How the Taliban’s victory in Afghanistan raises the terrorism threat across South Asia

Afghan women walk through the old market as a Taliban fighter stands guard, in downtown Kabul, Afghanistan, Tuesday, May 3, 2022. Afghanistan’s Taliban rulers on Saturday, May 7, ordered all Afghan women to wear head-to-toe clothing in public, a sharp hard-line pivot that confirmed the worst fears of rights activists and was bound to further complicate Taliban dealings with an already distrustful international community.(AP Photo/Ebrahim Noroozi)

The Taliban have swept through most of the country, capturing more than a quarter of Afghanistan’s capitals in less than a week as US forces rush to leave the country. Fighters have taken over the presidential palace and President Ashraf Ghani fled abroad, leaving the government in collapse. The re-emergence of the Taliban may again create a grave security threat to Afghanistan, which would likely affect the neighboring countries and many parts of South Asia.

In April, US President Joe Biden declared that all U.S. and Nato forces would be pulled out from Afghanistan by the twentieth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. The unilateral and foolish American decision to quit the country gave Taliban leaders a chance of retaking full control of Afghanistan, almost 20 years after being ousted by a US force Now, the US officials are shocked and desperate by the speed of Taliban fighters. Their speed has surprised a lot of people. It took just a week for the Taliban to capture the country as Afghan forces trained by the United States and other nations at a cost of billions just melted away. 

If the Taliban advances militarily, the war cannot be contained within the borders of Afghanistan. Several reports show that the Taliban are sheltering several affiliates and commanders of al-Qaida, so there is a threat of a potential swell in terrorist activity far beyond the country. 

The return of the Taliban to Afghanistan is a headache for South Asian regions. There is a threat of surging radicalization and space for pan-Islamic terror groups in South Asia. This was seen in the region after the withdrawal of foreign troops in Afghanistan when the U.S.-backed mujahideen defeated the Soviet Army in the 1980s and pullout from West Asia, after 2011 and the surge of al-Qaeda and IS in Iraq.

The Taliban has a close connection with many terror groups who operate across the region from Russia to India. The group has the strong support of al-Qaeda, Tehrik-i-Taliban, Hezb-e-Islami Gulbuddin, ISIS, Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, and Laskar-e- Toiba in the establishment of an Islamic state. Many terrorist groups have a strong presence in South Asia. So, the rise of the Taliban in Afghanistan can pose a security threat in the region. 

Pakistan is now worried about a resurgence of the TTP, a group that has been blamed for 70,000 deaths of civilians in the country since the U.S. attacked Afghanistan in 2001. Pakistan shares boundary with Afghanistan, and the surge of the Taliban groups can raise fear and insecurity among non-Pashtun ethnic communities who lives in the border areas. It can lead to inter-tribal militia conflicts on the Pakistani side. People living in the Baluchistan area, are worried that they might again be deprived of their agricultural fields and they may be forced to leave the country. 

Afghanistan also shares some border with China through Xinjiang province. There are many reports that Taliban leaders are sympathetic to Uighur Muslim groups that are opposed to the Chinese communist regime. China fears that the surge of Taliban leaders in Afghanistan can help the East Turkistan Islamic Movement. India is also worried about its nationals and diplomats living in the country. It is also worried that the rise of Taliban leaders can aggravate the terrorist attacks in the country. India has been supporting Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani’s government for a long and has also been supporting Afghanistan’s reconstruction. So, the rise of the Taliban will affect India and challenge its security.

Other small South Asian nations are also likely to be affected by the re-emergence of the Taliban. Bangladesh is already facing the re-emergence of fundamentalist Islamic nationalism, which began in the early 2010s with the Awami League. Terrorist organizations like al-Qaida and ISIS have emboldened their relations with local organizations of Bangladesh like such as Jund al-Tawheed Khalifa, AQIS, Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami (HuJI-B), and Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB). So, now the surge of Taliban can help these organizations and can create chaos and terror in the country.

 In the Maldives, the Taliban’s rise will help to promote radicalization and help some terrorist groups in the country to continue their war. Nepal has been tackling terrorism for a long. Nepal’s soil can be used to promote terrorism. In 1999, an Indian Airlines aircraft was hijacked by terrorists from Nepal. When it landed in Afghanistan, the Taliban authorities offered to mediate between India and the hijackers. In 2016, 14 Nepali security guards were killed when a Taliban attacked the minibus they were traveling in Kabul. So, the Taliban’s rise is a headache for Nepal also.

Hundreds of thousands of people are displaced in Afghanistan. So, these people could surge into South Asian nations as a refugee. There is a high chance that the refugee emergencies can destabilize South Asia and beyond. Taliban’s rise to power means the imposition of the Taliban’s brutal form of justice and overturning of the democratic system. 

The international community must come together urgently to avert this disaster. All nations should support United Nations which is demanding an immediate ceasefire. Afghanistan must be pulled out of this disaster and terrorism and it is possible if all nations come together on board.

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