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EDITORIAL: While the Taliban government wrestles with financial and diplomatic challenges, the IS-K, local franchise of the Islamic State/Daesh, continues to snap at its heels. In the latest incident on Thursday, a would-be IS-K suicide bomber was shot dead outside Kabul’s main passport office as around 200 Taliban fighters lined up to obtain official travel permit. Luckily for them, the intending bomber was identified and killed at a checkpoint before he could fulfil his mission. Notably, the Taliban authorities had stopped issuing passports since coming to power last August, citing staff issues, faulty equipment and lack of supplies. The more likely reason for the stoppage seems to stop people from leaving the country. Interestingly, however, the day was reserved exclusively for the Taliban fighters both in Kabul and Kandahar to apply for passports. And they came in droves.

Why would they want passports? For travel abroad, of course. Where would they want to go is a matter of guess, though. The doors to Western countries are firmly shut on anyone other than those who can produce evidence of having worked for them as interpreters or in some other capacity. The Taliban passport seekers, hence, may be planning to go to Saudi Arabia, perhaps, for the performance of religious obligations. Nonetheless, considering the economic situation in Afghanistan many of them could also be potential economic migrants looking for opportunities in Gulf states, including Saudi Arabia. But they are intolerant of the existence of any violent extremist elements within their own borders. Some of these fighters may be hoping to pass as ordinary Afghans. In any case, the very fact that so many of the Taliban’s own men plan to go to foreign lands can be seen as a no-confidence vote in their leaderships’ ability to make things work in their own country.

As for the IS-K, true to its reputation for extreme brutality it has claimed credit for some of the worst attacks, mostly targeting the much-persecuted Shia Hazaras in all sorts of places, including schools, buses and mosques. Last October, its suicide bombers killed 150 people during Friday prayers at Shia mosques in Kunduz and Kandahar provinces. They have also been killing and injuring hundreds of other Afghan civilians. IS-K carried out the August 29 suicide bombing at Kabul airport that claimed 170 lives, mostly civilians, and also several Taliban members doing security duty. Last month, in a suicide bombing and gun attack on a military hospital in Kabul 19 people, including a Taliban military commander, lost their lives. The list of this vicious group’s atrocities is very long. Most of its activists are known to the Taliban, since they are either disgruntled former Taliban members or of TTP’s breakaway factions. Apparently, it should not be so difficult to sort them out, but they have their local facilitators providing cover. Conspiracy theorists also suggest the IS-K in Afghanistan has the backing of certain external spoilers who want to undermine the Taliban for their own purposes. Whatever may be the truth, the lesson of recent history that must not be forgotten is that sustenance of jihadist groups invariably ends up in disastrous consequences for those harmed and the harmers.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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