Terrorism risk to increase under Afghanistan’s new Taliban government:

Taliban forces patrol at a runway a day after U.S troops withdrawal from Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan August 31, 2021.

Stringer | Reuters

The Taliban in Afghanistan have named a new interim government led by hardliners as the group pledges to implement a strict Islamic rule over the country of roughly 40 million. The new cabinet of the freshly restored Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan contains no women and no positions for opposition members or ethnic or religious minorities. 

Few in the international community foresaw the speed with which the militant Islamist group would take over Afghanistan, making a series of stunning territorial gains in July and August as the U.S. withdrew its troops to end its 20-year war in the country.

The Taliban’s moves so far show a failure to meet the group’s earlier pledge of an “inclusive” government, even as the moves put Western financial aid at risk and do not bode well for those who wanted to see Afghanistan rid of terrorist activity. Experts warn that the global jihadi movement will feel emboldened by what they see in Afghanistan as a triumph.

“For the foreseeable future, Afghanistan will be led by senior Taliban leaders who include in many cases the worst of the worst,” Michael Kugelman, deputy director of the Asia Program at the Wilson Center, told CNBC on Wednesday. Kugelman pointed specifically to members of the Haqqani network, known as the most brutal faction of the Taliban.

In a controversial appointment, Sirajuddin Haqqani has become Afghanistan’s interior minister, in charge of police and security. Haqqani is the leader of the Haqqani network, which is known to have links to al-Qaeda. He is on the FBI’s most wanted list and is a designated global terrorist. The Taliban’s provision of a safe haven to al-Qaeda in the 1990s is what led the U.S. to invade Afghanistan after the Sept. 11 attacks. 

In the years since the U.S. invasion, Haqqani has deployed violent tactics as a deputy to the Afghan Taliban, including using death squads for executions and releasing videos of mass beheadings. 

A history of mass casualty attacks

The Sunni Islamist Haqqani network was founded in the 1970s, fought the Soviet-backed Afghan regime in the 1980s, and later pioneered the use of suicide bombings in Afghanistan which killed and injured thousands of American, coalition and Afghan soldiers. High-profile attacks include the suicide bombing at Kabul’s Serena Hotel in 2008 and a 20-hour siege of the U.S. embassy compound in Kabul in 2011 that left 16 Afghans dead. 

It’s important to note that while some Taliban representatives say the group will be more conciliatory now than in the past and will abide by certain international norms, the group itself is not a monolith; rather, it’s composed of numerous factions with varying degrees of extremism and propensity to support other terrorist groups. 

And while the Taliban’s main rival is ISIS-K, or the Islamic State Khorasan, there are links between ISIS-K…

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