Impact of the attacks in Sri Lanka on the US peace negotiations with Taliban — Daily Times

Sri Lanka recently witnessed a wave of terrorist attacks claimed by the IS which targeted hotels and the minority Christian community resulting in the loss of more than 360 lives. Among them were 39 foreigners belonging to UK, USA, Australia, Europe and some six other Asian countries. IS has lost almost all of its territory and power in its traditional stronghold in Syria but these attacks appear to be a comeback for the group which show links to its Khorasan province (ISKP). The ISKP is based in Afghanistan but is made up of Indian, Bangladeshi, Kashmiri, other South Asian and Central Asian members. According to reports, an Indian national member of ISKP interrogated by the Indian intelligence agencies had disclosed that he had recruited and trained Zahran Hasham.Hasham was a leading figure of ahttps://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2019/04/terrorists-in-sri-lanka-swore-allegiance-to-baghdadi.phpSri Lankan radical Islamist group who was himself one of the suicide bomber and the ringleader of the group carried out these attacks. It was for the first time that the IS took some time in claiming responsibility for the attacks, which led many to assume that the franchise of Al Qaeda in South Asia (AQIS) was behind the attacks. This paper is aimed to analyze the impacts of the role of ISKP in the Sri Lankan attacks on the peace deal between Afghan Taliban and US.

The strategy of Al Qaeda for hiding its presence in Afghanistan has also facilitated the peace negotiations between US and Afghan Taliban by making Taliban as the only major Jihadist power of the Afghan conflict

Any such global Jihadist terrorist attack from Afghanistan especially targeting US and Western interests or their citizenship can have both negative and positive implications on the ongoing peace process between Afghan Taliban and US government. IS like in other parts of the world, is involved in a multi-front war in Afghanistan against the Afghan state, foreign troops and all other Jihadist groups. Afghan Taliban is its prime enemy who strongly opposes ISKP seeing it as a threat to its monopoly on Jihadist violence in the country. Both groups are involved in a brutal war from the last four years. But Taliban claims that they will eradicate IS from Afghanistan within weeks in case of their peace deal with the US. Thus, if the role of ISKP is established in the Sri Lankan attacks or any other similar global terrorist attack, it can further bring near US government to a peace deal with Afghan Taliban. On the other hand, AQIS was established in the mid of 2014 as a part of the decentralization strategy of post-Bin Laden Al Qaeda due to badly devastated by the loss of its central leadership and old cadres in the US drone strikes in Af-Pak region. Its establishment was also seen important for the survival of Al Qaeda in the region from the challenges faced to the group from IS which is trying to establish its monopoly on the global Jihadist network in the world. Unlike ISKP, AQIS is having very deep cordial relations with Afghan Taliban which have sheltered them inside Afghanistan. Al Qaeda is deeply dependant on Afghan Taliban not only for shelter but also for support in the region against the challenges faced to the group from IS. For example, Ayman Zawahiri highly praised Afghan Taliban for their help in taking out Al Qaeda members in 2014 from Waziristan and sheltering them inside Afghanistan by providing them a safe exist for escaping from the Pakistan army military operation. Since shifting back to Afghanistan, evidences show that Al Qaeda has considerable military presence in the country but they are trying to conceal their identity. They are taking part under the command of Afghan Taliban in fighting against the Afghan government and the US forces in order to avoid the US military attention which is busy in eradicating the global Jihadists remnants from Afghanistan. For example, the Shorabak base of Al Qaeda in Kandahar was the largest military compound of Al Qaeda in Afghanistan after 9/11 which was discovered and destroyed by the US forces in 2017 resulted in the killing of dozens of members of Al Qaeda. The policy of Al Qaeda to hide its presence in Afghanistan can also be judged from the fact that its media arm (As-Sahab) is not releasing any videos about their militant attacks in Afghanistan as they used to do onward 2001 till 2014.

The strategy of Al Qaeda for hiding its presence in Afghanistan has also facilitated the peace negotiations between US and Afghan Taliban by making Taliban as the only major Jihadist power of the Afghan conflict. In addition to this, the main condition of the US for a peace accord with Afghan Taliban is demanding them to cut all ties with Al Qaeda and to provide a surety to not let the soil of Afghanistan to be used against the outside world. The so far progress in these negotiations show that Afghan Taliban accepts both of these demands. It was also confirmed by the central leadership of Afghan Taliban in the recent step of the peace process hosted by the Qatari Al-Baraka Peace Institute in Doha last month where Afghan nationals from different parts of the world were invited. I was told by one of the Afghan participant from Europe that it was evident from their discussion with the Afghan Taliban leadership that they not only agree to these points but also do not have any objection on the civilian presence of US officials in Afghanistan after the peace deal. All these conditions of the US-Taliban peace deal are direct threat to the existence of the Al Qaeda in Afghanistan but they have kept silence on the Taliban-US peace negotiations. Zawahiri and Hamza Bin Laden regularly issues detail messages about the global Jihadist problem but they do not mention anything about this apparent challenge to Al Qaeda. The above discussion makes it to conclude that it makes very low possibility from Al Qaeda from Afghanistan to launch any terrorist attack like the current Sri Lankan attacks. This will spoil the ongoing peace process for which Al Qaeda seems aligned with Afghan Taliban. On the other hand, after defeated in Syria, IS warned to launch attacks from its branches in other parts of the world. As Afghanistan is one of the strongest branch of IS after defeat in Syria, so the group can use it for launching more global terror attacks.

The writer is M.Sc. Global studies, Lund University, Sweden

Originally published at https://dailytimes.com.pk on May 11, 2019.

Researcher: Af-Pak and South Asia´s Security and Politics; (Sunni Jihad: AQ, AQIS, ISKP, Taliban/Jihadi groups) (MSc: Pol.Sci) (BSc: Peace & Development; IR)