Skip to content

Category: Afghanistan

Why stopping Islamic State’s Afghan operation means tackling the Taliban

Written by Michael Semple. 

The Afghan capital, Kabul, recently saw its deadliest terror attack in some time, as a suicide bomber detonated a device in the middle of a peaceful street protest. Some 80 people were killed and hundreds more wounded.

The so-called Islamic State (IS) promptly claimed responsibility for the bombing, while a spokesman for the Afghan Taliban made it clear that his group had nothing to do with the attack. Both IS and the Taliban use their media organs to disseminate propaganda in support of their separate Afghan campaigns, but for once, both claims appeared plausible, and it seems that IS really is the culprit.

The bombing has again focused attention on the threat IS poses to Afghanistan – and once again raises the question of how the country’s various jihadist groups relate to each other.

The two Talibans and how they operate

Written by Michael Semple.

The attack on students of the Bacha Khan university in Charsadda, northern Pakistan, played out according to what has become a disturbingly familiar pattern in the region.

It was what is described by armed Islamist groups there as a “fidayeen attack”. Fighters of the Pakistani Taliban, TTP, were equipped to blow themselves up, but first shot all those they encountered until they were cornered and shot by security forces.

In the run-up to the attack, TTP recruits had received commando-style training and been designated fidayeen, or fighters who are prepared to give up their lives for God. An experienced TTP commander, referred to as an “ustad”, or professor, directed covert surveillance of the university. The ustad then devised an operational plan, including delivering the men and weapons to Charsadda without detection. It is now standard practice for the TTP commander to direct the operation by phone, staying across the border beyond the reach of Pakistani security forces.

Out of the Hornet’s Nest: Legacies of the War in Afghanistan

By Andrew Mumford

On Sunday 26th October British combat operations in Afghanistan officially ended, as Camp Bastion, the last British military base in the country was handed over to Afghan forces. It was fittingly symbolic that only an American general spoke at the flag-lowering ceremony. No British voice was heard. This 13 year-old war had proven to be one of the most complex and protracted wars in modern British military history. The lack of fanfare at the return of British combat troops is a sign that a convincing ‘mission accomplished’ in Afghanistan cannot be claimed. In many ways, for the British and their American allies, this was always going to be an unwinnable war.

Obama, Europe and Counter-terrorism

By Wyn Rees

Conventional wisdom tells us that a re-elected American President has a two-year window of opportunity in which to carry through his agenda before becoming a ‘lame duck’. Obama approaches that halfway stage and mid-term elections are sounding the end of his incumbency. So how will history judge him on the issue of counter-terrorism, that defined his predecessor? George Bush’s presidency was marred by wrangles with his transatlantic allies over the ‘War on Terror’, by Guantanamo Bay and by issues such as ‘extraordinary rendition’. When Obama came into office he promised to overcome the issues that had poisoned transatlantic cooperation and Europe greeted his administration with relief, hopeful that he would transform the relationship.