Islamic State terrorist group could take advantage of Afghanistan’s fall

Islamic State terrorist group could take advantage of Afghanistan’s fall

A former head of MI5 has said the fall of most of Afghanistan to the Taliban opens up “operating space” for terrorist groups such as Islamic State that will draw a psychological boost from the failure of western power.

Jonathan Evans said the ability to intervene militarily in Afghanistan again – though with special forces rather than in a “full sense” – had to be preserved and the UK government should also look to speak to the Taliban where opportunities arose.

The jury was still out on whether the Taliban had changed, he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

“There have been reports already of Islamic State elements present in Afghanistan and if they get the opportunity to put down infrastructure and train then that will pose a threat to the west more widely,” he said.

“There’s also the psychological effect of the inspiration that some people will draw from the failure of western power in Afghanistan and that may well create a certain amount of of energy in the wider networks that are still in existence in Britain and across the west.

“So in practical terms, an increase in ungoverned space, but also in psychological terms this does mean an increase in threat over coming months and years.”

Lord Evans’s comments came after a senior US government official said it was “laser-focused” on the potential for a terrorist attack in Afghanistan by a group such as Islamic State Khorasan, also known as Isis-K, as US and UK forces continue to oversee an evacuation at Kabul airport.

The White House national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, told NBC on Thursday night: “One of the contingencies we are very focused on, laser-focused on, is the potential for a terrorist attack by a group like Isis-K, which of course is a sworn enemy of the Taliban, so we will keep working to minimise the risks and maximise the number of people on planes.”

Isis-K remains active three years after its inception, according to the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), a Washington DC thinktank, which said the group received support from Isis in Iraq and Syria.

CSIS said the group was responsible for nearly 100 attacks against civilians in Afghanistan and Pakistan, as well as roughly 250 clashes with US, Afghan and Pakistani security forces since January 2017.

Looking back at the fall of the Taliban in 2001, Evans said a “noble ambition” to reshape the politics of the region was overambitious in retrospect.

“It would have been a great thing to achieve but we raised expectations that we were unable to follow through on and the overall effect of that I think has been significant failure and setback for us, but obviously we now need to make the best of it and see what we can salvage in terms of our security,” he said.

The UK government should be looking to engage with the Taliban if opportunities arose, he said, though he added the ability to maintain and deploy “hard force” if necessary had to be retained in the region.

“It’s not an ideal situation and we are not where we want to be, so we will need to use all the options that are available to us.”

Source: The Guardian