Taliban’s return to power has increased threats of regional terrorism, USIP report

The United States Institute of Peace (USIP) has warned that terrorist threats in the region have increased since the Taliban’s return to power.

In a report published on Wednesday, USIP said that “the primary threat, however, is neither the Taliban nor their close ally al-Qaeda, but the Islamic State’s regional affiliate the Islamic State Khorasan Province (ISKP).”

The report says that ISKP uses Afghanistan as its main operating base. Adding that “Although ISKP first emerged as a Pakistani-dominated network, it soon focused on Afghanistan. It has switched its strategy there from controlling territory to conducting urban warfare, and seeks to disrupt the Taliban’s efforts to govern.”

The report further emphasizes that the Islamic State’s presence in South Asia extends beyond Afghanistan and Pakistan to include “peripheral” territories, such as India, Bangladesh, Myanmar, the Maldives, and Sri Lanka. However, the report also acknowledges that in these countries, the Islamic State faces challenges from rival militant groups and robust counterterrorism measures.

“ISKP poses a growing threat to the West and its South Asian partners, and ISKP’s alarming potential calls for the West to take a variety of countermeasures, including even limited counterterrorism cooperation with the Taliban,” it says.

Since the Taliban regained control of Afghanistan, concerns that the country will become a safe haven for terrorists have persisted. Multiple nations, including officials from the member countries of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), have repeatedly raised the alarm over the increased presence of the Islamic State-Khorasan Province (ISKP) in Afghanistan and the resulting threats to regional security and stability.

In February, the CSTO Chief of Joint Staff, Anatoly Sidorov, claimed that the Islamic State – Khorasan province (ISKP) had amassed up to 6,500 members, with 4,000 located along Tajikistan’s southern borders in Afghanistan’s Badakhshan, Kunduz, and Takhar provinces.

But the Taliban has denied the presence of ISKP in Afghanistan, despite the group’s attacks and the Taliban’s pronouncements of targeting its members.