Trouble at home for Taliban amid threat of extremism within its ranks – expert

Ex army chief warns jihadists 'inspired' after Taliban takeover

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Dr Afzal Ashraf, teacher of international relations, politics and history at Loughborough University, told “Extremism always takes root and increases during periods of social and political crises.” He believes that, in Afghanistan, under the Taliban, “extremism can arise in this case from two different sources”.

Dr Ashraf said: “One is the strengthening of ISIS-K, and the other is probably more likely: the rise of extremist elements within the Taliban themselves.”

ISIS-K is a branch of Islamic State, with their name referring to Khorasan, which no longer exists.

Khorasan encompassed parts of contemporary Afghanistan and Pakistan, and ISIS-K recruits from both countries.

ISIS-K claimed responsibility for the suicide bombing outside of Kabul airport on August 26, which killed more than 200 Afghans and 13 US soldiers before they completed their evacuation.

It is one of the most extreme militant groups in Afghanistan, and often recruits members of the Afghan Taliban who do not believe the Taliban go far enough in their jihadist goals.

The Taliban is a target of their attacks.

In a recent meeting of the G20 countries, the White House said nations including the US, Italy and Germany had spoken of “the critical need to maintain a laser-focus on our enduring counterterrorism efforts, including against threats from ISIS-K.”

In a joint statement released after the emergency meeting concerning humanitarian aid for Afghanistan, the G20 urged the Taliban to crack down on militancy based in the country.

The Taliban will also have internal fissures to worry about – as Dr Ashraf identified.

It has been reported that discontent is steadily growing within the Taliban ranks, tracing back to an alleged split between those loyal to deputy prime minister, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, and current minister of the interior, Sirajuddin Haqqani.

Baradar was responsible for conducting peace talks with the US, whereas Haqqani is splashed on an FBI most-wanted list.

He spearheads the Haqqani network, which has been responsible for many of the most violent and deadly attacks in Afghanistan over the decades.

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How different factions behave will determine the success of the nascent Taliban regime, as will “the way that the Taliban are able to deliver effective governance”, according to Dr Ashraf.

“The problem they have of course is that they don’t have any significant experience or talent to deliver it,” he said.

Dr Ashraf added: “The most experienced people have left the country, so there has been a brain drain which is going to damage an already fragile, and, if you like, embryonic, government.”

“So I think that is going to be a major determinant.

“If the Taliban fail to govern effectively, it causes a huge amount of internal disruption and problems, and makes their position precarious.”

Also impacting the future of the Taliban regime, according to Dr Ashraf, is “the way this impending humanitarian catastrophe – or crisis, as it has been described by various people – is going to pan out”.

He said: “If it does become a disaster where people are starving, and are dying of cold – because winter in Kabul and in parts of Afghanistan is really very cold – then I think there will be a great deal of trouble.”

This is because, he continued, “the public will clamour for something to be done.”

He added: “And whatever will be done, will probably be too little, too late.

“Once these humanitarian disasters take hold, they can be very, very damaging.”

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