Barbaric terrorist attack in Kabul exploited poorly run evacuation

REUTERS/Erik De Castro
A flag of Islamic State militants is pictured above a destroyed house near the Clock Square in Raqqa, Syria October 18, 2017. Picture taken October 18, 2017.

The despicable crime exploited the chaos caused by the collapse of the Afghan government. First and foremost, it is essential to strengthen security in the capital Kabul and facilitate the safe evacuation of foreigners and others.

Deadly suicide bombings and shootings around the airport in Kabul have resulted in many casualties, including U.S. soldiers.

Terrorists reportedly blew themselves up after entering an area where people wishing to leave the country were gathered and U.S. soldiers were conducting security checks. There were also shots fired at U.S. soldiers and Afghans.

The Islamic State extremist group has claimed responsibility for the attacks. It has a hostile relationship with the Taliban, the Islamist group that holds power in Afghanistan. Did the Islamic State commit the brutal attacks to counter the Taliban rule and demonstrate its presence in Afghanistan?

Until four years ago, the Islamic State was based in Iraq and Syria, from where it spread its extremist ideology and terrorism around the world. Even after being weakened by mop-up operations of the U.S. military and other forces, affiliated organizations have been expanding their influence in the Middle East and Afghanistan. A resurgence of the Islamic State must not be allowed.

The Taliban failed to prevent the latest attacks. Its pledge not to turn Afghanistan into a hotbed of terrorism has already been broken. It can be said that the international community’s concern that the Taliban rule would cause the spread of extremist groups and the deterioration of public security has become a reality.

There are many problems with the ability and discipline of the Taliban fighters responsible for maintaining security in Afghanistan. It will be impossible to deter terrorism unless the Taliban reinforce security forces by asking for cooperation Afghan government troops and police, against whom the Taliban had been fighting.

In response to the attacks, U.S. President Joe Biden stressed that the United States would fight back against the Islamic State. He also indicated that the United States would continue its campaign to evacuate Americans and Afghan collaborators, but he reportedly will not change the plan to withdraw U.S. troops by the end of this month.

The total number of people awaiting rescue, comprising foreigners and Afghans who cooperated with various governments, is estimated to be in the tens of thousands. How will it be possible to evacuate them safely after U.S. troops have completely withdrawn and the airport has been turned over to the Taliban?

Primarily, the United States is largely to blame for the current turmoil.

Biden downplayed the expansion of the Taliban and extremist activities, and proceeded with a hasty withdrawal of U.S. troops without sufficient consultation with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) allies who were working with U.S. forces in Afghanistan.

The United States has a responsibility to provide military forces and equipment necessary for the safe evacuation of foreign nationals and others from Afghanistan. Biden must openly acknowledge the naivety of the U.S. strategy, and work closely with NATO countries, including Britain, France and Germany, to revise its blueprint.

— The original Japanese article appeared in The Yomiuri Shimbun on Aug. 28, 2021.