The chaotic U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan seems to be the gift that just keeps on giving.
In the midst of the destruction and Taliban takeover, it is actually the Islamic State that is now benefiting greatly from President Joe Biden’s poor planning, and the U.S. is the loser in the grand scheme of it all.
During all the years that the U.S. was present in the country, they were training elite Afghan military units. Now, some of those U.S.-trained officers are joining the Islamic State-Khorasan in defiance of the Taliban.
The Taliban and ISIS-K are bitter enemies, and the war between them in Afghanistan has never ceased. In fact, when the Taliban took over the country, the fighting increased as the groups began targeting each other’s fighters and leaders. But now, ISIS-K could gain the upper hand as they gain elite Afghan officers.
According to an exclusive report from The Wall Street Journal, the group of Afghan defectors to ISIS-K is still small but may be growing.
“Importantly, these new recruits bring to Islamic State critical expertise in intelligence-gathering and warfare techniques, potentially strengthening the extremist organization’s ability to contest Taliban supremacy,” the WSJ reported.
Various Afghan officials told the paper of previous members of the Afghan military and intelligence branches who disappeared and then reappeared as fighters for the Islamic State.
“In some areas, ISIS has become very attractive,” said Rahmatullah Nabil, a former head of Afghanistan’s spy agency, the National Directorate of Security.
Though ISIS-K may appall many, it does make sense that Afghan officers would be joining its ranks. After years of working with Americans to stave off the Taliban, it’s logical that they would then join the only real organized resistance to the Taliban.
Should the U.S. work with the Taliban to fight ISIS-K?
No matter what else ISIS-K is embroiled in or planning, it has set itself up as the main opponent of the Taliban.
Besides just being the resistance to the Taliban, ISIS-K could also provide protection to Afghan officers who previously were allied with the United States. The Taliban promised amnesty to those who worked with Americans, but there seems to be little trust in this promise.
“Hundreds of thousands of former Afghan republic intelligence officers, soldiers and police personnel are unemployed and afraid for their lives despite pledges of amnesty from the Taliban,” The Wall Street Journal reported.
Along with protection from the Taliban, the WSJ also heard reports that ISIS-K is offering significant compensation to new members in Afghanistan.
This whole development is deeply concerning to the U.S., and rightly so. Not only has the government inadvertently funded ISIS-K terrorism as Afghan officers they trained are joining the organization, but the terror of the Islamic State will eventually be directed at America. In a way, the U.S. may have funded an attack against itself.
While ISIS-K may not have the ability to launch an attack on the U.S. immediately, senior Pentagon official Colin Kahl said recently, “We could see ISIS-K generate that capability in somewhere between six or 12 months,” CNN reported.
Originally, it might have been assumed that the Taliban would be able to curb ISIS-K, but Kahl clarified that, though the Taliban are highly motivated to beat down the Islamic State, “their ability to do so, I think, is to be determined,” according to Middle Eastern news site Gandhara.
ISIS-K seems to be showcasing its new surge of power and has already been responsible for several bombings in Afghanistan just in the last few weeks, Human Rights Watch reported.
So it is certainly not helping that now, U.S. trained Afghan officers are strengthening ISIS-K against the Taliban.
In this violent fight between the Taliban and ISIS-K, the U.S. is caught in the middle with hostility coming from both sides. There are simply no winners in this triangle of conflict, and the Biden administration’s decision to withdraw American troops simply brought everything to a head.