A Shiite mosque was attacked on Friday, and so far 29 people have been reported killed. Over 80 people have been estimated to have been wounded in the attacks. Gunmen dressed in burqas were able to reach the mosque and then open fire. They then detonated explosives strapped to their persons, ending the assault with a suicide bombing. As seen in the image above, some of the victims were children.

The Taliban have denied their involvement, and no other group has spoken on the matter. ISIS-K (the Islamic State in Afghanistan) has conducted similar attacks in the past, particularly against civilian Shiite targets. The Taliban and ISIS-K are by no means on amicable terms, and have been fighting since ISIS has sought to establish a foothold in the country.

 

Analysis:

The U.S. is currently in talks with the Taliban, hoping to develop some semblance of peace moving forward. U.S. officials have expressed a desire to only leave if the Taliban are on good terms with the Afghan government, something all three parties can finally agree on. However, actually making that happen is another thing entirely.

There are many unifying factors between the Taliban and the Afghan government, the largest one being shared religious beliefs. In a country where religion is grafted into the very fabric of everyday life, having an entirely secular government and system may not be so feasible. Another huge factor that could unite the two struggling powers would be a common enemy — ISIS-K presents a very real, and very present threat to the country, and both the Taliban and the Afghan government are more than willing to provide efforts to oust the Islamic State from the country.

Read more about why the U.S. can’t simply pull out of Afghanistan here — and not just for the sakes of the Afghan people, but for reasons of national security.

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This latest attack was particularly effective because of the tactical advantage that conservative clothing can give. Personally, I have seen men attempt to pull off disguising themselves in burqas before, and while it’s not so effective for larger men, smaller militants can use the baggy clothing that covers them head-to-toe to conceal a great deal of weaponry. These sorts of tactics are common Islamic extremists, and ultra-conservative clothing allows for its success.

To contrast that with American clothing — a heavy jacket might be able to conceal explosives, but it would have to be quite heavy. We tend to place a lot of value on things that show the contours of our body; even “conservative” American clothing does this to a certain degree. In order to successfully conceal a rifle and explosives, one would have to wear a significant amount of clothing that would probably turn some heads.

The reality is that whatever the circumstance or culture, guerrilla fighters will always use tactics such as these to their advantage — this is just the most recent example.

Featured image: Doctors assist a wounded young man in a hospital after a deadly attack on a Shiite mosque in Gardez, the capital of Paktia, Afghanistan, Friday, Aug. 3, 2018. Two suicide bombers attacked the Shiite mosque in eastern Afghanistan during Friday prayers, killing several people and wounding others, officials said. | AP Photo