With just days left to wrap up evacuations of American troops, civilians, and Afghans from Kabul, U.S. security officials are on high alert and warned more attacks could come ahead of the Aug. 31 deadline.
The U.S. is pressing on with evacuation flights a day after the suicide attack that killed dozens of Afghans and 13 U.S. service members.
“The situation in Kabul today is very tense,” said Owen Kirby, a member of UCF’s Global Perspectives and International Initiatives program.
The Pentagon has blamed Thursday’s attacks on ISIS-K, an Afghan affiliate of the Islamic State, founded in 2015.
”ISK is the Islamic State Khorasan province. Khorasan province is a historic term for the Islamic territories in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Central Asia,” Kirby said.
According to Kirby, members of the group include Arab jihadists, Pakistani militants, and possibly former members of the Taliban. When it comes to their ideologies compared to that of the Taliban, Kirby said the heightened violence and need for attention are what sets them apart.
“An Islamist ideology is probably not very dissimilar. However, the Islamic State and Islamic State Khorasan you know, they’re known to favor and to perpetuate extreme acts of violence. It was only, I think back in May, that the Islamic State Khorasan was believed to have driven the car bombs into a girl school in Kabul,” said Kirby. “The Islamic State Khorasan has a global ambition and that attracts attention from international communities. The Taliban have never or at least previously expressed or indicated any global ambition; that’s not the case with the Islamic State.”
Mahida Zahir is the daughter of Afghan refugees who left their country in the 1990s. She told News 6 how family members were almost among the victims outside Kabul’s international airport.
“Some extended family and family friends even said that, you know, ‘we were just at the airport and we had just left before this explosion happened,’” the 25-year-old Jacksonville resident said. “They thought they might be able to go ahead and go in because they got the green light but then things just go, you know, really out of control, and thank God everyone left at the right time.”
The Islamic State Khorasan is a radical group that Kirby said has been in conflict with the Taliban over resources, recruitment, and attention.
“The Taliban knows that the attention that the Islamic State Khorasan will bring to Afghanistan because of its violence, will undermine their own objectives,” he said. “The Taliban had been solely focused on coming back to power in Afghanistan and they don’t want anything, or haven’t wanted anything to distract from that.”
Zahir said her biggest concern is what will happen after the deadline to bring U.S. troops and American citizens back from Afghanistan.
“To me what’s most concerning out of all of this is, is that yes, we are gonna take the troops out and there’s an Aug. 31 deadline, but what happens after the deadline? Because this is not just gonna wrap up; it’s a global threat,” Zahir said.