Kabul blasts signal Afghanistan's descent into chaos

Kabul blasts signal Afghanistan's descent into chaos

Taliban took control easily, but can it govern?

Wounded Afghan men receive treatment at a hospital after explosions outside airport in Kabul. Credit: Reuters photo

The deadly suicide bombings that rocked Kabul on Thursday evening, killing over a hundred people, marks the start of another ferocious phase in the decades-long violent conflict in Afghanistan. The Islamic State Khorasan (ISK), the IS’ affiliate in Afghanistan, has claimed responsibility for Thursday’s suicide attacks. The attacks seem aimed at causing maximum bloodshed; it was at the perimeter of Kabul’s Hamid Karzai International Airport where thousands of ordinary Afghans anxious to escape Taliban rule were waiting for flights out of the country. The attacks were also aimed at the US; hundreds of its troops were at the airport. It does seem that the ISK attacks were also aimed at worsening already fraying relations between the US and the Taliban. The attack was not the result of the failure of intelligence agencies. Western agencies were warning of an imminent ISK attack at the airport. The attack happened because of the Taliban’s failure to prevent it. It is the Taliban that is in control of security in Kabul, especially along roads leading to the airport and around it. That its fighters could not prevent the ISK suicide bombers from moving towards the airport lays bare major holes in its capacities.

The Taliban took control over territory at lightning speed in recent weeks and managed to capture Kabul without a fight. It will find that fighting a war was the easy part. Now comes the more difficult task of governing, where the Taliban is clueless. Its first stint in power in the late 1990s was more about controlling the Afghan people than anything else. In the coming weeks and months, the world will be watching whether it has the capacity to provide governance, usher in security for the people, kickstart the economy. Security and stability will not come if the Taliban regime allows its fighters to shoot anyone at will. How it deals with the ISK, its main rival in the terrorism business in Afghanistan, and other terror groups like the Jaish-e-Mohammed, the Lashkar-e-Taiba and the al-Qaeda will be important in countries extending the new regime recognition.

Although the Ashraf Ghani government and the Afghan security forces collapsed in the face of the Taliban advance, the latter’s grip over power remains tenuous. Anti-Taliban forces, including Amrullah Saleh, who was vice president of the country under the Ghani regime, Ahmad Massoud and Afghan soldiers have regrouped in the Panjshir Valley. Should the Taliban fail to form an inclusive government, it could face armed uprisings. Foreign governments, too, will be more reluctant to extend it recognition. The blasts at Kabul airport draw attention to the continuing chaos and insecurity that ordinary Afghans face. They also underscore the challenges before the Taliban regime.

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