ISIS and al Qaeda seemed destined for oblivion, then, on August 15, 2021, the Taliban returned to Kabul and Afghanistan, 20 years later, became the resort of terrorism again.
The heirs of Isis Abu Bakr al Baghdadi took advantage immediately, with a sensational and tragic blow to the US forces: a few days after the fall of Kabul, on August 26, 2021, a suicide bomber blows himself up at the airport of the capital while thousands press to find a seat on board a plane and flee. The death toll is 13 among American soldiers, the bloodiest in two decades, and 170 Afghan civilians killed.
The I.sis-K Khorasan, the regional branch of the terrorist group, the former Islamic State heavily defeated in Iraq and Syria, where it is reduced to a flicker. The Afghan headquarters would be located in the province of Nangarhar, that inaccessible territory ominously famous in the jihadist narrative for being the scene of the battle of Osama bin Laden, in the Tora Bora quarries. But in the past year, ISIS-K has extended its presence to at least six other provinces, further consolidating its sleeper cell network in Kabul itself, thanks to which it continues to bleed Shia mosques. A UN Security Council report warns that if jihadists – also supported by fighters from Central Asia – were to regain territories to the east, it could be difficult for the Taliban to restore order.
Worse, the Iraqi-led group Shahab al-Muhajir it could become consolidated to the point of representing a global threat. At the moment, the priority of ISIS-K still seems to be to undermine the Taliban credibility, the ability of Kabul to control the territory, to attract new recruits and perhaps extremist Taliban who look with contempt at the Doha agreement with the US.
Al Qaeda also quickly rushed to the court of the conquerors of Kabul, former allies in the 2001 conflict: its late leader, Osama bin Laden’s heir, Ayman al Zawahri was killed on 31 July in the Afghan capital in a precision raid with ‘ninja’ missiles. He had arrived a few months after the reconquest of Kabul and was hiding in the house of a councilor of Sirajuddin Haqqani, the powerful Taliban interior minister. For the 007, since his arrival in Afghanistan, Zawahri would even have had an advisory role with the Taliban.
The Qaidist army is present in half the country and runs undisturbed. Aqis militiamen, 400 fighters from Bangladesh, Pakistan, Burma and India operate from Afghanistan. At this stage, it does not launch attacks in neighboring countries so as not to embarrass the Taliban. And enjoy the resort.