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The Wrong Enemy in Afghanistan

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    Posted: 10-May-2017 at 11:24pm
The Wrong Enemy in Afghanistan
The Wrong Enemy in Afghanistan

KABUL, Afghanistan — For the last month, American and Afghan forces have been engaged in a new offensive against an Islamic State offshoot based in Nangarhar province in eastern Afghanistan. The Trump administration dropped what it boasted was the biggest non-nuclear bomb on the group’s hide-outs on April 13; a militant leader and two American soldiers have been killed in the operations. An American military spokesman claimed there was a “very good chance” that the group would be eradicated in Afghanistan in 2017.

But the United States obsession with the Islamic State in Khorasan — a minor group in Afghanistan — distracts attention from a more urgent task: negotiating a peace deal with the Taliban, which controls close to half of Afghanistan.

Two years after its emergence in Afghanistan, the Islamic State affiliate is still struggling to consolidate its organizational capacity. The few major attacks it has claimed were mostly sectarian and aimed at soft targets: two gatherings of Shiites and a hospital in Kabul, and, in Pakistan, a Sufi shrine in Sindh and a hospital in Quetta.

How much planning and organization for these attacks came from the group’s command based in a mountainous valley in eastern Afghanistan is not clear. In a region with a plethora of small militant outfits constantly rebranding themselves, claims of such attacks in distant cities cannot be taken at face value. There is evidence of the group’s having established operational presence in Quetta and Sindh in Pakistan like the Haqqani network.

The word "Haqqani" comes from Darul Uloom Haqqania, a Madrassa in Pakistan attended by Jalaluddin Haqqani.

The group’s virtual command center is tucked away in the Mamand Valley in Nangarhar, which has become the focus of the American-Afghan offensive. Founding leaders of the group, almost all of them now dead, were commanders from the Pakistani Taliban. The new leader is a little-known former member of the Afghan Taliban, but militants from the Pakistani Taliban still play a dominant role in the leadership.
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