An explosion ripped through an education center in Kabul, Afghanistan. A suicide bomber detonated an explosive strapped to their person, killing at least 48 and wounding approximately 67 — these numbers are still coming in and will likely change as more details become apparent.
The mass majority of the victims, who were civilians, were young men and women, studying in a predominantly Shi’ite neighborhood. Reports indicate that most were around post-high school age.
While no one has claimed the attack yet, the Islamic State (otherwise known as ISIS-K or IS-K, the branch of ISIS operating in Afghanistan) has been known to go after Shi’ite targets in the area. Just as they wage war against NATO forces in the country and the Afghan government, they have also been waging war against Shi’ites in the country, and this falls in line with that “campaign.”
The Islamic State is most likely responsible for this latest attack — it definitely fits their methods in the past, not to mention the fact that they consider Shi’ites to be the enemy. They see them as a heretical sect of Islam, and therefore not only illegitimate but a disgrace. For IS, a violent solution over such differences is a reasonable one.
IS presents a legitimate threat in Afghanistan to NATO forces, Afghan government officials, Afghan civilians, and even the Taliban.
As peace talks are now possible between the United States and the Taliban, it’s probably not possible for the U.S. and the Taliban to part on completely amicable terms. However, if the U.S. pulls out of Afghanistan, it is certainly possible that the Taliban and the Afghan government can find common enough ground, so long as the Taliban (and everyone who follows them) accept that Afghanistan cannot be governed by Sharia law.
While the havoc they wreak is terrible, IS may serve as a unifying factor for the Afghan government and the Taliban. Having a common enemy could be yet another reason for them to broker some sort of peace. The Taliban are just as much of an enemy to IS as the United States, the Afghan government, and many of the Afghan people.
There has been some concern that, if the upper echelons of the Taliban agree to peace with the Afghan government, many of their fighters will see that as a compromise and peace with the U.S. They call the Afghan government “puppets,” and some have even expressed fear that significant portions of the Taliban would defect to IS. There are many differences between the Taliban and IS, but they are both rooted in Sunni doctrine, and defections of this nature are plausible.
Even the most optimistic readers should not be naive – the Taliban will not stop their campaigns until there is a definitive plan of action and peace is decided upon. Neither will NATO or Afghan troops. Until then, war will continue in Afghanistan on all fronts. As this most recent attack reminds us, that war includes IS.