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Kabul attack: why Daesh has become the Taliban’s worst enemy


AFGHANISTAN – Claimed by Daesh, the deadly bombing that struck Kabul airport symbolizes opposition between Islamists, so all eyes were on the terrorist group since the Taliban took power in Afghanistan.

Last night, the United States, Australia and the United Kingdom called on their nationals to move away as quickly as possible from Kabul airport, which could be the target of a large-scale terrorist attack. The information was good, the attack did indeed take place near a gate of the airport compound, causing many victims. Even before it took place, several specialists had questioned the strange silence of the Islamic State since the fall of Kabul: was it reorganizing itself or preparing an action?

Claimed on Thursday evening by Daesh, the attack symbolizes the opposition between the terrorist group and the new masters of Kabul. Deprived of a territorial base in Afghanistan for two years, the IS has stepped up terrorist operations in recent months in the country, but had remained invisible since the capture of Kabul by the rival movement of the Taliban. These two radical Islamist currents have indeed become mortal enemies, and in direct competition in Afghanistan.

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Afghanistan in the hands of the Taliban

The origins of the clash between the Taliban and Daesh

When the Taliban release hundreds of inmates from Pul-e-Charkhi prison, on August 15, at the very moment when they took control of Kabul, they retained one, which they executed on the spot. This is Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq, who was briefly the head of Daesh in Afghanistan, before being imprisoned in 2020. While the takeover of the Taliban seems to be carried out with the concern of avoiding expeditious justice that was once their trademark, this execution detonates: the risk of a rise in ISIS in Afghanistan is not taken lightly by the Taliban.

As soon as ISIS proclaimed a “caliphate” in Iraq and Syria in 2014, former members of the Pakistani branch of the Taliban pledged allegiance to it, soon joined by Afghans disillusioned by the Taliban. The following year, Daesh provided territory to these militants, officially recognizing the creation of its “Khorasan province”, named after an ancient region straddling Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran. This virtual anchoring will soon be materialized by IS militants in the mountainous areas of Nangarhar and Kunar provinces – from which Afghan and American troops will finally dislodge them in 2019.

The theological differences between the two movements, if they are put forward by the protagonists, are not the primary reason for the antagonism. While the Taliban and the Islamic State group belong to different Koranic traditions, it is on the political level that the real confrontation takes place. The Taliban are genuinely rooted in an Afghan national approach to seizing power, while the IS is part of a global jihad. As we have just seen with the fall of Kabul, the Taliban are capable of (relative) pragmatism on the ground with a view to seizing power. For Daesh, it is the theological corpus that takes precedence – even if paradoxically its members are freed from it more often than the Taliban. For the IS, for example, the negotiations carried out by the Taliban with the Americans, before or during the withdrawal, are grounds for excommunication: the Islamic State has published several press releases in recent years, holding the Taliban for apostates.

The role of Al-Qaida

Behind the confrontation between ISIS and the Taliban, there is in fact the continuation of the war waged by Daesh and Al-Qaeda in several parts of the world, a fierce competition for hegemony over Islamic jihad. The geopolitician Gabriel Romanche recalls that“Al Qaeda was born in Afghanistan as a result of the anti-Soviet insurgency in the ranks of volunteers who came to fight alongside the Afghans. The ties between the Taliban and the terrorist group are therefore old and intimate”. The deal has been constantly renewed since, with Al Qaeda leaders regularly pledging allegiance to Taliban leaders. From Daesh’s point of view, and in the eyes of many Islamist militants around the world, the victory of the Taliban would therefore also be that of the Al-Qaeda model.

A very real threat

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Even deprived of territory in Afghanistan, fighters from the Islamic State group have stepped up deadly actions in recent months, carrying out more than two hundred attacks since the start of the year. According to a UN report published last July, they are between 500 and a few thousand in the country. With the collapse of the Afghan state, market shares will have to be taken for Islamist organizations.

As Colin Clarke, director of an American think tank, told AFP, “The collapse of the Afghan army is a strange reminiscence of what we saw in Iraq in 2011. I fear the same situation will happen again in Afghanistan, with the development of ISIS and the resurrection of Al simultaneously. -Qaida “. Afghanistan, according to this analysis, could well become in the months to come the new battleground of the war between Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State globally. And the attack on Thursday at Kabul airport, claimed by Daesh, could be the beginning.

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