UN’s Afghan Report

A United Nations report has said that a change in the name of the Al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS) magazine “suggests a refocusing” of the terror group from Afghanistan to Kashmir. The 13th report of the Analytical Support and Sanctions Monitoring Team discusses the Taliban and other associated individuals and entities constituting a threat to the peace, stability and security of Afghanistan was released on Saturday. The AQIS, the report said, has 180 to 400 fighters and they are from Bangladesh, India, Myanmar and Pakistan and are located in Ghazni, Helmand, Kandahar, Nimruz, Paktika and Zabul Provinces. But the global jihadi group AQIS is said to have for now been forced to adopt a less aggressive posture due to financial constraints. But the report warns that as with Al-Qaeda core, new circumstances in Afghanistan may allow the group to reorganise itself. The 2020 name change of the AQIS magazine from ‘Nawa-i Afghan Jihad’ to ‘Nawa-e-Gazwah-e-Hind’ suggests a shift away from Afghanistan to Kashmir. Similarly, Jaish-e-Mohammed and Lashkar-e-Taiba, the report says,  are said to maintain their training camps in some provinces of Afghanistan and some of them are directly under the Taliban control.

In fact, the fears of militants turning their attention towards Kashmir grew in the wake of the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan in August 2021. This despite the fact that the Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid had last year assured that the group won’t allow Afghan soil to be used against any other country. But such reassurances have far from satisfied the security agencies in India. There have also been noises to the effect among the militant groups that the waning militancy in Kashmir be revived. Al Qaeda in its statement following the Taliban victory had called for “liberation” of Kashmir.

There is no telling as yet how the shift in the regional situation would impact Kashmir. Over the last two and a half years, Kashmir  has witnessed a relative decline not only in militancy but also in the influx of  Pakistani militants. Pakistan, under what is believed to be pressure from the FATF has cracked down on the leaders of Kashmir centric militant groups like Lashkar and Jaish-e-Mohammad. Lashkar leaders like Hafiz Saeed and Zaki-ur-Rahman Lakhvi have been jailed. Similarly  Jaish chief Masood Azhar and Hizbul Mujahideen supremo Syed Salahuddin have largely become conspicuous by their absence from the scene, more so, the former.

Would things change now? The opinion among security experts remains split over the possibility of this happening. But if this happens, it would confront security agencies in Kashmir with a renewed Kashmir challenge. As of now, everything is in the realm of speculation. The common refrain in Kashmir among the experts in the country is to wait and watch.  However, recent spurt in violence across the Valley doesn’t bode well for the near future.

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