Kabul airport attack benefits the Haqqani network

New Delhi: Islamic State-Khorasan might have taken the responsibility for the suicide attacks in Kabul on Thursday that left at least 90 dead, but the Taliban faction partially in control of security in Kabul over the past several days, the Haqqani network, must also be scrutinised, writes Sajjan M. Gohel in the journal Foreign Policy.

In addition to being a guest teacher at the London School of Economics, Gohel is the International Security Director for the London-based Asia-Pacific Foundation.

Ultimately, the attack strategically benefits the Haqqani network as it will likely speed up foreign departures and prevent the prospect of further evacuations, he wrote.

“The murky nature of Islamic State-Khorasan’s relationship with the Haqqani network as well as Pakistani terrorist groups presents a complex arrangement of tacit cooperation between several terrorist organisations,” he said.

“So do its intricate ties to the Pakistani military and intelligence community. That has dire implications for Afghan and global security, especially as Pakistan is so keen for the international community to recognize and legitimise the Taliban,” the article said.

Gohel said it’s often said that there’s a clear split between Islamic State-Khorasan and the Taliban, but the harsh reality of terrorism and politics in Afghanistan is the situation is never black and white.

Sworn enemies can fight each other one day and collaborate for mutual gain the next day. These groups are intertwined and interconnected. Their tribal and marriage ties ensure ideological separations do not cause permanent fault lines.

The Haqqani network also established close ties with Pakistan’s powerful yet notorious Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), which provided it weapons, training and financial support.

The ISI also provided shelter to much of the Taliban leadership that has now returned to Afghanistan, including the Quetta Shura faction. The primary reason the Haqqanis were able to endure for the last 20 years was because they benefited from safe havens within Pakistan that gave their fighters the ability to launch cross-border attacks and fall back when required, Gohel added.

Gohel said there has, in fact, been a tactical and strategic convergence between the Islamic State-Khorasan and the Haqqanis, if not the entirety of the Taliban.

The Haqqani network is a family-clan enterprise and consists of siblings, cousins and other members through marriages.

Gohel said whichever faction was in charge of evacuation security should be asked why the perimeter was not properly controlled and why Taliban checkpoints that had stopped many Afghans from reaching the airport nevertheless failed to stop the attackers.