Afghanistan Is Now a Safe Haven For ISIS. And Washington Wants to Keep It That Way

ISIS is being pushed out of Syria and Iraq, but they are gaining ground in Afghanistan. Why isn't Washington doing something about it?

This post first appeared on Russia Insider

Russia is hosting a conference in Moscow this week that will bring together Afghanistan, Pakistan, China, India and Iran to discuss a possible solution to the seemingly never-ending conflict in Afghanistan.

The summit is meant to bring all "regional stakeholders" to the table. And there's a very good reason why NATO and the United States aren't invited: 1. They're incapable of cleaning up the mess they started and 2. It's clear they have no interest in addressing the deteriorating security situation facing Afghanistan, and by extension, the entire region.

<figcaption>Not this again.</figcaption>
Not this again.

ISIS is being pushed out of Syria and Iraq, but they are gaining ground in Afghanistan. And Washington's unwillingness to take meaningful action to prevent the terrorist group from establishing a foothold in Afghanistan is perhaps the primary reason why these regional players have decided that something must be done.

Last month it was reported that ISIS had established itself along Afghanistan's northeastern border:

Over the past few weeks, the terrorist group has taken advantage of a security vacuum to establish a foothold in Afghanistan’s northeastern border.

Locals say they were attracted to ISIS because it has done a better job of providing for them than the Afghan government.

“If [a family has] 10 people, they’ll pay for 10 people. If there are 20, they’ll pay for 20 people,” an “Uprising” fighter named Hakimullah told VICE News correspondent Ben Anderson in Afghanistan’s Nangarhar Province. “Whereas government employees are dying of starvation.”

And the terror group faces little resistance from the opposition, which includes a random mix of government forces, local militias, and armed civilians. It’s a far cry from what was originally envisioned for the country when the majority of U.S. forces were withdrawn in 2014.

And what is Washington doing to stop this? Very little. In fact, Washington has slammed Russia for providing intelligence to the Taliban, which right now is one of the only groups on the ground that is actually fighting ISIS.

We've heard so much about plans for serious anti-terror cooperation between Russia and the U.S. in Syria. But in Afghanistan, Washington seems to be doing everything it can to create a safe haven for ISIS:

Gen. John Nicholson, the man leading the U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, told the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee recently that Russia is trying to “publicly legitimize the Taliban” with a “false narrative” that the Taliban is fighting Islamic State, not the Afghan government.

However, Russia is not the only country in the region worried about IS influence and using the Taliban as a hedge. Iran also has started supporting the Taliban to keep IS influence away from areas bordering Iran. China has had contacts with the Taliban for a while, hosting several secret meetings between the Taliban and Afghan government officials or peace envoys.

We don't even need to dive into conspiracy theories. The plain fact of the matter is that Afghanistan — like Libya, Iraq, and Syria — has been gutted by years of U.S.-provoked conflict, and is now a safe haven for all kinds of unsavory characters.

If you think Russia and its regional partners are going to tolerate a breeding ground for terrorists in its own backyard, while Washington sits on its hands and does nothing, you're overestimating Moscow's patience.

Yes, Afghanistan is now a safe haven for ISIS. And Washington seems quite content with keeping it that way.

Just something to think about.

This post first appeared on Russia Insider

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