The groups vying for power in Afghanistan

Afghanistan crisis: Here are the groups vying for power

After the Taliban sweep, thousands of Afghans and foreign nationals have thronged the airport seeking a desperate exit from the country

Afghan resistance movement and anti-Taliban uprising forces patrol along a road at the Rah-e Tang in Panjshir province. Credit: AFP photo

The explosions at Kabul airport, which killed nearly 100 people, including 13 US servicemen, have sparked new worries over the power tussle within groups in Afghanistan, as US and foreign forces exit the two-decade war in the country. 

Thursday's attacks, credited to the Islamic State of Khorasan, came despite intelligence from various groups that an attack was imminent. After the Taliban sweep, thousands of Afghans and foreign nationals have thronged the airport seeking a desperate exit from the country. The chaos in Kabul was largely seen as a vulnerable target to attacks from terror groups. 

Islamic State of Khorasan

Taliban's return, experts say, has increased the threat of terrorists belonging to Al-Qaeda or Islamic State regrouping in Afghanistan. The Islamic State of Khorasan or IS-K was formed by the breakaway members of the Pakistani Taliban in Afghanistan.

The group was acknowledged by the central Islamic State in 2015, a year after they declared a caliphate in Iraq and Syria. IS-K and Taliban, while both Sunni Islamist militants, differ on various grounds, with the former claiming to be the true flag-bearers of jihad. 

This tussle has led to bloody violence in the country. While IS-K has suffered losses due to US military and Taliban operations, the group largely operates in smaller cells and carries out deadly attacks, with targets ranging from mosques to maternity hospitals. The group has failed to hold on to any territories after a heavy crackdown by Taliban fighters in 2019

Anti-Taliban resistance in Panjshir valley 

In the North of Kabul, the rocky, mountainous region of Panjshir has been home to decades of resistance against foreign forces. After the Taliban takeover, local militia and Afghan security forces have congregated in the valley to fight the insurgents. 

The region, deep in the Hindu Kush mountains, is one of the few pockets that the Taliban has failed to capture, however, the Islamist group has said it has fighters surrounding the valley.

Panjshir is also home to Ahmad Shah Massoud, the commander who led the Mujahideen fighters against the Soviet forces in the 1980s. Known as "Lion of Panjshir", Massoud guarded the valley against the Taliban before he was assassinated by Al-Qaeda members two days before the September 11 attacks in 2001.

Now the National Resistance Front or the NRF is led by Ahmad Massoud, the commander's son, who has said that they are open to talks but won't back down to surrender. Afghanistan's former vice president Amrullah Saleh, who has declared himself acting President, is also in the Panjshir Valley and has appeared in photos on social media holding talks with Massoud.

The threat of Al-Qaeda resurgence 

Long-time Taliban allies and the group behind September 11, 2001, attacks, Al-Qaeda are another terror outfit that can potentially revive itself as foreign forces vacate Afghanistan by the end of the month. 

Al-Qaeda disintegrated under US military actions over the past two decades but a UN Security Council report maintains that the senior leadership of the group remains active in Afghanistan. Taliban has claimed there is no Al-Qaeda present in the country. The report further adds that the two Islamist terror groups remain close on factors like "a history of shared struggle."

The US fears that Al-Qaeda may use Afghanistan as a base to launch attacks across the world. The terror group is not nearly as organised and active as it used to be 20 years ago. However, scattered members have been accused of playing a role in terror attacks in different parts of the world.

Watershed moment for Jihadists 

Experts also fear that Taliban takeover can inspire jihadists, now operating from West Asia to pockets in Africa, to organise terror attacks. The killing of Osama Bin Laden, the initial target of the "war on terror", was not enough to curb the jihadist uprising in the world. The Islamic State of Syria and Iraq is now a prominent terror group that is responsible for deadly attacks, killing thousands of people. 

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