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Rise of IS in Afghanistan A New Threat to Regional Peace Kaswar Klasra

The emergence of Islamic State (IS) in Afghanistan has emerged a new threat to the regional security and peace. This appears to be bigger threat than Afghan Taliban. The efforts are being made to connect central and South Asia and emergence of IS in Afghanistan has been termed as bigger threat to the efforts to connect two regions.

During a press briefing here in Islamabad, Tajikistan Ambassador Sherali Jononov had termed emergence of Islamic State (IS) in Afghanistan a new threat to connectivity between South and Central Asia through transit and energy corridors and called upon the international players to make coordinated efforts to bring peace and stability in the war-torn Afghanistan.

Briefing media persons on the occasion of a conference on countering terrorism and preventing violent extremism held in Dushanbe, Jononov said that connectivity between South and Central Asian countries was directly linked with peace and stability in Afghanistan.

The ambassadors of Russia, Belarus, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan are also participating in the conference being held in Dushanbe, Tajikistan.

He had said Pakistan and Tajikistan were members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) and were responsible for bringing peace and stability in the region, being neighboring countries of Afghanistan.

Jononov stressed the need for international players to focus on energy and transit corridors as well as social development in Afghanistan to bring peace and stability for regional connectivity.

Responding to a question regarding US presence in Afghanistan, he said that Russia and Tajikistan, through a strategic partnership, were making efforts to bring peace in the country.

“Our major concern is the emergence of IS in Afghanistan, and the question is how these elements deployed on the borders of Iraq and Syria reached Afghanistan,” he said, adding that Tajikistan recognises the sacrifices made by Pakistan in countering terrorism for the sake of regional stability.

He had also raised question how IS elements deployed on borders of Iraq and Syria had reached Afghanistan.

While addressing the conference held in Dushanbe which concluded on May 4  entitled “Countering Terrorism and Preventing Violent Extremism”, organized by the Government of Tajikistan in cooperation with the OSCE, the United Nations, and the European Union, Tajik President said that during the recent years, more than 100 countries of the world became the target of devastating terrorist attacks, which killed hundreds of thousands of peaceful people and millions of people left their residents, places and areas in the aftermath. The economic loss caused to countries amounted to hundreds of billion dollars.

Only in Afghanistan, last year the aftermath of terrorist attacks damaged more than 10 000 and killed more than 4 000 peaceful people. Sadly, 32% of fatalities and 53% of wounded people were women and children. It is obvious that in such a situation, countries of the world cannot succeed in countering the growing peace and security threats and challenges, and ensure peace and stability individually. Therefore, given the existing reality, we need to acknowledge the enhancement of regional and global cooperation and partnership for ensuring inclusive stability and security by undertaking joint initiatives on countering terrorism and extremism and elimination of political military and financial support factors, as a practical tool for release from this dangerous phenomena.

Tajikistan became the target of destructive actions by terrorists and extremists with the support of its so called foreign supporters at the early 90s of the 20th century – as early as at the beginning of establishment of sovereign state. At that time international terrorist and extremist organizations transformed our country into the field of test of their deadly power and the target of their antihuman objectives. At that period Tajikistan faced all tragic events taking place in Iraq, Syria, Yemen and Afghanistan currently.

Unfortunately, during specific discussions some high-ranking politicians used to say that it was our and the region’s challenge, but not theirs. In addition, they thought that the causes of this challenge was the unfair competition between the ethnical groups and tribes in the region. However, the time showed that all of our warnings were true and it is the political indifference, due to which the then challenges transformed into the global threats and challenges. Only after the horrifying 9/11 terrorist attack in New York the countries of the world understood the seriousness of the issue and focused on it. However, it is already difficult to prevent this unpleasant phenomenon, which already became a global case.

This statement can be proved by the fact that if previously representatives of almost 15 countries served as warriors for Taliban, now citizens of more than 100 countries joined and fight for the ISIS and other terrorist groups. According to the available information the number of warriors of the terrorist groups deployed in Iraq and Syria reached almost 100 000 and a part of them were killed within antiterrorist operations.

In this regard, a question comes to mind that where is the rest of those warriors and which countries and organizations they are in touch with? We are concerned that a part of them already returned to their countries or are on their way back home and they can cause threat in their own countries.

I have to emphasize that after the antiterrorist operations in Syria and Iraq members of individual extremist and terrorist groups came to Afghanistan and transformed this country into the field of international terrorism war.  We are seriously concerned with the expansion of operations of the terrorist and radicalized groups such as the ISIS, Al-Qaeda, Taliban and other unions in addition to the illicit drug smuggling in this country, including in its areas bordering with Tajikistan.

The question is still how IS had managed to foot in Afghanistan. Many countries like Pakistan, China, Turkey, Iran and Russia were concerned about growing presence of IS in Afghanistan. These countries also feel that IS could reach to their countries to attack and therefore, they were struggling to stop growing influence of IS. However, all efforts to stop growing influence of IS in Afghanistan will fail if United States of America and these countries do not come on the same page and evolve coordinated strategy to counter this threat.

The efforts of USA have failed to bring peace and stability in Afghanistan and SCO had emerged now as active forum where mechanism could be formed to counter threats of terrorism. The recent meeting of SCO in China was a major development.

Chinese President Xi Jinping had called for the “pursuit of cooperation for mutual benefit” at the final day of a meeting by a Beijing and Moscow-led bloc, hours after the G7 meeting in Canada ended in disarray.

Xi made his remarks on the second and final day of an annual summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) in the coastal city of Qingdao, China.

He also called on his regional partners to “boost harmony and unity by seeking common ground and setting aside differences”.

Despite disagreements between members of the eight-member grouping, the apparent harmony in which the summit took place stood in contrast with the G7 meeting in Canada.

That two-day meeting between the heads of state of seven of the world’s advanced economies ended with US President Donald Trump withdrawing support for a joint statement and calling Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau “dishonest” and “weak”.

Tensions had been rife before the summit after Trump announced tariffs on steel and aluminium imports from Canada, Mexico and the European Union (EU) and withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal.

Speaking on Sunday, Xi warned that “unilateralism, trade protectionism and a backlash against globalisation are taking new forms”.

“We should reject the Cold War mentality and confrontation between blocs, and oppose the practice of seeking absolute security of oneself at the expense of others, so as to obtain security of all,” he said.

Without mentioning the US, Xi also made a plea for free trade, rejecting “selfish, short-sighted” policies and calling for the building of an “open global economy”.

The Chinese government is currently in the middle of negotiations with the US in hopes of staving off a trade war. After the last round of talks ended last week, Beijing said the two sides had made “positive and concrete progress” but details were left to finalise.

Xi gave a special welcome to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Pakistani President Mamnoon Hussain, whose countries joined the SCO last year.

He also announced he would make 30 billion yuan ($4.7bn) available for loans under a framework formed by SCO countries.

Reporting from Beijing, Al Jazeera’s Florence Looi said that the calls for a more equitable international order could signify a challenge from Beijing.

“What we could be seeing is China forging new alliances to challenge the existing world order led by the US,” she said.

Speaking at the summit, Russian President Vladimir Putin criticised the US decision to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal, saying it could “destabilise the situation” and said Russia still supports the deal.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani was present at the meeting with his country maintaining observer status in the bloc.

Putin also said he is willing to meet Trump “as soon as the American side is ready”, following a report that White House officials are working on organising a summit.

The remarks came just after Trump that Russia could be allowed back into the G7 group – a suggestion that was quickly slapped down by his allies.

Russia was suspended from the G8 after the 2014 annexation of Crimea.

Putin said it was not Moscow’s choice to leave the G7. “We will be glad to see everyone here in Moscow,” he said.

He added however that the combined purchasing power of the SCO outstripped that of the G7 and, when asked to comment on the G7 joint statement said the bloc should stop its “creative babbling”.

Michele Geraci, the head of Nottingham University’s China economic policy programme, told Al Jazeera that he believed the SCO summit and coinciding arrival of Kim Jong-un in Singapore for a meeting with Trump sends a clear message:

“Asia is playing a very important role. It’s sending the signal that the big changes, the big decisions are being made here,” he said.

“The West, the G7, which doesn’t include China nor Russia, is kind of struggling not just with the rest of the world but now they start to struggle with each other.

“This is a further triumph for Xi to be the pivotal player in the region first, but also rising to a more important role within the world.”

The SCO was founded in 2001 and is currently made up of China, Russia, India, Pakistan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.

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