Pakistan and Afghanistan continue to have major problems with each other. Despite the unpredictable IEA (Islamic Emirate) government, some countries continue to send some aid. The best example of this is a rare Pakistani agreement with India that enables Indian food aid convoys, each carrying several thousand tons of wheat, to enter Afghanistan at northwest Pakistan’s Khyber Pass. The UN supervises the distribution of the wheat inside Afghanistan. So far, the Indian grain convoys have delivered 40,000 of the 50,000 tons promised. The IEA has been unable to attract much foreign aid because they refuse to allow foreigners to supervise distribution. The food shortage situation has become desperate and the IEA made a rare exception here. Before the IEA took over in 2021, India was a major donor of aid to the previous IRA government. India pledged this food aid in January but Pakistan had banned Indian traffic since 2019 and it took several weeks to negotiate terms (no customs or other charges for security) before regular transit was allowed for the wheat. The UAE also sends medical aid and China sends tents and other disaster relief after a recent earthquake.
Natural disasters like earthquakes and droughts kill more Afghans each year than rebels or Islamic terrorist violence. The largest Islamic terror group in Afghanistan is the TTP (Pakistan Taliban), who fights to establish an Islamic government (like IEA) in Pakistan. The second largest Islamic terror group in Afghanistan is ISK (Islamic State Khorasan), which is also the local ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) affiliate and has been very active in Afghanistan since the IEA took power in late 2021. The IEA told Pakistan it would go after ISK while telling the United States they would not cooperate with the Americans or Russians in suppressing ISK activity in Afghanistan. Now ISK is once more operating in Pakistan. ISK is growing rapidly because many Taliban factions oppose Pakistan’s domination of the IEA and continued discrimination against Pushtuns in general. Opposition to Pakistan is one thing that most Pushtuns can agree on. While ISIL doctrine calls for attacks to concentrate on heretics (mainly Shia Moslems) and infidels (non-Moslems), the growing number of Afghan and Pakistani Pushtuns joining ISK led to more attacks in general with a larger proportion against the IEA and Pakistani military and its ISI intelligence branch. This Pushtun war against Pakistan has been around for over a decade. Most current Islamic terrorist violence in Afghanistan is the work of ISK while the TTP maintains bases in Afghanistan from which they launch attacks inside Pakistan.
India, China, Russia, Iran Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan agree that the terrorism situation in Afghanistan is out of control. All agreed that the terrorism threat from Afghanistan was growing despite IEA insisting they have it under control. There was also agreement that diplomatic recognition and financial aid or investment was on hold until the IEA got serious about the terrorism threat. A senior IEA official recently said that all were welcome in Afghanistan, including known Islamic terror groups. The one exception is ISK (Islamic State Khorasan), the local ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) group that regularly kills non-Moslems or non-Sunni Moslems, especially Shia. This causes major problems with Shia-majority Iran, which considers itself the protector of Shia everywhere. ISK prefers Shia targets and has spread throughout Afghanistan since the IEA took control.
The security officials agreed that the Pakistan-backed Taliban dominate the IEA government and seem unable to control what they have created. That includes the sanctuary the TTP enjoys in Afghanistan. TTP wants to impose an IEA-like government on Pakistan. Tajikistan also noted that a similar Tajik group had received sanctuary in Afghanistan just across the Tajik border.
Technically the TTP has a ceasefire agreement with the Pakistani military, which is seeking to work out a real peace deal with the TTP. These negotiations are stalemated because the TTP is willing to halt their war to establish an Islamic dictatorship in Pakistan only if Pakistan agrees to autonomy for the tribal territories and pays compensation for damage the Pakistani army did after 2014 remove Islamic terrorists from the tribal territories. To maintain its shaky ceasefire with TTP, the army pretends the TTP attacks on soldiers and border guards in Pakistan are the work of other Islamic terrorist groups based in Afghanistan. These include Al Qaeda and ISIL groups.
Lifesaving Heroin and Methamphetamine
Even before the IEA regained power in 2021, Afghanistan had become a major producer of methamphetamines as well as opium and heroin. The IEA officially banned illegal drug production in April. The IEA had vowed to end the drug production but then ran into the reality of the drug production industry. It provided employment for over half a million Afghans and while the economy collapsed in most of the country, creating widespread hunger and privation, the drug producers still had a viable business, especially with methamphetamine. That’s because Afghan drug producers realized, in 2015, that a local plant, ephedra, can be used to cheaply produce meth. Ephedra-based meth production can be carried out in the countryside without the need for expensive specialized equipment or chemicals.
This gives Afghan meth producers an edge in producing large quantities of meth pills, which have become the drug of choice throughout Asia. The IEA efforts to end drug production ran into the economic realities. Without opium and ephedra production over a million farmers and their families would be destitute, armed and angry. Without issuing a press release the IEA left the ephedra and poppy (the plant that produces opium, which is converted into heroin) farmers alone although they still seized quantities of meth pills, opium and heroin.
IEA economic policies, in general, have been a failure and most Afghan are living in poverty, with many suffering from acute, and life threatening, hunger. The IEA blames all their problems on foreigners, particularly the Americans. When the subject of the treatment of women, especially education, IEA spokesmen deny any problems and blame the criticism on enemies of Islam. Meanwhile the IEA continues having problems with internal enemies. Many Afghans have long opposed the Taliban, often violently. For their entire existence (since 1995), the Taliban has been seen as foreign creation (by Pakistan) who acted like outlaws. Tribes and regions that could muster a sufficient number of armed locals could persuade the Taliban to back off and go elsewhere. Those armed and angry local groups still exist. Now that the Taliban is the government, going to war with all the armed locals is not practical, especially because Taliban security forces are quite small. An alternative plan is to conduct house-to-house searches in rural areas where there is enough local support for disarmament to make this possible. There are many areas where the armed locals are no longer eager to fight back against the Taliban but don’t want to disarm unless all of their neighbors do likewise.
August 24, 2022: In the north (Balkh province) a terrorist bombing in Mazar-e-Sharif went wrong when the bomber somehow set off his explosives before reaching his target. The bomber was badly injured and five bystanders suffered superficial injuries.
August 23, 2022: In Kabul a bomb went off in a Mosque during evening prayers, killing 21 and wounding 33. Since the IEA was revived in 2021 there has been a lot more violence like this.
In the south (Kandahar province) another TTP leader died under mysterious circumstances, with the Afghan Taliban attributing the deaths to a roadside bomb while eye witnesses say it was a guided missile, which Pakistan UAVs use. All four TTP commanders dying this way since late July (when the TTP peace talks with Pakistan resumed) had opposed the Pakistani terms, which greatly weakened the TTP. The pro-Pakistan Haqqani faction in the IEA government is accused of assisting in killing the anti-peace deal TTP leaders. The TTP leadership has not yet responded to this interpretation of the recent TTP commanders’ deaths.
August 17, 2022: In Kabul, a suicide bomber attacked evening prayers in a local Mosque, killing ten people, including a prominent cleric. Thirty others were wounded.
In the west (Herat province) IEA border guards killed Mehdi Mujahid, the only Shia commander in the Taliban. Mujahid criticized the IEA lack of effort to deal with anti-Shia violence. Mujahid was apparently heading for Iran, from which he could continue organizing resistance to anti-Shia violence in Afghanistan.
August 15, 2022: The IEA is welcoming the reopening of the Indian embassy, even though it is not being used as an embassy but a lesser diplomatic post staffed by consular staff. India now joins Pakistan, Iran, China and Russia in maintaining low-level diplomatic ties with the IEA.
India was an active trading partner with the previous IRA (Islamic Republic of Afghanistan) government but continues to offer aid and maintain good relations with whoever is running Afghanistan.
August 13, 2022: In northwest Pakistan (the Pushtun tribal territories) hundreds of TTP (Pakistan Taliban) gunmen returned from their bases in Afghanistan. This was not supposed to happen until the ceasefire negotiations between the TTP and the Pakistan military were completed. Those negotiations involve the IEA (Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan) government only because the Pakistani military controls one faction of the IEA government. Many other IEA factions don’t agree with such negotiations and just want to turn Pakistan into the IEP (Islamic Emirate of Pakistan). That effort complicated by the fact that the TTP represents a large minority of the 6,000 or so anti-Pakistan-government Islamic terrorists in Pakistan or neighboring countries like Afghanistan. Despite the peace talks the Pakistanis are still at war with the TTP. Several anti-Pakistan military TTP leaders have died from mysterious explosions that no one takes credit for.
August 10, 2022: In the northeast (Panjshir province) IEA forces have been fighting with resistance groups for over seven months and not making a lot of progress in eliminating armed NRF (National Resistance Front) members and their unarmed local supporters. Today NRF forces attacked an IEA military base in Panjshir Valley, killing 25 IEA security personnel and shooting down an IEA helicopter sent to help defend the IEA base
The NRF is a direct descendent of the 1990s Northern Alliance which dominated the Panjshir Valley (a 90-minute drive from Kabul) right up to the defeat of the Taliban government. Northern Front leaders became members of the IRA government and now their sons have reassembled as the NRF (National Resistance Front) and once more control much of the Panjshir Valley and has resisted IEA forces sent to gain control over the valley. The NRA uses mines, roadside bombs and ambushes to attack IEA forces as well has their supply convoys. The NRA men (and women) know the valley, most IRA troops don’t. IEA soldiers and police who have spent some time in the valley learn to be wary just to survive. That means exercising caution when attempting to arrest locals suspected of supporting the NRA.
August 7, 2022: In the east (Paktika province) Abdul Wali, a senior TTP leader and three of his associates were killed when their car exploded on a rural road as it was about to cross into Afghanistan. Wali has a $3 million American bounty on him but he's also wanted dead by Pakistan. TTP is the Pakistani Taliban that seeks to turn Pakistan into a religious dictatorship. The death of Wali complicates current peace talks between TTP and Pakistan.
August 1, 2022: In neighboring Afghanistan, an armed American UAV killed al Qaeda supreme leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, who was operating openly in Kabul. In 2011, when al Qaeda leader and founder Osama bin Laden was killed in his Pakistani hideout by American commandos, Zawahiri took over and continued operating from temporary hideouts on both sides of the Pakistan-Afghan border. His mentor, bin Laden, had obtained sanctuary in a residential compound in a Pakistani military city. After the death of bin Laden the Pakistani military insisted they had no knowledge of where bin Laden and his family were hiding out. No one believed them and the same degree of sanctuary was not offered to Zawahiri. That led Zawahiri to depend on a decade’s old relationship with Iran, which provides some sanctuary for prominent al Qaeda members, but under restrictive terms dictated by Iran. This arrangement gives Iran some leverage in getting al Qaeda to ease up on attacks on Shia Moslems. When the Taliban regained control of Afghanistan in late 2021, Zawahiri felt it was safe for him to move to Kabul and live there with his family. He misjudged the situation. Meanwhile his second-in-command and successor was apparently safe in Iran. This new head of al Qaeda will have to leave Iran and reveal his identity to assume control of al Qaeda.
The IEA accused Pakistan of allowing the Americans to cross Pakistani territory to reach Afghanistan. Pakistan responded that the IEA has no proof. The IEA also says they have not found Zawahiri’s body but have not claimed that Zawahiri was not there when the missiles hit. Local witnesses noted that the missiles did little damage to the balcony or the room behind the balcony. No one has claimed that Zawahiri was not dead. The U.S. may have used the R9X version of the Hellfire missile. This one contains no explosives but instead depends on rapidly deploying and fast-moving metal blades to penetrate a vehicle and chop up the passengers. If R9X were used on Zawahiri he might have been chopped to pieces without doing any obvious damage to the building he was in.
July 31, 2022: In the east, on the Afghan border, there was another clash between Afghan and Iranian border guards. One Afghan was killed. The incident began when armed Afghans raised an Afghan flag across the border in Iran. The new Taliban government disagrees with Iran on where the border should be. Iran is also angry at the Taliban resuming their attacks on Afghan Shia, something the Taliban said they would not do.
July 26, 2022: In the east (Khost province) Islamic terrorists based near the border crossed into Pakistan and clashed with Pakistani troops. Two soldiers and seven terrorists were killed. The Islamic terrorists were probably TTP but the Pakistan military preferred to just describe the enemy as Islamic terrorists. Incidents like this are often caused by TTP Islamic terrorists based in Afghanistan. That is less likely now because the government and TTP agreed to a ceasefire. That leaves the growing number of al Qaeda and ISIL affiliated groups that have found sanctuary in Afghanistan and frequently carry out attacks in Pakistan and are doing it more often as relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan continue to deteriorate.