Taliban return but war isn’t over. Know the groups vying to take control of Afghanistan

  • The latest suicide bombings outside Kabul airport, claimed by the Islamic State, has compounded the problems for Afghans as well as the international community.
The Taliban regrouped over the past two decades and signed a deal with the US that led to the withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan.(Reuters)
The Taliban regrouped over the past two decades and signed a deal with the US that led to the withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan.(Reuters)
Published on Aug 27, 2021 03:22 PM IST
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By | Written by Kunal Gaurav, New Delhi

The Taliban ousted the Ashraf Ghani-led government in Afghanistan and took over the effective control of the war-torn country after capturing Kabul earlier this month. The return of the insurgents to power after two decades has thrown left Afghanistan with an uncertain future while the latest suicide bombings outside Kabul airport by the Islamic State has compounded the problems for Afghans as well as the international community.

Afghan and US officials had earlier said that at least 60 civilians and 13 US Marines were killed in these attacks. A report by Associated Press suggests that the death toll of Afghans in the suicide bombings is at least 95. The growing threat from the Afghanistan affiliate of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) forced many countries to abruptly end their evacuation operations.

As the deadline for a complete withdrawal of US-led foreign troops approaches, Afghanistan’s political crisis could even worsen given several groups vying for power.

Here are the groups trying to take control of Afghanistan:

The Taliban: The group was founded by Mullah Mohammad Omar in 1994 and originally drew members from the so-called “mujahideen” fighters who fought against the erstwhile Soviet forces in the 1980s. The Taliban ruled Afghanistan from 1996-2001 before US forces invaded the country in what they called the fight against terrorism. The fighters regrouped over the past two decades and signed a deal with the United States that led to the withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghan soil. The insurgents want to reestablish their regime.

The Northern Alliance: The Panjshir Valley was free from Taliban rule during 1996-2001 and continues to stand strong against the Islamist fundamentalists. An alliance of Uzbek and ethnic Tajik forces, led by Ahmad Massoud, has vowed to continue fighting the Taliban. Amrullah Saleh, the first vice president of the ousted Afghan government, has backed the alliance in their fight against the Taliban.

Also Read | Taliban ask Afghan imams to preach about obedience at Friday prayers

ISIS-K: The terrorist organisation is also made of hardline Sunni Islamist militants like the Taliban but the two groups are sworn enemies. ISIS-Khorasan, which pledged allegiance to slain Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in 2015, has been involved in some of the deadliest terror attacks in recent years. The leaders of ISIS-K rejected the deal between the Taliban and the US that has led to the withdrawal of foreign troops. According to a UN report, the strength of ISIS-K could be anywhere between 500 to 10,000.

Al Qaeda: While the Taliban had pledged to prevent al Qaeda and other terrorist organisations from using Afghan soil in a peace deal signed with the United States, a UN report suggests the ties between the insurgents, especially its Haqqani network branch, and al Qaeda remain close. The report said that the ties stemmed from friendship, intermarriage, shared struggle and ideological sympathy.

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