ANALYSIS - Islamic State Terrorist Threat In Afghanistan Not So Much Real Elsewhere

WASHINGTON (Pakistan Point News / Sputnik - 29th August, 2021) ASHINGTON, August 29 (Sputnik), Ekaterina Chukaeva - The Islamic State-Khorasan terrorist group (ISIS-K, banned in Russia), which claimed responsibility for this week's deadly suicide bombing at the Kabul airport, may be of a real threat to Afghanistan and the region but not to the rest of the world, experts told Sputnik.

The United States conducted an airstrike against the ISIS-K in Afghanistan's eastern Nangarhar Province on Friday night, killing one militant after a series of Thursday bombing attacks in Kabul, which killed 13 US soldiers among over 100 casualties.

Another US airstrike was conducted on Sunday. The US Central Command said it targeted an ISIS-K suicide bomber in his car who plotted a new attack at the Kabul airport. A source in the Kabul police told Sputnik that the rocket damaged a residential building near the airport. According to reports, the airstrike killed six people, including four children, and injured another four.

Washington has admitted its security services' failure to thwart the terrorist attacks amid a chaotic US evacuation from Afghanistan. The White House confirmed that President Joe Biden gave the US military all the authority needed to carry out attacks against the ISIS-K without congressional approval.

Richard Lachmann, a professor of sociology at the University at Albany, SUNY, and Steve Hewitt, a senior lecturer in American and Canadian Studies at the University of Birmingham, share similar views regarding the threats posed by the Islamic State (ISIS, IS, banned in Russia), which once rose to immense power in 2013-2014 in Syria and Iraq.

"ISIS poses a threat within Afghanistan and in the middle East, but there is no evidence so far that it is able to launch attacks in Europe or the US," Lachmann told Sputnik, adding that "we can't assume that ISIS's ability to launch a suicide attack at the Kabul airport means it has the capacity to do the same elsewhere."

The scholar further explained that despite the Islamic State's ability to launch attacks, it does not have enough power and support to challenge even the Taliban (a terrorist group, banned in Russia).

"At least for now, the Taliban seem to be in stronger control than either [Syrian President Bashar] Assad or the opposition in Syria or the Iraqi government was in 2013," Lachmann said.

Hewitt suggested that the ISIS-K would be of a real danger to the Afghan religious minorities rather than the western powers.

"Again, this is highly unlikely because ISIS-K may be only a few hundred to a few thousand and it would face the full weight of the Taliban, Pakistan, and Western airpower," the senior lecturer at the Birmingham University told Sputnik when asked on how fast ISIS could gain power.

According to Lachmann, the United States did a good job fighting terrorists while on the ground in Afghanistan over the past 20 years, but this might not be the case after its withdrawal.

"We saw that in less than 24 hours the US was able to kill the person who masterminded the attack at Kabul airport. And we need to remember there has not been an Islamic terrorist attack in the US since 2001," the SUNY professor noted.

The withdrawal of the US troops from Afghanistan will, however, make it harder for America to target terrorists.

"The US is switching to 'over the horizon' attacks, meaning using drones piloted from within the US. Of course, for such attacks to be successful there need to be people on the ground who can gather intelligence and that will be much harder now that the US is leaving Afghanistan. ... As the intelligence gets worse it will be harder for the US to accurately find and target key terrorists, so the attacks the US launches will become ever more indiscriminate and kill more civilians in Afghanistan," Lachman explained.

This was indeed the case with the Sunday airstrike of the US army in Kabul. The "over-the-horizon airstrike" was carried out by a drone to eliminate what CENCTOM spokesman Capt. Bill Urban described as an "imminent ISIS-K threat to Hamad Karzai International airport," adding that the US military "remain vigilant" for any potential future threats.

"Retaliation will come mainly through airpower. The US will continue to have a military presence in the region and there may be occasional raids but there won't be a return of US troops on the ground," Hewitt added.

Afghanistan has emerged as a hotspot and the center of world attention after the Taliban entered Kabul in mid-August, claiming de facto control over all of Afghanistan and causing the US-backed government to collapse.