Friday, June 5, 2015

The Islamic State vs. The Taliban

Today's confounding news from Afghanistan:
Throughout the month, fighters claiming allegiance to the Islamic State’s caliph had been attacking veteran Taliban units south and east of Jalalabad, the provincial capital. In one district, Islamic State loyalists have replaced the Taliban as the dominant insurgent power, and elsewhere they have begun making inroads in Taliban territory, one tribal elder, Mohammad Siddiq Mohmand, said in an interview. . . .

In places where militants in Afghanistan have adopted the Islamic State creed of embracing atrocity and ruling by fear, their strategy has been to aggressively attack the Taliban, just as in Syria where the group early on picked fights with more established units affiliated with Al Qaeda. And the evidence so far this spring suggests the influence of the Islamic State is growing. . . . Islamic State-inspired militants have created a significant shift: The Taliban insurgency, even as it advances against the Western-backed government, is having to wrestle with an insurgent threat of its own.

After more than a decade of remaining remarkably unified around the elusive figure of Mullah Muhammad Omar, the Taliban are splintering to a degree not seen before, as hundreds of insurgents have shifted their loyalty to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of the Islamic State and self-declared caliph of the Muslim world.
What are to to think of this? Celebrate that our enemies are fighting each other? Worry that if the Islamic State defeats the Taliban, they will be even worse? Worry, more existentially, that the only people who will stand up to Taliban fanatics are motivated by an even more extreme ideology? Scratch our heads and think about something else?

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