Giorgio Spagnol
Date de publication: 


After the suicide bomb attack on Kabul airport, U.S. President Joe Biden said  "We will not forgive. We will not forget. We will hunt you down and make you pay,"  promising that Islamic State Khorasan (ISIS-K)'s actions would not stop a mass evacuation airlift.

Biden said he had ordered military commanders to develop plans to strike ISIS-K assets, leaders and facilities. "We will respond with force and precision at our time at a place we choose in a moment of our choosing," he promised.

ISIS-K is a sworn enemy of the Taliban. But U.S. intelligence officials believe the movement used the instability that led to the collapse of Afghanistan's Western-backed government this month to strengthen its position and step up recruitment of disenfranchised Taliban members.

Joe Biden had previously  blamed the Afghan forces for being unwilling to fight and defend their country. Not only is this incorrect but it was also a shameless insult added to injury.

What happened was not a defeat of the Afghan government nor of the Afghan forces. They were sold out by their main ally of the past 20 years, amid an ongoing war, while they were on the losing side.


Independent U.N. experts had already told the Security Council in a report published last month that ISIS-K had expanded its presence to several provinces, including Kabul, and that fighters had formed sleeper cells.

"The group has strengthened its positions in and around Kabul, where it conducts most of its attacks, targeting minorities, activists, government employees and personnel of the Afghan National Defence and Security Forces," the report said.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres reported to the Security Council in June that attacks claimed or attributed to ISIS-K increased to 88 between March and June, compared with 16 during the same period in 2020.

Current situation

Thousands of U.S. troops deployed to Kabul's airport to conduct a massive airlift of U.S. citizens, Afghans who helped U.S. forces and others who feared for their freedom and safety have left Afghanistan on 31 August.

ISIS-K, an affiliate of terrorists who previously battled U.S. forces in Syria and Iraq,  has carried out the attack, the deadliest U.S. casualty event in Afghanistan  since 2011, which killed more than 170 people  including Afghans and 13 U.S. troops.

Before the Taliban takeover, Afghan security forces had long formed a so-called ring of steel around the capital city, with multiple checkpoints operating along main roads and a U.S.-led intelligence system tracking extremists,  but that old system has evaporated since the city’s fall to the Taliban, replaced by chaos and uncertainty, opening the city to attack.

The suicide attack underscored concerns over the U.S. counter-terrorism capability in Afghanistan, with no U.S. troops or reliable partners left, jails emptied of militants and the Taliban in control.

Meanwhile several children have been killed in a US drone attack on 29 August that destroyed a car laden with explosives near the international airport in  Kabul. Nine members of one family – including six children – were among the dead in a US drone attack targeting ISIS-K members in Kabul.

The Islamic State Khorasan (ISIS– K)

ISIS-K sprang up after the group's core fighters swept across Syria and Iraq, carving out a self-styled caliphate in the summer of 2014.

ISIS-K takes its name from the Khorasan province, a region that covered parts of Afghanistan, Iran and central Asia in the Middle Ages. The group started as several hundred Pakistani Taliban fighters took refuge in Afghanistan together with other extremists  including disgruntled Afghan Taliban fighters unhappy with  the Taliban's peace talks with the U.S. in recent years.

The group also has attracted  the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, fighters from Iran's only Sunni Muslim majority province and members of the Turkistan Islamic Party comprising Uighurs from China's northeast.

Many were attracted by ISIS-K violent and extreme ideology, including promises of a caliphate to unite the Islamic world, a goal never espoused by the Taliban who have confined their struggle to Afghanistan. ISIS-K  accused the Taliban of drawing its legitimacy from a narrow ethnic and nationalistic base, rather than a universal Islamic creed,

They are enemies with the Taliban. While  al-Qaida fighters are mainly integrated among the Taliban, the Taliban, by contrast, have waged offensives against ISIS-K in Afghanistan.

The group has claimed responsibility for a string of high-profile attacks, including the bombing of a girls' school in Kabul in May. But Thursday's attack also could reveal holes in the Taliban's counterintelligence and counter-terrorism capabilities,  unable to identify or stop the attack.

One of the U.S. greatest fears about withdrawing its combat forces after two decades is that Afghanistan under Taliban rule again becomes a magnet and base for extremists plotting attacks on the West.


What happened was not a defeat of the Afghan government nor of the Afghan forces. They were sold out by their main ally of the past 20 years, amid an ongoing war, while they were on the losing side.

Joe Biden even  blamed the Afghan forces for being unwilling to fight and defend their country. Not only is this incorrect but it was also a shameless insult added to injury.

Since the handover of the responsibility for combat operations in 2014,  more than 45,000 Afghan forces' members were killed between then and 2019. At the same time, the number of trained Afghan soldiers was hugely inflated, which served well those who wanted to justify a fast departure from Afghanistan. Only about 10,000 Afghan special forces were actively fighting in combat operations by August. The moment the US intelligence, logistics and air support were completely withdrawn amid ongoing fighting, the Afghan forces had no chance.

When the US leadership decided it had enough of the war in Afghanistan, it chose to accept defeat. But it did so deceitfully, seeking a face-saving exit, signing a deal with the Taliban about its withdrawal, setting a date for it, and then announcing that Taliban violations of previously agreed upon conditions would not affect the withdrawal.

By announcing the withdrawal date and ignoring the reality on the ground, the US gave the Taliban  all the time  for  a takeover of the country: they went into provinces and cities to put pressure on local tribal and other leaders and struck deals with them. In the meantime, the Afghan government forces were increasingly deprived of support, forcing them into the defensive.

Most of the problems, such as corruption, nepotism and bad governance stemmed in part from the US and NATO prioritizing collaboration with, and hence empowerment  of, warlords and other militia for the sake of that lost war against the Taliban and terror.

On many occasions, the US  dismissed calls to work on accountability or to sideline warlords:  all for the sake of that same objective of fighting al-Qaida and the Taliban. All this was detrimental to the legitimacy of the national government.

As for the Taliban, they have shown again and again their complete disregard for human life by targeting religious minorities, journalists,  judges and lawyers.

There have already been incidents  that warn of what the Taliban rule will look like. In Kabul, the Taliban have already started their hunt for “collaborators”, going from home to home searching for those who worked with the government and foreigners.

What has changed is that the Taliban have become more shrewd and much better at their PR game, looking to avoid their isolation in the 1990s. They are trying to be on their best behavior in the first days of their de facto rule of the country, especially on the streets of Kabul.


Every year for 20 years, U.S. officials justified the war in Afghanistan as worthy and winnable. But after the deadline to withdraw was made, the same officials watched in shock and awe as the Taliban retook their country within days.

The U.S. unruly retreat from Afghanistan after 20 years trying to bring it stability and democracy has been an enormous morale boost for Islamic radicals everywhere.

The issue is not that the Taliban control the country right now, it's that the Taliban really don't control the country which is a breeding ground for these kinds of actions and for these kinds of people to come back and take root. And that is what brought  9/11: it is  the same dynamic.

As for Biden' s promise to strike ISIS-K assets, leaders and facilities we have already seen  that US attack are replicating what happened on 25 February when he ordered to struck Syria in response to rocket attacks on American forces in the region, thus generating concern among Democratic lawmakers as the bombed site was not specifically tied to the rocket attacks on Americans but was just supposed to be used by the Iranian-backed Shia militias targeting US forces in Iraq.

Reuters cited local reports that at least 17 had been killed in the bombing, while the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported 22 deaths. But the so-called collateral damages remain...collateral and unintended as so often happened following the past US air-strikes in Afghanistan which caused a terrible civilian toll since 2001 as documented by Afghan and international human rights organizations.