National Security Desk / Aug. 8, 2016

Taliban Teams Up With Islamic State

A year-long conflict is evolving toward a dangerous coalition.

Bitter rivals, or reluctant partners? The former description appears to be evolving toward the latter when it comes to the Taliban and Islamic State, two independent terrorist organizations whose newly formed partnership in Afghanistan portends a dangerous Islamist regrouping. According to a Wall Street Journal report, the two longtime foes have “forged a patchwork cease-fire across much of eastern Afghanistan that has helped both insurgencies regroup and counter U.S.-backed efforts to dislodge them.”

Despite their years-long conflict, the Journal explains, “[R]ecently … the two insurgencies have worked out local deals to stop fighting each other and turn their sights on the government. The upshot is that Islamic State has been able to focus on fighting U.S.- backed Afghan forces in Nangarhar province and shift north into Kunar province, establishing a new foothold in a longtime Taliban and former al Qaeda stronghold.” One Afghani general attested, “They [ISIL] fought deadly battles with the Taliban before. But over the past two months, there has been no fighting among them.”

It’s a delicate alliance, but one that has dangerous repercussions. A few weeks ago more than 80 Afghanis were mortally injured by a trio of Islamic State suicide bombers in Kabul, an attack the WSJ says exemplifies how the “Islamic State has exploited the relative peace with its rival to extend the reach of its deadly attacks.” To be sure, the partnership is not a universally embraced one: “There’s still a conflict even though they may have a local cease-fire in place,” according to U.S. Army Gen. John Nicholson. “There’s always been a live-and-let-live dimension to some of the social fabric.” That may be so, but in any case, all Islamists are united in promoting their highest objective — jihad. And the fact ISIL and the Taliban are willing to join forces at all only escalates the threat. A threat that would in fact be decimated were it not for the disastrously failed policies of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.

(Edited.)

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