The Islamic State-Khorasan, the Afghanistan-embedded terrorist group blamed for the Aug. 26 killings of 13 U.S. troops at the Kabul airport, has maintained a “tactical accommodation” with the Haqqani Network, which previously carried out mass killings in the capital, said a United Nations report.
On the day the 13 Americans were killed, the Haqqani Network was in charge of Kabul security. The victorious Taliban days earlier had appointed a network leader, wanted terrorist Khalil Haqqani, as Kabul’s top security officer. And the Biden administration relied on the Taliban to operate checkpoints around the airport.
The Haqqani-ISIS-K link raises investigative questions about how a suicide bomber was able to penetrate Taliban inspection sites leading to the airport.
The April 2020 U.N. Security Council report has new relevance today, given the recent attack. As proof that Haqqani actually carried out attacks claimed by ISIS-K, the U.N. cited allied communication intercepts.
The Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) monitored an ISIS-K online broadcast that said its bomber was able to pass through a number of security posts before arriving at the airport.
The Biden administration has been open about its new relationship with archenemy Taliban as a supposed guarantor of airport security. In a last stand, the U.S. and allies have been conducting rushed 24/7 flight operations to evacuate endangered Afghan allies and Americans by an Aug. 31 deadline.
The ISIS-K bomber walked up to the gate guarded by Marine Corps personnel and detonated his suicide vest.
Pakistan has long been a hotbed of Muslim Sunni extremism, and helped create the Taliban and their harsh feudal views of Islam in 1994.
The United Nation’s report was published in April 2020 after the Trump administration and the Taliban had inked a deal that February to eventually end the war.
The agreement called for President Trump to pull all American troops out by May 1, 2021. But the Taliban, while sparing attacks on U.S. troops, never gave up its offensive operations against Afghans or worked for an inclusive government in Kabul.
Mr. Trump lost reelection and left office with 2,500 U.S. troops still in the country. President Biden in April announced a new plan to have all personnel out by Sept. 11, later amended to Aug. 31.
The U.N. report says this about ISIS-K, which was formed as an offshoot of the Islamic State in Iraq/Syria and has about 2,000 terrorists from Iraq, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and other countries: “[ISIS-K] remains capable of mounting attacks in various parts of the country, including Kabul, but some of those claimed may have arisen wholly or partly from a tactical accommodation with the Haqqani Network.”
Quoting member state intelligence, the U.N. report said: “Most attacks claimed by [ISIS-K] demonstrated some degree of ‘involvement, facilitation, or the provision of technical assistance’ by the Haqqani Network. Furthermore, [member states] have stated that [ISIS-K] ‘lacked the capability to launch complex attacks in Kabul on its own’ while taking responsibility for operations that had, in all likelihood, been carried out by the Haqqani Network.”
“The Monitoring Team has previously viewed communication intercepts following [ISIS-K] claimed attacks that were identified as traceable to known members of the Haqqani Network.”
The U.N. described a convoluted, three-way relationship: The Taliban attacked ISIS-K fighters in Nangarhar Province, north of Kabul. But at the same time it granted Haqqani “tactical autonomy,” which “enables them to support operations which undermined the control and credibility of the government of Afghanistan.”
The report also described a tight Taliban-al Qaeda-Haqqani relationship that may indicate Afghanistan will revert to a terrorist state as it did when al Qaeda planned the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks under Taliban rule.
The U.N. said: “Relations between the Taliban, especially the Haqqani Network and Al-Qaida remain close, based on friendship, a history of shared struggle, ideological sympathy and intermarriage. The Taliban regularly consulted with Al-Qaida during negotiations with the United States and offered guarantees that it would honor their historical ties. Al-Qaida has reacted positively to the agreement, with statements from its acolytes celebrating it as a victory for the Taliban’s cause and thus for global militancy.”
• Rowan Scarborough can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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