilians they regard as infidels,” Seth G. Jones, a counterterrorism expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said of IS. The terror group was expected by observers of the Islamist world to vie for a stronger presence in Afghanistan after the American exodus from the country, but it has now done so even before all Americans have left.
And it will likely attract new members. Individual Islamist terrorists often move from group to group, and extremists of all stripes are likely to gravitate from nearby lands like Pakistan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan to Afghanistan, seeing it as a fertile place for growing plots of the murderous, not agricultural, sort.
In the end, though, for all their differences, the Islamist terrorist groups are part of the same jihadist fleet, and the rising tide of terror born of the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan will lift all the Islamist boats.
And the resurgence of their prominence — through conquest, as in the case of the Taliban, or through high-profile acts of terror, as in last week’s IS “accomplishment” — will mean more murder and misery for innocent Afghans.
And the Western World must understand that there is the distinct potential that emboldened radical groups like IS that perceive all “infidels” everywhere as targets will seek to export their murderous designs.
It was 20 years ago, in the wake of the September 11 attacks, that the U.S. led a coalition into Afghanistan to punish and degrade al-Qaida and drive the Taliban from power, which it did at the time. Today, though, as our forces leave the blood-soaked land, al-Qaida is diminished but still a player, the Taliban are back in power and, as we saw last week, IS remains very much active.
After last week’s terrible attack, President Biden spoke to the media and the public from the White House.
“We will not forgive. We will not forget,” he said. “We will hunt you down and make you pay.”
Asked the following day if Mr. Biden would be actively seeking to capture and put those responsible on trial, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said, “I think he made it clear yesterday that he does not want them to live on the earth anymore.”
That is an admirable goal, and one we hope will be achieved.
But even if it is, radical Islamism will unfortunately remain a threat to the world, and our leaders, along with those of the rest of the civilized world, will need to be vigilant, and not allow recent events in Afghanistan to, chalilah, metastasize.