Is the ISIS in Afghanistan an excuse to make the US troops stay?

Kirthi Jayakumar

The phenomenon of listicles and click-baiting attempts has come to be: and that’s why I dismissed an article on one of India’s prominent listicle-sites. It mentioned that an ISIS flag fluttered in the wind, a few thousand kilometres from New Delhi.  It peaked my curiosity at first. I wanted to know if it meant that the ISIS had arrived in India – but the article said it had arrived in Afghanistan. I scratched deeper, and looked online to verify the report’s authenticity. There wasn’t much else to be found.

Afghanistan is definitely seeing a hike in the extent of violence between the Taliban and the foreign forces, and the warlords in between. If the National Security Adviser, Hanif Atmar’s words are to be believed, then it is true that Afghanistan is struggling under serious security threats from terror outfits such as al-Qaeda, ISIS, Lashkar-e-Tayyiba, Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, East Turkestan Islamic Movement and Ansarullah of Tajikistan. He also reportedly said that the ISIS is attempting to access the drug market in Afghanistan, to slowly infiltrate Central Asia.

The priority for the torn nation is to address terrorism as it attempts to rise above the waters after decades and decades of unrelenting war. Against this backdrop, one wonders if the ISIS threat is purported, perceived or a real one. Afghanistan certainly does have a state of instability so far as its security goes. If there is anything that supports this contention, it is the US government’s statements about ending the combat mission in Afghanistan. These statements have really only been on paper – what with their regular missions against the Taliban still in place.

Meanwhile, there seems to be a tendency towards the continuance of US presence, militarily, on Afghan soil, beyond 2017. The combined consequence of US financial support and the security threats to Afghanistan from the non-state actors across the Asian landscape account for this.  A security pact between the US and Afghanistan offers financial aid to the Afghan military forces  – but  that has still not proved to be enough. Neo-colonialisation at work, clearly, the US has not helped the Afghan forces with access to state-of-the-art weapons.

Afghanistan is unlike any other nation-state in the world. It has seen decades of war, and has been the proxy site of many battles – hostility driven and open military exchange. It is a broken nation that needs money and military capability to set things right within its sovereign limits. To this end, there are a lot of gains for the nation to have the US military presence around. The lack of administrative structure, too many warlords to deal with at the grass roots level, the fact that the Taliban still operates, and many terror outfits look at Afghanistan as a target or a means to a target – all account for a need for stability. Currently, though, al Qaeda and any of the other terror outfits are not perceived as that big a threat as the ISIS, which seems to be baffling the world’s governments to no end.  Perhaps, just perhaps, the ISIS and its purported presence in Afghanistan, could be a way to seek out the US and retain its presence on Afghan land.

 

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