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EDITORIAL: Seemingly, the Islamic State in Afghanistan is all set to disrupt the Taliban interim government’s relationships with the states that haven’t recognised it but do business with it as usual.

In September it killed two members of the Russian embassy in Kabul; last month it carried out an assassination attempt on Pakistan embassy’s charge d’affaires and on Monday the Islamic State’s militants attacked the hotel in Kabul, which is popular with Chinese business people.

The Chinese knew that attack is coming and their top diplomat had informed the Afghan authorities, who had taken due safety measures. Therefore, in the attack that was quite furious three attackers were killed and one of the attackers was captured alive.

Among the 21 injured were two Chinese who jumped from the balcony to escape the blasts. But even then it is becoming increasingly evident that the Afghanistan-based Islamic State elements are planting a larger footprint in the country.

As against the Taliban rulers’ claim that they have improved security in the country since their takeover there have been scores of bomb blasts and attacks mainly claimed by the local chapter of the Islamic State.

Equally unbridled and possibly passed over is the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), which is safely ensconced in the border regions of Afghanistan and loses no opportunity to carry out terrorist attacks in Pakistan.

There is also a talk about the friction between the Taliban government and hardliners among them, who have successfully frozen the regime in its past, and thereby incapacitated it from delivering on its commitments made at Doha and in return earned the international community’s denial to accord diplomatic recognition.

Even when Chine does not recognize the Taliban interim government, it maintains with it extensive cooperative diplomatic and economic relationship. In pursuance of what is called ‘high-risk but potentially lucrative business deals’ the Chinese are there in Afghanistan in a large number.

The two countries having reached understanding that China will turn one of the world’s largest Mes Aynak Mines copper project into actuality the relationship between their governments remains warm and active.

Another reason that tends to strengthen China’s working relationship with Afghanistan is their common border. Chinese have long feared that an instable Afghanistan could become a staging point for minority Uyghur separatists in Xinjiang.

The Taliban have promised that Afghanistan would not be used as a base for militants. Should the Islamic State’s regional sections succeed in destabilizing Afghanistan and turn it into their base the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) too comes under threat of disruption, and therefore the attack on the Kabul hotel on Monday issues a warning to Pakistan.

But far more of strategic concern the attack on the Kabul hotel should be of the Taliban regime. Even when its neighboring countries don’t want it to sink under the weight of terrorist entities their potential to be a helpful neighborhood is constricted by the sanctions imposed on it by the United Nations and vigorously applied by the international community.

The Taliban regime’s only implementable option to break through the diplomatic isolation is to abide by its Doha commitments, which mean granting women their legitimate rights. Perhaps, as we hinted in this space before, the Taliban rulers may be tempted into doing that by de-freezing their country’s assets in foreign banks.

In sum, the Taliban regime is hardly a creature to be loved and embraced, but the alternative to it is simply hellish. Should it fail and fall the next rulers in Kabul won’t be Hamid Karzai or Ashraf Ghani; they would be the representatives of IS-Khurasan.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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