May 16, 2020
The Taliban and ISIS differ only in terms of geographic aspirations. They embrace similar extremist ideologies and envision a society regulated by a harsh religious code. They even share the same tactics – like suicide bombings – and recruit from each other’s flocks.
Despite what U.S. officials want the world to believe, the labels ascribed to these terrorist entities is, essentially, akin to what lawyers call making a distinction without a difference.
On Thursday, May 14, State Department envoy Zalmay Khalilzad announced that the U.S. intelligence community had concluded that ISIS-Khorasan was responsible for the recent attack on a Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) maternity ward in Kabul. The unthinkable event, which left 24 dead and 20 wounded, was recounted by the organization in the crosshairs.
“Eleven women were killed, three of them in the delivery room with their unborn babies… Two newborn babies were wounded, one of whom was transferred to another hospital for emergency surgery after being shot in the leg,” MSF said in a statement two days after the May 12 attack.
Frederic Bonnot, MSF’s head of programs in Afghanistan, tried – yet failed – to convey the level of horror.
“This country is sadly used to seeing horrific events… but what happened Tuesday is beyond words,” Bonnot said.
Khalilzad, the mastermind behind the U.S.-Taliban “peace” deal, stepped forward quickly and unequivocally to blame ISIS. Whether he did so in the name of truth or damage control is, right now, still unclear. Given it is obviously in Washington’s interests to exculpate the Taliban and prevent a public relations nightmare, it is also appropriate to raise some questions.
Did anyone outside of Washington get to see this apparent smoking-gun level of intelligence that the Taliban are not responsible or involved in any way? Did the U.S. share all the apodictic details with the Afghan government?
Now, either the Americans failed to disclose these details to Kabul or the Americans did show these details to Kabul and Kabul was not impressed. Moreover, there is more than one side to this story because the Afghan government has intelligence too.
Afghan First Vice President Amrullah Saleh on May 15 revealed that authorities had taken two ISIS-K leaders into custody – ahead of the attacks. Of course, this does not mean the terror plot was not already afoot, but Kabul has insinuated some indicting information was extracted.
“Dots are connected. Neither the Taliban hands nor their stained consciousness can be washed of the blood of women, babies & other innocent in the latest senseless carnage,” Saleh said in a tweet.
Saleh’s statement came a couple days after another cryptic tweet in which he claimed the Taliban were celebrating that Shias were killed in the maternity attack and “they double celebrate[d] the naiveté of some for accepting their lies & accusing the fictional IS-K.”
One can be fairly certain he is referring to the U.S. intelligence assessment.
The Afghan intelligence agency, the National Directorate of Security (NDS), after taking down the IS-K leaders made quite a disclosure that the United States has shoved under the rug.
“The NDS… has destroyed the joint ISIS and Haqqani Network Centre,” the agency said in a statement on May 11, one day before the hospital attack.
The Haqqanis are more than just a mere branch of the Taliban. In fact the group’s leader, Sirajuddin Haqqani, is currently the deputy chief of the Taliban.
It is also a fact that American intelligence, ahead of the consummation of the U.S.-Taliban deal in February, predicted that disgruntled Talibs opposed to striking a bargain with infidels would join ISIS ranks.
Dots are getting connected, indeed. The fact that President Ashraf Ghani blamed the Taliban and called on Afghan security forces to go on the offensive makes much more sense now. To be sure, there is no indubitable proof that the Taliban were directly involved in this horrific attack. Yet enough information has surfaced to justify questioning the American assessment.
Meanwhile, in response to Ghani’s accusation, the Taliban have launched more bloody attacks. Despite this, Khalilzad claimed the insurgents are still living up to the commitments they made to the United States in the historic accord.
“They’ve committed not to carry out attacks in 34 major cities, and they haven’t done that, based on our assessment,” Khalilzad said on May 15. “The key requirement for the United States is the delivery on the commitment by the Taliban on counterterrorism.”
In actuality, sadly, most American voters will likely end up forgetting the whole thing by the November presidential election. That said, the Trump administration wants to take no chances.
And just as he is on the verge of fulfilling one of Trump’s key campaign objectives, one can be sure Khalilzad will not allow a pesky maternity ward attack upend his Machiavellian designs.