Claiming imminent risk of terrorist attacks, the United States and its allies have accelerated the countdown to the end of the operation to evacuate Westerners and Afghans who want to flee the Taliban in Kabul.
The perception that the West is rushing to play down its fiasco in Afghanistan, evidenced by the decision of some countries to suspend evacuation flights on Thursday (26), has generated a new influx of desperate people in the vicinity of the airport. from the capital.
According to reports from Western diplomats still in the city to news agencies, the flow that had been contained by the Taliban blockades has increased dramatically. The deadline for action with a foreign military presence is next Tuesday (31).
Americans and Westerners alike say there is a serious terrorist threat associated with Islamic State Khorasan, the Afghan branch of the notorious extremist group that has dominated large areas of Syria and Iraq in the middle of the last decade.
“I cannot be more emphatic about the desperation of the situation. The threat is real, imminent, deadly,” said British Secretary of State for the Armed Forces James Heappey, corroborating a report made Wednesday evening by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
Australia has issued a similar security alert, suspending operations. Fingers pointed at the IE, however, are handy in mitigating damage to the Western image.
It all started with President Joe Biden’s decision to speed up the departure of his troops. By the time the Taliban began their final offensive in early August, 95% of the Western military had already left the occupied country since 2001 – when the Taliban were overthrown for supporting al-Qaeda, which committed 9/11.
First, the United States did not anticipate the fall of the Afghan government in two weeks, with the Taliban victory on August 15. Then they failed to organize an orderly exit from the country, generating scenes such as people falling from planes on take-off.
This debacle was accompanied by a change in tone from Biden. First of all, the American painted a rational and rosy scenario. Then he washed his hands. In the end, he returned to worry, stressing that “a lot of things could go wrong.” It’s finish.
This is where the strange threat of ISIS comes in. While on the one hand it is consistent with the Taliban’s discourse that it would not allow the evacuation operation to exceed the deadline, on the other hand it goes against everything the group has advocated for. try to gain international recognition.
That the Taliban lie is their story: they first came to power in 1996 promising the same stability and the same guarantees to adversaries, women and minorities. They left him the reputation of medieval butcher.
The Islamic State of Afghanistan is an adversary of the Taliban. Taliban guards, in turn affiliated with the allied terrorist network Haqqani, told Reuters reporters they also feared an attack in Kabul. On the other hand, so far EI has never shown itself to be a constant opponent of the group.
It can, of course, turn into an asymmetric destabilizing force, but terrorism analysts tend to assess the likelihood of them joining the Taliban rather than fighting them.
Objectively, an attack on civilians around the airport would be terrible for the Taliban. A credible alternative is for the group to use the EI scarecrow to drive out Westerners altogether, as agents ensuring plausible denials of radicalism.
The other, more uncomfortable for Western democracies, is that the threat is just a smokescreen for American intelligence to justify Biden’s decision not to confront the Taliban and to extend the time frame for the operation, as the UK, Germany and France wanted.
The truth may be an amalgamation of it all, but what matters is the practical result. Thursday, the effort of the countries of Northern Europe commanded by an airlift from Belgium was suspended, probably definitively.
Belgian C-130 Hercules freighters made an average of five round-trip flights to Islamabad, Pakistan. In six days, they removed 1,400 people from Kabul, on behalf of Belgium, the Netherlands and Denmark.
In total, the military operation has removed an impressive 95,700 people from Kabul since August 14, as the White House reported on Thursday. That’s just over 2% of the capital’s population.
On Wednesday, Blinken said the Taliban had pledged to allow those wishing to leave the country on commercial, Western or Afghan flights to do so after the 31st.
This seems doubtful, given the earlier statements of Zabihullah Mujahid. The Afghan spokesman had told the United States to stop encouraging the exodus of skilled Afghans because the new government would need them.
In addition, Taliban violence against people trying to get to the airport is reported, in addition to house-to-house searches of former Western collaborators.
There is of course no figure, but it is likely that hundreds of interpreters and assistants were left behind – the United States alone had 18,000 people who had worked over the years at the Kabul Embassy.
With the final race to flee the capital, the United States began to withdraw even its 6,000 troops sent for the operation at the airport. With that, allies like France declared that their evacuation ends this Friday (27).