Afghanistan: Between Pipelines and ISIS-K, the Americans Are Still in Play

US trained and armed Afghan security forces are joining ISIS-K, which makes the US ‘withdrawal’ from Afghanistan look more like an American ‘repositioning’ to keep chaos humming

By Pepe Escobar

Afghanistan: between pipelines and ISIS-K, the Americans are still in play

Global Research,

November 11, 2021

The Cradle 10 November 2021

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Something quite extraordinary happened in early November in Kabul.

Taliban interim-Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi and Turkmen Foreign Minister Rashid Meredov got together to discuss a range of political and economic issues. Most importantly, they resurrected the legendary soap opera which in the early 2000s I dubbed Pipelineistan: the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) gas pipeline.

Call it yet another remarkable, historical twist in the post-jihad Afghan saga, going back as far as the mid-1990s when the Taliban first took power in Kabul.

In 1997, the Taliban even visited Houston to discuss the pipeline, then known as TAP, as reported in Part 1 of my e-book Forever Wars.

During the second Clinton administration, a consortium led by Unocal – now part of Chevron – was about to embark on what would have been an extremely costly proposition (nearly $8 billion) to undercut Russia in the intersection of Central and South Asia; as well as to smash the competition: the Iran-Pakistan-India (IPI) pipeline.

The Taliban were duly courted – in Houston and in Kabul. A key go-between was the ubiquitous Zalmay Khalilzad, aka ‘Bush’s Afghan,’ in one of his earlier incarnations as Unocal lobbyist-cum-Taliban interlocutor. But then, low oil prices and non-stop haggling over transit fees stalled the project. That was the situation in the run-up to 9/11.

In early 2002, shortly after the Taliban were expelled from power by the American “bombing to democracy” ethos, an agreement to build what was then still billed as TAP (without India), was signed by Ashgabat, Kabul and Islamabad.

The Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) gas pipeline route

As years went by, it was clear that TAPI, which runs for roughly 800 km across Afghan lands and could yield as much as $400 million annually in transit revenue for Kabul’s coffers, would never be built while hostage to a guerrilla environment.

Still, five years ago, Kabul decided to revive TAPI and work started in 2018 – under massive security in Herat, Farah, Nimruz and Helmand provinces, already largely under Taliban control.

At the time, the Taliban said they would not attack TAPI and would even provide their own security. The gas pipeline was to be paired with fiber optic cables – as with the Karakoram Highway in Pakistan – and a railway line from Turkmenistan to Afghanistan.

History never stops playing tricks in the graveyard of empires. Believe it or not, we’re now back to the same situation on the ground as in 1996.

The spanner in the works

If we pay attention to the plot twists in this never-ending Pipelineistan saga, there’s no guarantee whatsoever that TAPI will finally be built. It’s certainly a quadruple win for all involved – including India – and a massive step towards Eurasia’s integration in its Central-South Asian node.Afghanistan Takes Center Stage in the New Great Game

Enter the spanner in the works: ISIS-Khorasan (ISIS-K), the subsidiary of Daesh in Afghanistan.

Russian intel has known for over a year that the usual suspects have been providing help to ISIS-K, at least indirectly.

Yet now there’s a new element, confirmed by Taliban sources, that quite a few US-trained soldiers of the previous Afghan National Army are incorporating themselves into ISIS-K to fight against the Taliban.

ISIS-K, which sports a global jihadi mindset, has typically viewed the Taliban as a group of dirty nationalists. Earlier jihadi members used to be recruited from the Pakistani Taliban and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU). Yet now, apart from former soldiers, they are mostly young, disaffected urban Afghans, westernized by trashy pop culture.

It’s been hard for ISIS-K to establish the narrative that the Taliban are western collaborators – considering that the NATO galaxy continues to antagonize and/or dismiss the new rulers of Kabul.

So the new ISIS-K spin is monomaniac: basically, a strategy of chaos to discredit the Taliban, with an emphasis on the latter being unable to provide security for average Afghans. That is what underlies the recent horrific attacks on Shia mosques and government infrastructure, including hospitals.

In parallel, US President Joe Biden’s “over the horizon” spin, meant to define the alleged American strategy to fight ISIS-K, has not convinced anyone, apart from NATO vassals.

Since its creation in 2015, ISIS-K continues to be financed by the same dodgy sources that fueled chaos in Syria and Iraq. The moniker itself is an attempt to misdirect, a divisive ploy straight out of the CIA’s playbook.

Historic ‘Khorasan’ comes from successive Persian empires, a vast area ranging from Persia and the Caspian all the way to northwest Afghanistan – and has nothing whatsoever to do with Salafi-jihadism and the Wahhabi lunatics who make up the terrorist group’s ranks. Furthermore, these ISIS-K jihadis are based in south-eastern Afghanistan, away from Iran’s borders, so the ‘Khorasan’ label makes zero sense.

Russian, Chinese and Iranian intel operate on the basis that the US ‘withdrawal’ from Afghanistan, as in Syria and Iraq, was not a withdrawal but a repositioning. What’s left is the trademark, undiluted American strategy of chaos executed via both direct (troops stealing Syrian oil) and indirect (ISIS-K) actors.

The scenario is self-evident when one considers that Afghanistan was the precious missing link of China’s New Silk Roads. After the US exit, Afghanistan is not only primed to fully engage with Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), but also to become a key node of Eurasia integration as a future full member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) and the Eurasia Economic Union (EAEU).

To hedge against these positive developments, the routine practices of the Pentagon and its NATO subsidiary remain in wait in Afghanistan, ready to disrupt political, diplomatic, economic and security progress in the country. We may be now entering a new chapter in the US Hegemony playbook: Closet Forever Wars.

The closely connected SCO

Fifth columnists are tasked with carrying the new imperial message to the West. That’s the case of Rahmatullah Nabil, former head of Afghanistan’s National Directorate of Security (NDS), “the Afghan intelligence service with close ties to the CIA,” as described by Foreign Policy magazine..

In an interview presented with a series of trademark imperial lies – “law and order is disintegrating,” “Afghanistan has no friends in the international community,” “the Taliban have no diplomatic partners” – Nabil, at least, does not make a complete fool of himself.

He confirms that ISIS-K keeps recruiting, and adds that former Afghan defense/security ops are joining ISIS-K because “they see the Islamic State as a better platform for themselves.”

He’s also correct that the Taliban leadership in Kabul is “afraid the extreme and young generation of their fighters” may join ISIS-K, “which has a regional agenda.”

Russia “playing a double game” is just silly. In presidential envoy Zamir Kabulov, Moscow maintains a first-class interlocutor in constant touch with the Taliban, and would never allow the “resistance,” as in CIA assets, to be based in Tajikistan with an Afghan destabilization agenda.

On Pakistan, it’s correct that Islamabad is “trying to convince the Taliban to include pro-Pakistan technocrats in their system.” But that’s not “in return for lobbying for international recognition.” It’s a matter of responding to the Taliban’s own management needs.

The SCO is very closely connected on what they collectively expect from the Taliban. That includes an inclusive government and no influx of refugees. Uzbekistan, for instance, as the main gateway to Central Asia for Afghanistan, has committed to participating in the reconstruction business.

For its part, Tajikistan announced that China will build a $10 million military base in the geologically spectacular Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Region. Countering western hysteria, Dushanbe made sure that the base will essentially host a special rapid reaction unit of the Regional Department for Organized Crime Control, subordinated to Tajikistan’s Minister of Internal Affairs.

That will include around 500 servicemen, several light armored vehicles, and drones. The base is part of a deal between Tajikistan’s Interior Ministry and China’s Ministry of State Security.

The base is a necessary compromise. Tajik President Emomali Rahmon has a serious problem with the Taliban: he refuses to recognize them, and insists on better Tajik representation in a new government in Kabul.

Beijing, for its part, never deviates from its number one priority: preventing Uighurs from the East Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM) by all means from crossing Tajik borders to wreak havoc in Xinjiang.

So all the major SCO players are acting in tandem towards a stable Afghanistan. As for US Think Tankland, predictably, they don’t have much of a strategy, apart from praying for chaos.

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Pepe Escobar, born in Brazil, is a correspondent and editor-at-large at Asia Times and columnist for Consortium News and Strategic Culture in Moscow. Since the mid-1980s he’s lived and worked as a foreign correspondent in London, Paris, Milan, Los Angeles, Singapore, Bangkok. He has extensively covered Pakistan, Afghanistan and Central Asia to China, Iran, Iraq and the wider Middle East. Pepe is the author of Globalistan – How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War; Red Zone Blues: A Snapshot of Baghdad during the Surge. He was contributing editor to The Empire and The Crescent and Tutto in Vendita in Italy. His last two books are Empire of Chaos and 2030. Pepe is also associated with the Paris-based European Academy of Geopolitics. When not on the road he lives between Paris and Bangkok.

He is a frequent contributor to Global Research.

Featured image: American-trained Afghan forces are defecting to join ISIS-K, in what increasingly looks like a US plan to subvert the war-torn country’s recovery. (Source: The Cradle)The original source of this article is The CradleCopyright © Pepe EscobarThe Cradle, 2021

Wall Street Journal: Former Afghan Officials Join ISIS After Being Abandoned by the US

2 Nov, 2021

Source: The Wall Street Journa

See the source image

Al Mayadeen

Wall Street Journal details how some former members of Afghan intelligence services and special military units have joined the ranks of ISIS.

The journal details that the number of members remains minimal; however, they are rising.

The publication highlights that the danger in the joining members is that their expertise encompasses enhanced capabilities of intelligence and war tactics, enabling ISIS to compete with the Taliban.

Visual search query image
Wall Street Journal: Hundreds of thousands of intelligence officers and soldiers in Afghanistan are unemployed. 

ISIS reportedly provides large sums of money for their new recruits – an enticing offer to many hundred thousands of unemployed former Afghans after US withdrawal.

A senior Western official expressed, regarding what is happening in Afghanistan that “It’s exactly how it started in Iraq — with disenchanted Saddam Hussein generals.” 

The Wall Street Journal formerly quoted a senior official in the Pentagon, telling US lawmakers that the ISIS-K in Afghanistan may be able to launch attacks on the West and its allies within six months and that al-Qaeda can do the same within two years.

According to United Nations estimates, there are about 2,000 ISIS fighters operating in Afghanistan and an estimated 70,000 Taliban fighters.

From Russia, With (Taliban) Love

October 22, 2021

Image Credit: The Cradle
From Russia, With (Taliban) Love

By Pepe Escobar posted with permission and cross posted with The Cradle

Facing high expectations, a five-man band Taliban finally played in Moscow. Yet the star of the show, predictably, was the Mick Jagger of geopolitics: Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

Right from the start, Lavrov set the tone for the Moscow format consultations, which boast the merit of “uniting Afghanistan with all neighboring countries.” Without skipping a beat, he addressed the US elephant in the room – or lack thereof: “Our American colleagues chose not to participate,” actually “for the second time, evading an extended troika-format meeting.”

Asia’s powerbrokers dropped an Afghan bombshell in Moscow today: ‘the country’s reconstruction must be paid for by its military occupiers of 20 years.’

Washington invoked hazy “logistical reasons” for its absence.

The troika, which used to meet in Doha, consists of Russia, the US, China and Pakistan. The extended troika in Moscow this week featured Russia, China, India, Iran, Pakistan and all five Central Asian ‘stans.’ That, in essence, made it a Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) meeting, at the highest level.

Lavrov’s presentation essentially expanded on the themes highlighted by the recent SCO Dushanbe Declaration: Afghanistan should be an “independent, neutral, united, democratic and peaceful state, free of terrorism, war and drugs,” and bearing an inclusive government “with representatives from all ethnic, religious and political groups.”

The joint statement issued after the meeting may not have been exactly a thriller. But then, right at the end, paragraph 9 offers the real bombshell:

“The sides have proposed to launch a collective initiative to convene a broad-based international donor conference under the auspices of the United Nations as soon as possible, certainly with the understanding that the core burden of post-conflict economic and financial reconstruction and development of Afghanistan must be shouldered by troop-based actors which were in the country for the past 20 years.”

The West will argue that a donor conference of sorts already happened: that was the G-20 special summit via videoconference earlier in October, which included UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. Then, last week, much was made of a European promise of 1 billion euros in humanitarian aid, which, as it stands, remains extremely vague, with no concrete details.

At the G-20, European diplomats admitted, behind closed doors, that the main rift was between the West “wanting to tell the Taliban how to run their country and how to treat women” as necessary conditions in exchange for some help, compared to Russia and China following their non-interference foreign policy mandates.

Afghanistan’s neighbors, Iran and Pakistan, were not invited to the G-20, and that’s nonsensical. It’s an open question whether the official G-20 in Rome, on 30-31 October, will also address Afghanistan along with the main themes: climate change, Covid-19, and a still elusive global economic recovery.

No US in Central Asia

So the Moscow format, as Lavrov duly stressed, remains the go-to forum when it comes to addressing Afghanistan’s serious challenges.

Now we come to the crunch. The notion that the economic and financial reconstruction of Afghanistan should be conducted mainly by the former imperial occupier and its NATO minions – quaintly referred to as “troop-based actors” – is a non-starter.

The US does not do nation-building – as the entire Global South knows by experience. Even to unblock the nearly $10 billion of the Afghan Central Bank confiscated by Washington will be a hard slog. The IMF predicted that without foreign help the Afghan economy may shrink by 30 percent.

The Taliban, led by second Prime Minister Abdul Salam Hanafi, tried to put on a brave face. Hanafi argued that the current interim government is already inclusive: after all, over 500,000 employees of the former administration have kept their jobs.

But once again, much precious detail was lost in translation, and the Taliban lacked a frontline figure capable of capturing the Eurasian imagination. The mystery persists: where is Mullah Baradar?

Baradar, who led the political office in Doha, was widely tipped to be the face of the Taliban to the outside world after the group’s takeover of Kabul on 15 August. He has been effectively sidelined.

The background to the Moscow format, though, offers a few nuggets. There were no leaks – but diplomats hinted it was tense. Russia had to play careful mediator, especially when it came to addressing grievances by India and concerns by Tajikistan.

Everyone knew that Russia – and all the other players – would not recognize the Taliban as the new Afghan government, at least not yet. That’s not the point. The priority once again had to be impressed on the Taliban leadership: no safe haven for any jihadi outfits that may attack “third countries, especially the neighbors,” as Lavrov stressed.

When President Putin casually drops the information, on the record, that there are at least 2,000 ISIS-K jihadis in northern Afghanistan, this means Russian intel knows exactly where they are, and has the capabilities to snuff them, should the Taliban signal help is needed.

Now compare it with NATO – fresh from its massive Afghan humiliation – holding a summit of defense ministers in Brussels this Thursday and Friday to basically lecture the Taliban. NATO’s secretary-general, the spectacularly mediocre Jens Stoltenberg, insists that “the Taliban are accountable to NATO” over addressing terrorism and human rights.

As if this was not inconsequential enough, what really matters – as background to the Moscow format – is how the Russians flatly refused a US request to deploy their intel apparatus somewhere in Central Asia, in theory, to monitor Afghanistan.

First they wanted a “temporary” military base in Uzbekistan or Tajikistan: Putin–Biden actually discussed it at the Geneva summit. Putin counter-offered, half in jest, to host the Americans in a Russian base, probably in Tajikistan. Moscow gleefully played along for a few weeks just to reach an immovable conclusion: there’s no place for any US “counter-terrorism” shenanigans in Central Asia.

To sum it all up, Lavrov in Moscow was extremely conciliatory. He stressed how the Moscow format participants plan to use all opportunities for “including” the Taliban via several multilateral bodies, such as the UN, the SCO – where Afghanistan is an observer nation – and crucially, the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), which is a military alliance.

So many layers of ‘inclusiveness’ beckon. Humanitarian help from SCO nations like Pakistan, Russia and China is on its way. The last thing the Taliban need is to be ‘accountable’ to brain-dead NATO.

Taliban Killed 13 Members of Hazara Ethnic Group – Report

OCTOBER 05, 2021

Taliban Killed 13 Members of Hazara Ethnic Group - Report

By Staff, Al Jazeera

The Taliban killed at least 13 members of the Hazara ethnic group, including a 17-year-old girl, in the central province of Daykundi, shortly after they took power in Afghanistan, according to a new report from Amnesty International.

On August 30, a convoy of 300 Taliban fighters entered Khidr district and killed at least 11 former members of the Afghan National Security Forces [ANSF], nine of whom were taken to a nearby river basin where they were executed shortly after having surrendered, the rights group said in its report published on Tuesday.

A teenager, identified by the name of Masuma, was killed in crossfire after the Taliban targeted Afghan forces who were attempting to flee the area. Another civilian, Fayaz, a newly-wed in his 20s, was also among those killed in the crossfire.

The ANSF members who were killed ranged in age from 26 to 46, Amnesty said. All the victims were Hazara, who were persecuted during the Taliban’s first stint in power between 1996 and 2001.

It is the second killing of Hazaras documented by Amnesty. At least nine Hazara men were killed by Taliban fighters in Ghazni province in July before the group captured power, Amnesty reported on August 19.

Both the Taliban and their rivals, the so-called ‘Islamic State’ Khorasan Province, ISKP [ISIS-K], a Daesh affiliate, have been accused of targeting the Hazara people, who make up the majority of Afghanistan’s Shia population.

By September 1, the Taliban had denied the killings. Saidqullah Abed, the Taliban appointed police chief for Daykundi, would only confirm that one of their fighters had been injured in the crossfire.

Raihana Azad, a former Member of Parliament for the province, also verified Amnesty’s report to Al Jazeera, saying the events of August 30 amounted to “inhumane mass killings” carried out by the Taliban.

She said what transpired in Khidr was in direct violation of the Taliban’s claims of a nationwide general amnesty for former security forces and government workers.

“These cold-blooded executions are further proof that the Taliban are committing the same horrific abuses they were notorious for during their previous rule of Afghanistan,” said Agnes Callamard, Amnesty International’s secretary-general.

During their five-year rule in the 1990s, the Taliban were accused of massacring hundreds of Hazaras in the provinces of Balkh and Bamiyan.

Zaman Sultani, South Asia researcher at Amnesty International, said the killings in Daykundi follow a clear pattern by the Taliban.

He points to a statement that interviewees attributed to a senior Taliban official as proof: “I have killed people for the past 20 years. Killing is easy for me. I can kill again,” the official reportedly told Daykundi residents.

Azad, the former MP, said the Taliban’s abuses in Daykundi do not end with the killings.

She says that since the Taliban captured the province on August 14, a day before former President Ashraf Ghani fled the country, thousands of families have been forced from their homes in the Gizab and Pato districts of the mountainous province.

A list compiled by residents shows that as many as 20,000 families were forcibly displaced across at least 10 different villages over the last month and a half.

Daykundi residents speaking to Al Jazeera said that when the Taliban came to their homes, they claimed that the families had been illegally occupying the land or that a Taliban shura had decided the land “belongs to the people.”

Avert Afghanistan from a catastrophe

SEPTEMBER 30, 2021

Avert Afghanistan from a catastrophe

By Zamir Awan for the Saker Blog

Hundreds of thousands of Afghans working for the US government, directly or indirectly, have been evacuated, either by air or by road, direct to destinations’ or via transit from any third country. It was a massive migration operation. Yet, Many Afghans are trying to slip away to destinations in the Western developed world.

The US was ruling Afghanistan through such agents and they were informers and used for a special operation. They were working under the CIA directly or through various NGOs. The US has established a wide network of its loyal in Afghanistan and was operating through them. Now the US is helping them to leave Afghanistan. If such people exposed the US atrocities and brutalities in Afghanistan, the US may not be able to face world condemnation. The Jails, Torture Centers, Detention centers. And interrogation cells were the worst places of human rights violations.

There are still many Afghans, working for the US and may not find any way to leave Afghanistan. This is a threat to Afghan peace and stability. The defense contractors working in Afghanistan, some of them, preferred to stay in Afghanistan, creates a lot of doubts and fears of creating chaos in Afghanistan. The UD, by design, shifted ISIS-K to Afghanistan long ago and equipped them, trained them, and funded them, for fighting against the Taliban, moving toward civil war.

The US cannot forget its Two Trillion investment in Afghanistan and the sacrifices of thousands of its Servicemen and women. It was forced to leave Afghanistan, but, has not forgiven the humiliating defeat in Afghanistan. The US does not want a stable and prosperous Afghanistan, especially do not wish a smooth and stable Taliban rule. It has the potential to destabilize the country and planned to do so.

The recent bill in the US 117th Congress 1st Session is a comprehensive strategy to create chaos and destabilize the country. It is sanctioned as a tool to achieve such objectives. It is very much obvious from the language of the bill that the US is determined to take revenge.

Strange! Taliban is the son of the soil and true Afghans, rule by locals is not acceptable to the US? Americans were the invaders and destroyed the country, yet not happy? And still devising conspiracies, what a state of unfairness! The cruelty is the UN’s silence. Afghans want to rule their country according to their traditions, tribal customs, and local culture, why the US has objection? Imposed governments, installed governments, planted governments, puppet governments. And invaders, aggressors, failed to rule Afghanistan in history and will fail in the future too. Afghanistan is known as the graveyard of big empires. Has a long history of defeating outsiders, aggressors, invaders, the world should learn their history and then make any decision. If the people of Afghanistan have not accepted USSR-backed Dr. Najeeb, or Babrak Karmel, or Hafizullah Ameen, or Noor Muhammad Turkey, in the same manner, have not accepted US-backed Hamid Karzai or Ashraf Ghani, what’s wrong with it? It is their country, and they wanted to rule themselves, is it not their fundamental right? Why does the international community not allow them to exercise their fundamental right?

Taliban are popular in the country and have not faced any resistance while recapturing it. They fought against the foreign occupation for twenty years, they sacrificed the lives of close relatives and friends, faced jails, tortures, and all types of hardships. Finally, they won and forced the US to leave Afghanistan. Is it not in their right to rule their own country? Why do Americans oppose it?

Since the Taliban recaptured their country, the law and order situation has improved, people are happy and feel safe. Taliban has granted general amnesty to all, including those who have been fighting against them along with the US. They have not killed a single person, not arrested a single person, not harassed a single person. Society is calm and quiet. The bureaucracy is functioning in a routine manner. Women are working, as usual, girls are going to school as usual. Shops are opened, traffic is normal, everything is smooth, except, economy.

The US has frozen Afghan assets, and imposed sanctions, coercing them economically. A war-torn country, damaged by the foreign aggressor, has devastated the whole country, the economic situation is rather pathetic. There is an acute shortage of food and consumer products. Humanitarian assistance is needed urgently. If the international community may not respond immediately, 40 million Afghan’s lives are at stake. If due attention is not spared toward Afghanistan, a catastrophe is unavoidable. We foresee a major humanitarian disaster in the country. The people of Afghanistan are not the people of lesser God. Care for them, rescue them, extend humanitarian assistance on an emergency basis. All nations and individuals with human consciousness must try their best to save humankind. The UN and its organizations must extend assistant open-hearted and generously, without conditions.

Usually, the UN helps needy communities through NGOs, and the US implants their agents in such NGOs, who are not helping hands but conspirators and implementing the American agenda. They exploited destitute people and achieve their objectives. It has been witnessed that, in many vulnerable communities, many agents were implanted and undercover, they were engaged in the implementation of their agenda, instead of real service to humanity. The UN may take serious notice and avoid similar practices in Afghanistan. However, there are also some good NGOs, and working for the welfare of humanity, must be appreciated and applauded.

It is a rare opportunity that permanent peace and stability may be achieved in Afghanistan. It will help to promote stability and prosperity not only in this region but also globally. Afghanistan is on the major traditional trade route and connects East Asia, South Asia, Central Asia, China, Russia, and Eurasia, with Africa, Europe, and Middle-east through Pakistan (Arabian Ocean – Karachi and Gwadar). A stable Afghanistan is a prerequisite for trade and economic activities in this region and leading toward developments and prosperity.

Taliban, after passing through a tough war against superpowers has learned a bitter lesson from their experiences. They have become more mature and sensible. It is now reformed and refines the Taliban. They are wise, smart, and understand global implications. To date, their behaviors are much mature and sensible. They have honored the peace deal reached between the US and them on 29 February 2020, in Doha. They have implemented the deal in true letter and spirit. They have capture Kabul peacefully, without losing any human life. They controlled the country and brought the Government writ amicably, they have not taken any revenge from anyone and provided protection to all. They have allowed and facilitated all foreigners and Afghans to leave the country at their own wish. They have provided full rights to women according to their social norms and culture. They are trying to broaden the Government inclusive of all factions, ethnic groups, etc. However, the American demand for the inclusion of Hamid Karzai, or Ashraf Ghani, or their group is irrational. They should not share power with traitors, puppets, foreign agents, etc. It is their country, they should rule it according to domestic values and traditions. The world has seen and witnessed that the Taliban are wise, gentle, kind, smart, and capable people. They can rule the country very well, they have proved their capabilities since the take over on 15 August 2021. Any interference from outside or dictation should be rejected immediately.

The international community should extend heling hand instead of putting harsh conditions. The US should fulfill its part of the obligation reached under the Doha peace deal, recognize Taliban rule, remove them from the terrorist list, release their assets, and keep out of domestic politics. Let the Afghans decide their future.

Author: Prof. Engr. Zamir Ahmed Awan, Sinologist (ex-Diplomat), Editor, Analyst, Non-Resident Fellow of CCG (Center for China and Globalization), National University of Sciences and Technology (NUST), Islamabad, Pakistan. (E-mail: awanzamir@yahoo.com).

Eurasia takes shape: How the SCO just flipped the world order

https://media.thecradle.co/wp-content/uploads/2021/09/22154938/Unknown-11.jpeg
With Iran’s arrival, the SCO member-states now number nine, and they’re focused on fixing Afghanistan and consolidating Eurasia.Photo Credit: The Cradle
https://media.thecradle.co/wp-content/uploads/2021/08/27165257/Unknown-13.jpeg

SEPTEMBER 22, 2021

By Pepe Escobar posted with permission and cross-posted with The Cradle

Part 1 of 2 on Eurasia

With Iran’s arrival, the SCO member-states now number nine, and they’re focused on fixing Afghanistan and consolidating Eurasia.

As a rudderless West watched on, the 20th anniversary meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization was laser-focused on two key deliverables: shaping up Afghanistan and kicking off a full-spectrum Eurasian integration.

The two defining moments of the historic 20th anniversary Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit in Dushanbe, Tajikistan had to come from the keynote speeches of – who else – the leaders of the Russia-China strategic partnership.

Xi Jinping: “Today we will launch procedures to admit Iran as a full member of the SCO.”

Vladimir Putin: “I would like to highlight the Memorandum of Understanding that was signed today between the SCO Secretariat and the Eurasian Economic Commission. It is clearly designed to further Russia’s idea of establishing a Greater Eurasia Partnership covering the SCO, the EAEU (Eurasian Economic Union), ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) and China’s Belt and Road initiative (BRI).”

In short, over the weekend, Iran was enshrined in its rightful, prime Eurasian role, and all Eurasian integration paths converged toward a new global geopolitical – and geoeconomic – paradigm, with a sonic boom bound to echo for the rest of the century.

That was the killer one-two punch immediately following the Atlantic alliance’s ignominious imperial retreat from Afghanistan. Right as the Taliban took control of Kabul on August 15, the redoubtable Nikolai Patrushev, secretary of Russia’s Security Council, told his Iranian colleague Admiral Ali Shamkhani that “the Islamic Republic will become a full member of the SCO.”

Dushanbe revealed itself as the ultimate diplomatic crossover. President Xi firmly rejected any “condescending lecturing” and emphasized development paths and governance models compatible with national conditions. Just like Putin, he stressed the complementary focus of BRI and the EAEU, and in fact summarized a true multilateralist Manifesto for the Global South.

Right on point, President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev of Kazakhstan noted that the SCO should advance “the development of a regional macro-economy.” This is reflected in the SCO’s drive to start using local currencies for trade, bypassing the US dollar.

Watch that quadrilateral

Dushanbe was not just a bed of roses. Tajikistan’s Emomali Rahmon, a staunch, secular Muslim and former member of the Communist Party of the USSR – in power for no less than 29 years, reelected for the 5th time in 2020 with 90 percent of the vote – right off the bat denounced the “medieval sharia” of Taliban 2.0 and said they had already “abandoned their previous promise to form an inclusive  government.”

Rahmon, who has never been caught smiling on camera, was already in power when the Taliban conquered Kabul in 1996. He was bound to publicly support his Tajik cousins against the “expansion of extremist ideology” in Afghanistan – which in fact worries all SCO member-states when it comes to smashing dodgy jihadi outfits of the ISIS-K mold .

The meat of the matter in Dushanbe was in the bilaterals – and one quadrilateral.

Take the bilateral between Indian External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar and Chinese FM Wang Yi. Jaishankar said that China should not view “its relations with India through the lens of a third country,” and took pains to stress that India “does not subscribe to any clash of civilizations theory.”

That was quite a tough sell considering that the first in-person Quad summit takes place this week in Washington, DC, hosted by that “third country” which is now knee deep in clash-of-civilizations mode against China.

Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan was on a bilateral roll, meeting the presidents of Iran, Belarus, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan. The official Pakistani diplomatic position is that Afghanistan should not be abandoned, but engaged.

That position added nuance to what Russian Special Presidential Envoy for SCO Affairs Bakhtiyer Khakimov had explained about Kabul’s absence at the SCO table: “At this stage, all member states have an understanding that there are no reasons for an invitation until there is a legitimate, generally recognized government in Afghanistan.”

And that, arguably, leads us to the key SCO meeting: a quadrilateral with the Foreign Ministers of Russia, China, Pakistan and Iran.

Pakistani Foreign Minister Qureshi affirmed: “We are monitoring whether all the groups are included in the government or not.” The heart of the matter is that, from now on, Islamabad coordinates the SCO strategy on Afghanistan, and will broker Taliban negotiations with senior Tajik, Uzbek and Hazara leaders. This will eventually lead the way towards an inclusive government regionally recognized by SCO member-nations.

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi was warmly received by all – especially after his forceful keynote speech, an Axis of Resistance classic. His bilateral with Belarus president Aleksandr Lukashenko revolved around a discussion on “sanctions confrontation.” According to Lukashenko: “If the sanctions did any harm to Belarus, Iran, other countries, it was only because we ourselves are to blame for this. We were not always negotiable, we did not always find the path we had to take under the pressure of sanctions.”

Considering Tehran is fully briefed on Islamabad’s SCO role in terms of Afghanistan, there will be no need to deploy the Fatemiyoun brigade – informally known as the Afghan Hezbollah – to defend the Hazaras. Fatemiyoun was formed in 2012 and was instrumental in Syria in the fight against Daesh, especially in Palmyra. But if ISIS-K does not go away, that’s a completely different story.

Particular important for SCO members Iran and India will be the future of Chabahar port. That remains India’s crypto-Silk Road gambit to connect it to Afghanistan and Central Asia. The geoeconomic success of Chabahar more than ever depends on a stable Afghanistan – and this is where Tehran’s interests fully converge with Russia-China’s SCO drive.

What the 2021 SCO Dushanbe Declaration spelled out about Afghanistan is quite revealing:

1. Afghanistan should be an independent, neutral, united, democratic and peaceful state, free of terrorism, war and drugs.

2. It is critical to have an inclusive government in Afghanistan, with representatives from all ethnic, religious and political groups of Afghan society.

3. SCO member states, emphasizing the significance of the many years of hospitality and effective assistance provided by regional and neighboring countries to Afghan refugees, consider it important for the international community to make active efforts to facilitate their dignified, safe and sustainable return to their homeland.

As much as it may sound like an impossible dream, this is the unified message of Russia, China, Iran, India, Pakistan and the Central Asian “stans.” One hopes that Pakistani PM Imran Khan is up to the task and ready for his SCO close-up.

That troubled Western peninsula

The New Silk Roads were officially launched eight years ago by Xi Jinping, first in Astana – now Nur-Sultan – and then in Jakarta.

This is how I reported it at the time.

The announcement came close to a SCO summit – then in Bishkek. The SCO, widely dismissed in Washington and Brussels as a mere talk shop, was already surpassing its original mandate of fighting the “three evil forces” – terrorism, separatism and extremism – and encompassing politics and geoeconomics.

In 2013, there was a Xi-Putin-Rouhani trilateral. Beijing expressed full support for Iran’s peaceful nuclear program (remember, this was two years before the signing of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, also known as the JCPOA).

Despite many experts dismissing it at the time, there was indeed a common China-Russia-Iran front on Syria (Axis of Resistance in action). Xinjiang was being promoted as the key hub for the Eurasian Land Bridge. Pipelineistan was at the heart of the Chinese strategy – from Kazakhstan oil to Turkmenistan gas. Some people may even remember when Hillary Clinton, as Secretary of State, was waxing lyrical about an American-propelled New Silk Road.

Now compare it to Xi’s Multilateralism Manifesto in Dushanbe eight years later, reminiscing on how the SCO “has proved to be an excellent example of multilateralism in the 21stcentury,” and “has played an important role in enhancing the voice of developing countries.”

The strategic importance of this SCO summit taking place right after the Eastern Economic Forum (EEF) in Vladivostok cannot be overstated enough. The EEF focuses of course on the Russian Far East – and essentially advances interconnectivity between Russia and Asia. It is an absolutely key hub of Russia’s Greater Eurasian Partnership.

A cornucopia of deals is on the horizon – expanding from the Far East to the Arctic and the development of the Northern Sea Route, and involving everything from precious metals and green energy to digital sovereignty flowing through logistics corridors between Asia and Europe via Russia.

As Putin hinted in his keynote speech, this is what the Greater Eurasia Partnership is all about: the Eurasia Economic Union (EAEU), BRI, India’s initiative, ASEAN, and now the SCO, developing in a harmonized network, crucially operated by “sovereign decision-making centers.”

So if the BRI proposes a very Taoist “community of shared future for human kind,” the Russian project, conceptually, proposes a dialogue of civilizations (already evoked by the Khatami years in Iran) and sovereign economic-political projects. They are, indeed, complementary.

Glenn Diesen, Professor at the University of South-Eastern Norway and an editor at the Russia in Global Affairs journal, is among the very few top scholars who are analyzing this process in depth. His latest book remarkably tells the whole story in its title:  Europe as the Western Peninsula of Greater Eurasia: Geoeconomic Regions in a Multipolar World. It’s not clear whether Eurocrats in Brussels – slaves of Atlanticism and incapable of grasping the potential of Greater Eurasia – will end up exercising real strategic autonomy.

Diesen evokes in detail the parallels between the Russian and the Chinese strategies. He notes how China “is pursuing a three-pillared geoeconomic initiative by developing technological leadership via its China 2025 plan, new transportation corridors via its trillion-dollar Belt and Road Initiative, and establishing new financial instruments such as banks, payment systems and the internationalization of the yuan. Russia is similarly pursuing technological sovereignty, both in the digital sphere and beyond, as well as new transportation corridors such as the Northern Sea Route through the Arctic, and, primarily, new financial instruments.”

The whole Global South, stunned by the accelerated collapse of the western Empire and its unilateral “rules-based order, now seems to be ready to embrace the new groove, fully displayed in Dushanbe: a multipolar Greater Eurasia of sovereign equals.

Quick update on the Kabul situation

August 30, 2021

The Saker

Quick update on the Kabul situation

Since I wrote my overview about the causes and implication of the Kabul disaster things have not improved in the last.

It is clear that the “Biden” administration has tried very hard to do some damage control, but that only made things even worse (just think of Biden’s talks to the nation).  It is also clear that there is no way the US can evacuate all its citizens, nevermind former employees, before the Taliban deadline expires.  Besides, the Taliban have already sealed off the airport and do not let any Afghan nationals enter anymore.

One sentence spoken by a Russian analyst about what Biden called the “American heroes” struck me as particularly well suited to the current chaos: “soldiers have to become heroes when their commanders make a major mistake“.  This is almost always true, with some exceptions, of course.

Then there is the not so heroic “retaliation” promised by Biden.  Apparently, so say local TV, a US attack drone did kill a local ISIS fighter already driving a car with explosives towards the airport.  That strike, in downtown Kabul, also destroyed 2 homes and killed three families, 12 civilians including 7 kids (ages 2 to 10)!  That will *not* help anything or convince anyone to take US threats seriously.  Remember the Takfiri slogan “we love death more than you love life“?  But the hatred will only increase following this latest atrocity.

By September 1st, in 2 days from now, the situation of the many tens of thousands of collaborators, employee, local aides, etc. and their families will become extremely dangerous unless some major power intervenes and puts pressure on the Taliban.  Possible, but not very likely.

I need to mention one hypothesis: that the ISIS-K suicide bombers might have had accomplices inside the Taliban.  If we consider Taliban as one unitary uniform movement, this hypothesis makes no sense.  But if we see the Taliban as a loosely federated movement of different entities and tribes, then this makes a lot more sense.  Keep in mind that five of the current Taliban “ministers” are former GITMO residents with all that implies…

As for the Taliban, they appear to be truly trying to first restore some order to Kabul.  They are also trying hard to explain what they intend to do.  It sure looks like the new Taliban are a notch up from the old one.  That does not mean that I like them, or approve, just that this is what I am observing now.

For example, the Taliban have promised a general amnesty to all those who collaborated with the US, but that only means that orders to shoot are less likely to come from the top.  But the local gun-toting Taliban foot-“soldiers” (I use this term very generously) will, as always, do whatever the hell they want, locally and away from cellphone cameras.

The Saker

Enduring Terror Forever: from al-Qaeda to ISIS-K

August 30, 2021

Enduring Terror Forever: from al-Qaeda to ISIS-K

by Pepe Escobar and first posted at AsiaTimes

It was 20 years ago today. Asia Times published Get Osama! Now! Or Else…The rest is history.

Retrospectively, this sounds like news from another galaxy. Before Planet 9/11. Before GWOT (Global War on Terror). Before the Forever Wars. Before the social network era. Before the Russia-China strategic partnership. Before the Dronification of State Violence. Before techno-feudalism.

Allow me to get a little personal. I was back in Peshawar – the Islamic Rome, capital of the tribal areas – 20 years ago after a dizzying loop around Pakistan, tribal territory, a botched smuggling op to Kunar, biding time in Tajikistan, arriving by Soviet helicopter in the Panjshir valley, a harrowing road trip to Faizabad, and a UN flight that took ages to arrive.

In the Panjshir, I had finally met “the Lion”, commander Masoud, then plotting a counter-offensive against the Taliban. He told me he was fighting a triad: the Taliban, al-Qaeda and the Pakistani ISI. Less than three weeks later he was assassinated – by two al-Qaeda ops disguised as a camera crew, two days before 9/11.

No one, 20 years ago, could possibly imagine the subsequent slings and arrows of outrageous – terror – fortune. Two decades, $2.3 trillion and at least 240,000 Afghan deaths later, the Taliban are back where they were: ruling Afghanistan. Masoud Jr in theory leads a “resistance” in the Panjshir – actually a CIA ops channeled through CIA asset Amrullah Saleh, former Afghan Vice-President.

Al-Qaeda is a harmless skeleton, even rehabilitated in Syria as “moderate rebels; the new bogeyman in town is ISIS-K, a spin-off of the Islamic State in “Syraq”.

After negotiating a stunning package deal with the Taliban, the Empire of Chaos is concluding a humiliating evacuation from the land it bombed into democracy and submitted for two decades. Once again the US was de facto expelled by a peasant guerrilla army, this time mostly consisting of Pashtuns, descendants of the White Huns – a nomad confederation – as well as the Sakas, nomadic Iranic peoples of the Eurasian steppes.

The CIA shadow army

ISIS-K, the new viper’s nest, opens multiple Pandora boxes that may lead to the new incarnation of the Forever Wars. ISIS-K has claimed responsibility for the horrific Kabul suicide bombing.

ISIS-K is apparently led by one ghostly emir Shahab al-Mujahir (no photo, no biography details), supposed to be an urban warfare expert who previously worked as a mere mid-level commander for the Haqqani network.

In 2020 media-savvy ISIS-K released one of his audio messages in Pashto. Yet he may not be Pashtun, but actually from some latitude in the Middle East, and not fluent in the language.

Even CENTCOM commander Gen Mackenzie has admitted that the US military are sharing intel on ISIS-K with the Taliban – or rather vice-versa: Taliban spokesman Zahibullah Mujahid in Kabul stressed that they warned the Americans in the first place about an imminent threat to the airport.

The Pentagon-Taliban collaboration is by now established. The perennial CIA shadow wars are a completely different ball game.

I have shown in this in-depth investigation how the top priority for the Taliban is to target the ramifications of the CIA shadow army in Afghanistan, deployed via the Khost Protection Force (KPF) and inside the National Directorate of Security (NDS).

The CIA army, as I explain, was a two-headed hydra. Older units harked back to 2001 and were very close to the CIA. The most powerful was the KPF, based at the CIA’s Camp Chapman in Khost, which operated totally outside Afghan law, not to mention budget.

The other head of the hydra were the NDS’s own Afghan Special Forces: four main units, each operating in its own regional area. The NDS was funded by the CIA and for all practical purposes, operatives were trained and weaponized by the CIA.

So the NDS was a de facto CIA proxy. And here we have the direct connection to Saleh, who was trained by the CIA in the US when the Taliban was in power in the late 1990s. Afterwards, Saleh became the head of the NDS – which happened to work very closely with RAW, Indian intel. Now he’s a “resistance leader” in the Panjshir.

My investigation was confirmed right away by the deployment of Task Force Pineapple last week, an operation carried out by CIA/Special Forces to extract the last sensitive intel assets from Kabul who were being chased by the Taliban.

In parallel, serious questions are piling up regarding the Kabul suicide bombing and the immediate MQ-9 Reaper response targeting an “ISIS-K planner” in eastern Afghanistan.

This page has been carefully tracking prime information regarding what could be described as the Abbey Gate Massacre, not surprisingly buried by Western mainstream media.

The You Tube channel Kabul Lovers, for instance, is engaging in street-level journalism that puts to shame every multi-million dollar TV network. A military officer who examined the bodies of many of the bombing victims at Kabul Emergency Hospital claimed that most were not victims of the suicide bombing: “All victims were killed by American bullets, except maybe 20 people out of 100.” The full, original report, in Dari, is here.

Scott Ritter, for his part, has emphasized the need of “perspective” on the claimed drone strike against ISIS-K “from an actual drone expert like Daniel Hale, but they put him in jail for telling the truth about how bad our drone program actually is when it comes to killing the right people.”

By now it’s established that contrary to Pentagon claims, the drone strike hit a random house in Jalalabad, not a moving vehicle, and there was “collateral damage”: at least 3 civilians.

And the civilian death toll of a subsequent missile strike on another alleged “ISIS-K planner” in a car in Kabul is already at 9 – including 6 children.

The Syria-Afghanistan rat line

The much-lauded Pentagon offensive against ISIS in “Syraq” has been derided all across the Axis of Resistance as a massive farce.

Over the years, we have had exposés coming from Moscow; Tehran; Damascus; Hezbollah; and some of the People’s Mobilization Units (PMUs) in Iraq.

Hezbollah’s secretary-general Hassan Nasrallah has repeatedly asserted how “the US have been using helicopters to save ISIS terrorists from complete annihilation in Iraq/Syria and transporting them to Afghanistan to keep them as insurgents in Central Asia against Russia, China and Iran.”

The extremely well informed Russian Special Presidential Envoy for Afghanistan, Zamir Kabulov, has pointed out that Russia had received the same information from local tribal leaders. Even former President Hamid Karzai – now a key negotiator forming the next Taliban-led government in Kabul – has branded ISIS-K a “tool” of the United States.

It’s important to remember that ISIS-K has become much more powerful in Afghanistan since 2020 because of what I describe as a shadowy transportation ratline from Idlib in Syria to Kunar and Nangarhar in eastern Afghanistan.

Of course there is no smoking gun – yet: but what we do have is a serious working hypothesis that ISIS-K may be just another CIA shadow army, in collaboration with the NDS.

All that, if confirmed, would point to a dark future: the continuation of the Forever Wars by other means – and tactics. Yet never underestimate the counter-power of those no-nonsense descendants of White Huns and Sakas.

Who profits from the Kabul suicide bombing?

August 27, 2021

Who profits from the Kabul suicide bombing?

ISIS-Khorasan aims to prove to Afghans and to the outside world that the Taliban cannot secure the capital

By Pepe Escobar posted with permission and first posted at Asia Times

The horrific Kabul suicide bombing introduces an extra vector in an already incandescent situation: It aims to prove, to Afghans and to the outside world, that the nascent Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan is incapable of securing the capital.

As it stands, at least 103 people – 90 Afghans (including at least 28 Taliban) and 13 American servicemen – were killed and at least 1,300 injured, according to the Afghan Health Ministry.

Responsibility for the bombing came via a statement on the Telegram channel of Amaq Media, the official Islamic State (ISIS) news agency. This means it came from centralized ISIS command, even as the perpetrators were members of ISIS-Khorasan, or ISIS-K.

Presuming to inherit the historical and cultural weight of ancient Central Asian lands that from the time of imperial Persia stretched all the way to the western Himalayas, that spin-off defiles the name of Khorasan.

The suicide bomber who carried out “the martyrdom operation near Kabul airport” was identified as one Abdul Rahman al-Logari. That would suggest he’s an Afghan, from nearby Logar province. And that would also suggest that the bombing may have been organized by an ISIS-Khorasan sleeper cell. Sophisticated electronic analysis of their communications would be able to prove it – tools that the Taliban don’t have.

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The way social media-savvy ISIS chose to spin the carnage deserves careful scrutiny. The statement on Amaq Media blasts the Taliban for being “in a partnership” with the US military in the evacuation of “spies.”

It mocks the “security measures imposed by the American forces and the Taliban militia in the capital Kabul,” as its “martyr” was able to reach “a distance of no less than five meters from the American forces, who were supervising the procedures.”

So it’s clear that the newly reborn Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan and the former occupying power are facing the same enemy. ISIS-Khorasan comprises a bunch of fanatics, termed takfiris because they define fellow Muslims – in this case the Taliban – as “apostates.”

Founded in 2015 by emigré jihadis dispatched to southwest Pakistan, ISIS-K is a dodgy beast. Its current head is one Shahab al-Mujahir, who was a mid-level commander of the Haqqani network headquartered in North Waziristan in the Pakistani tribal areas, itself a collection of disparate mujahideen and would-be jihadis under the family umbrella.

Washington branded the Haqqani network as a terrorist organization way back in 2010, and treats several members as global terrorists, including Sirajuddin Haqqani, the head of the family after the death of the founder Jalaluddin.

Up to now, Sirajuddin was the Taliban deputy leader for the eastern provinces – on the same level with Mullah Baradar, the head of the political office in Doha, who was actually released from Guantanamo in 2014.

Crucially, Sirajuddin’s uncle, Khalil Haqqani, formerly in charge of the network’s foreign financing, is now in charge of Kabul security and working as a diplomat 24/7.

The previous ISIS-K leaders were snuffed out by US airstrikes in 2015 and 2016. ISIS-K started to become a real destabilizing force in 2020 when the regrouped band attacked Kabul University, a Doctor Without Borders maternity ward, the Presidential palace and the airport.

NATO intel picked up by a UN report attributes a maximum of 2,200 jihadis to ISIS-K, split into small cells. Significantly, the absolute majority are non-Afghans: Iraqis, Saudis, Kuwaitis, Pakistanis, Uzbeks, Chechens and Uighurs.

The real danger is that ISIS-K works as a sort of magnet for all manners of disgruntled former Taliban or discombobulated regional warlords with nowhere to go.

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The perfect soft target

The civilian commotion these past few days around Kabul airport was the perfect soft target for trademark ISIS carnage.

Zabihullah Mujahid – the new Taliban minister of information in Kabul, who in that capacity talks to global media every day – is the one who actually warned NATO members about an imminent ISIS-K suicide bombing. Brussels diplomats confirmed it.

In parallel, it’s no secret among intel circles in Eurasia that ISIS-K has become disproportionally more powerful since 2020 because of a transportation ratline from Idlib, in Syria, to eastern Afghanistan, informally known in spook talk as Daesh Airlines.

Moscow and Tehran, even at very high diplomatic levels, have squarely blamed the US-UK axis as the key facilitators. Even the BBC reported in late 2017 on hundreds of ISIS jihadis given safe passage out of Raqqa, and out of Syria, right in front of the Americans.

The Kabul bombing took place after two very significant events.

The first one was Mujahid’s claim during an American NBC News interview earlier this week that there is “no proof” Osama bin Laden was behind 9/11 – an argument that I had already hinted was coming in this podcast the previous week.

This means the Taliban have already started a campaign to disconnect themselves from the “terrorist” label associated with 9/11. The next step may involve arguing that the execution of 9/11 was set up in Hamburg, the operational details coordinated from two apartments in New Jersey.

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Nothing to do with Afghans. And everything staying within the parameters of the official narrative – but that’s another immensely complicated story.

The Taliban will need to show that “terrorism” has been all about their lethal enemy, ISIS, and way beyond old school al-Qaeda, which they harbored up to 2001. But why should they be shy about making such claims? After all, the United States rehabilitated Jabhat Al-Nusra – or al-Qaeda in Syria – as “moderate rebels.”

The origin of ISIS is incandescent material. ISIS was spawned in Iraq prison camps, its core made of Iraqis, their military skills derived from ex-officers in Saddam’s army, a wild bunch fired way back in 2003 by Paul Bremmer, the head of the Coalition Provisional Authority.

ISIS-K duly carries the work of ISIS from Southwest Asia to the crossroads of Central and South Asia in Afghanistan. There’s no credible evidence that ISIS-K has ties with Pakistani military intel.

On the contrary: ISIS-K is loosely aligned with the Tehreek-e-Taliban (TTP), also known as the Pakistani Taliban, Islamabad’s mortal enemy. TTP’s agenda has nothing to do with the moderate Mullah Baradar-led Afghan Taliban who participated in the Doha process.

SCO to the rescue

The other significant event tied to the Kabul bombing was that it took place only one day after yet another phone call between Presidents Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping.

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The Kremlin stressed the pair’s “readiness to step up efforts to combat threats of terrorism and drug trafficking coming from the territory of Afghanistan”; the “importance of establishing peace”; and “preventing the spread of instability to adjacent regions.”

And that led to the clincher: They jointly committed to “make the most of the potential” of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), which was founded 20 years ago as the “Shanghai Five”, even before 9/11, to fight “terrorism, separatism and extremism.”

The SCO summit is next month in Dushanbe – when Iran, most certainly, will be admitted as a full member. The Kabul bombing offers the SCO the opportunity to forcefully step up.

Whichever complex tribal coalition is formed to govern the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, it will be intertwined with the full apparatus of regional economic and security cooperation, led by the three main actors of Eurasia integration: Russia, China and Iran.

The record shows Moscow has all that it takes to help the Islamic Emirate against ISIS-K in Afghanistan. After all, the Russians flushed ISIS out of all significant parts of Syria and confined them to the Idlib cauldron.

In the end, no one aside from ISIS wants a terrorized Afghanistan, just as no one wants a civil war in Afghanistan. So the order of business indicates not only an SCO-led frontal fight against existing ISIS-K terror cells in Afghanistan but also an integrated campaign to drain any potential social base for the takfiris in Central and South Asia.

US Strikes Afghanistan Days Before End of Withdrawal

August 28, 2021

Source: Agencies

By Al Mayadeen Net

The strike supposedly came in retaliation against the suicide bombing at the Kabul airport

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A reaper drone struck the militant while in his car with an ISIS associate

Old habits die hard.

In the latest Afghanistan developments, Washington just announced that it launched a drone strike against an Islamic state attack “planner,” in retaliation against the suicide bombing at the Kabul airport which left 90 Afghans and 13 US troops dead.

The attack came after US President Joe Biden’s speech on Thursday in which he vowed to hunt down the perpetrators, saying:

“We will not forgive, we will not forget. We will hunt you down and make you pay.”

The strike took place in Nangarhar province, east of Kabul along the Pakistani borders, said the US Central Command.

In a statement by the US military, it was indicated that the target was initially killed while claiming not knowing whether or not if civilians were also killed.

A reaper drone struck the militant while in his car with an ISIS associate, leading to both their death. The militant was believed to be planning future attacks, while the US did not disclose whether he was directly associated with the airport attack.

ISIS-K, or Islamic State Khorasan, claimed responsibility for the Kabul attack. The group is associated with the terrorists who were previously battling in Iraq and Syria.

U.S. forces in Kabul claimed they have been anticipating another attack from Islamic State militants.

The current chaos experienced by the hasty US withdrawal from Afghanistan has generated much criticism from both allies and foes, which Biden took full responsibility for in his latest speech, all while pointing out at previous President Donald Trump 2020 agreement with the Taliban as the true starting point of this crisis. 

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