Afghan humanitarian crisis: A ripe breeding ground for terror outfits?
WITH Taliban coming to power, political confusion and administrative lapses are becoming evident, coupled with a worsening security situation. For the last two years, refugee influx of Afghans to neighbouring states had increased.
Now with uncertain future this problem can increase in frequency, creating problems for neighbouring states that already host sizeable Afghan refugee communities. Afghanistan presently is at the brink of starvation due to food shortage that is causing a plethora of other humanitarian issues.
UNDP officials have even declared this situation to be the worst humanitarian crisis the organization might have faced. The USA froze nearly 10 billion dollars of Afghan assets abroad which resulted in an economic disaster.
As per a world Food Program report “nearly 22.8 million Afghans will have their livelihoods severely affected”. The Food and Agriculture Organization Director General, QU Dongyu, claimed, “It is a matter of life or death”.
Furthermore Nearly 90 percent of Afghans as risk of going into poverty. Multiple data surveys indicate that nearly 3 million children are at direct risk of acute malnutrition. UNICEF mentions this number to be at one million.
The situation is so grave that World Food Program executives state that millions of Afghans will be left with no other choice other than migration or starvation.
Humanitarian crisis provides a prelude to militant outfits to act with impunity, provided the lack of governmental control and no credible foreign military presence.
ISKP appeal is bound to increase as youngsters would resent the prevailing situation and look for clear cut pathways of either survival or salvation. ISKP, just like ISIS claims to possess a pure understanding of Islam and refuses to settle for any compromise in pursuit of its aims.
Provided how different Islamist groups in Afghanistan (Taliban, Hizb-e-Islami etc) have compromised with powers they perceived as infidels once and undergoing a paradigm shift, is going to create rifts in the heavily religious and tribal society of Afghanistan.
The ethnic frictions also provide the perfect recipe to exploit them on sectarian lines. The Shia Hazaras, Tajiks, Uzbeks and Pashtuns all have historical frictions that have often been exploited by powerful, both inside Afghanistan and outside, over the years.
Now if a conflict between Pashtuns and Hazaras is painted on sectarian lines as of is predominantly Sunni and other is Shia, the latter also alleged to have Iranian backing, the religious lines of conflict can take primacy, providing a sense of purpose that overshadows the original deprivation causing the conflict
It threatens the region on ideological lines, as individuals in neighbouring states might possess extremist leanings that ISKP can exploit.
This means that unlike previous militant groups that operated in FATA or Afghanistan, the new urban militants would emerge, operating in manner of sleeper cells and carrying out attacks way beyond active presence of IS-K. Notably, IS-KP has depicted its ability to attack far beyond borders ie Sri Lankan Easter bombings of 2019 that killed nearly 270.
Hunger, poverty, criminal syndicates, drug trafficking are bound to reinforce the breeding ground for IS terror schemes.
If the Taliban prove incapable of governing their areas, their loosely bounded structure will collapse with many militiamen potentially joining ISKP, after all they are all militants that have depended over war economy of drugs, ransoms, extortions and human trafficking.
The resurgence of TTP in neighbouring Pakistan, Chinese Uighur issue, Sunni suppression in Iran, Indian human right violations in Kashmir tend to rationalize any prelude for a political Islamist cause that goes beyond borders and provides a uniform purpose.
This purpose unfortunately would be hijacked by radical groups like ISKP. Their modus operandi does not leave any space for accommodation, substantiating to negotiations or ceasefires would not be sustainable .
This would coerce regional states to pursue military options, which taking Afghanistan’s example, have a high collateral damage ratio . Such action carried out by US was one of the primary reasons which pushed Afghans into picking up arms against US forces and their allied Kabul regimes.
A military action would eventually solidify the feelings of victim hood which would be yielded by militant organizations.
The impending human crisis in Afghanistan is materialising in form of hunger, starvation and poverty that will create direct security problems for Afghanistan’s neighbourhood in immediate.
It is imperative that a massive humanitarian effort to avert the developing humanitarian and refugee crisis, be carried out immediately.
The greater responsibility lies on the regional states to view Afghanistan in an apolitical manner, with minimal strings of influence attached. Otherwise the humanitarian crisis will go beyond the point control. Similarly, Western governments and their aid programs have plethora of conditions attached which a war-torn state like Afghanistan cannot fulfil.
It becomes necessary that all actors take an achromatic look into Afghanistan’s problem and how it can affect them all in the coming years.
—The Islamabad-based author, writers on International Relations, Foreign Policy analysis and Pak-Afghan ties.