US trained and armed Afghan security forces are joining ISIS-K, which makes the US ‘withdrawal’ from Afghanistan look more like an American ‘repositioning’ to keep chaos humming
By Pepe Escobar with permission and cross-posted with The Cradle
Something quite extraordinary happened in early November in Kabul.
Taliban interim-Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi and Turkmen Foreign Minister Rashid Meredov got together to discuss a range of political and economic issues. Most importantly, they resurrected the legendary soap opera which in the early 2000s I dubbed Pipelineistan: the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) gas pipeline.
Call it yet another remarkable, historical twist in the post-jihad Afghan saga, going back as far as the mid-1990s when the Taliban first took power in Kabul.
In 1997, the Taliban even visited Houston to discuss the pipeline, then known as TAP, as reported in Part 1 of my e-book Forever Wars.
During the second Clinton administration, a consortium led by Unocal – now part of Chevron – was about to embark on what would have been an extremely costly proposition (nearly $8 billion) to undercut Russia in the intersection of Central and South Asia; as well as to smash the competition: the Iran-Pakistan-India (IPI) pipeline.
The Taliban were duly courted – in Houston and in Kabul. A key go-between was the ubiquitous Zalmay Khalilzad, aka ‘Bush’s Afghan,’ in one of his earlier incarnations as Unocal lobbyist-cum-Taliban interlocutor. But then, low oil prices and non-stop haggling over transit fees stalled the project. That was the situation in the run-up to 9/11.
In early 2002, shortly after the Taliban were expelled from power by the American “bombing to democracy” ethos, an agreement to build what was then still billed as TAP (without India), was signed by Ashgabat, Kabul and Islamabad.
As years went by, it was clear that TAPI, which runs for roughly 800 km across Afghan lands and could yield as much as $400 million annually in transit revenue for Kabul’s coffers, would never be built while hostage to a guerrilla environment.
Still, five years ago, Kabul decided to revive TAPI and work started in 2018 – under massive security in Herat, Farah, Nimruz and Helmand provinces, already largely under Taliban control.
At the time, the Taliban said they would not attack TAPI and would even provide their own security. The gas pipeline was to be paired with fiber optic cables – as with the Karakoram Highway in Pakistan – and a railway line from Turkmenistan to Afghanistan.
History never stops playing tricks in the graveyard of empires. Believe it or not, we’re now back to the same situation on the ground as in 1996.
The spanner in the works
If we pay attention to the plot twists in this never-ending Pipelineistan saga, there’s no guarantee whatsoever that TAPI will finally be built. It’s certainly a quadruple win for all involved – including India – and a massive step towards Eurasia’s integration in its Central-South Asian node.
Enter the spanner in the works: ISIS-Khorasan (ISIS-K), the subsidiary of Daesh in Afghanistan.
Russian intel has known for over a year that the usual suspects have been providing help to ISIS-K, at least indirectly.
Yet now there’s a new element, confirmed by Taliban sources, that quite a few US-trained soldiers of the previous Afghan National Army are incorporating themselves into ISIS-K to fight against the Taliban.
ISIS-K, which sports a global jihadi mindset, has typically viewed the Taliban as a group of dirty nationalists. Earlier jihadi members used to be recruited from the Pakistani Taliban and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU). Yet now, apart from former soldiers, they are mostly young, disaffected urban Afghans, westernized by trashy pop culture.
It’s been hard for ISIS-K to establish the narrative that the Taliban are western collaborators – considering that the NATO galaxy continues to antagonize and/or dismiss the new rulers of Kabul.
So the new ISIS-K spin is monomaniac: basically, a strategy of chaos to discredit the Taliban, with an emphasis on the latter being unable to provide security for average Afghans. That is what underlies the recent horrific attacks on Shia mosques and government infrastructure, including hospitals.
In parallel, US President Joe Biden’s “over the horizon” spin, meant to define the alleged American strategy to fight ISIS-K, has not convinced anyone, apart from NATO vassals.
Since its creation in 2015, ISIS-K continues to be financed by the same dodgy sources that fueled chaos in Syria and Iraq. The moniker itself is an attempt to misdirect, a divisive ploy straight out of the CIA’s playbook.
Historic ‘Khorasan’ comes from successive Persian empires, a vast area ranging from Persia and the Caspian all the way to northwest Afghanistan – and has nothing whatsoever to do with Salafi-jihadism and the Wahhabi lunatics who make up the terrorist group’s ranks. Furthermore, these ISIS-K jihadis are based in south-eastern Afghanistan, away from Iran’s borders, so the ‘Khorasan’ label makes zero sense.
Russian, Chinese and Iranian intel operate on the basis that the US ‘withdrawal’ from Afghanistan, as in Syria and Iraq, was not a withdrawal but a repositioning. What’s left is the trademark, undiluted American strategy of chaos executed via both direct (troops stealing Syrian oil) and indirect (ISIS-K) actors.
The scenario is self-evident when one considers that Afghanistan was the precious missing link of China’s New Silk Roads. After the US exit, Afghanistan is not only primed to fully engage with Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), but also to become a key node of Eurasia integration as a future full member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) and the Eurasia Economic Union (EAEU).
To hedge against these positive developments, the routine practices of the Pentagon and its NATO subsidiary remain in wait in Afghanistan, ready to disrupt political, diplomatic, economic and security progress in the country. We may be now entering a new chapter in the US Hegemony playbook: Closet Forever Wars.
The closely connected SCO
Fifth columnists are tasked with carrying the new imperial message to the West. That’s the case of Rahmatullah Nabil, former head of Afghanistan’s National Directorate of Security (NDS), “the Afghan intelligence service with close ties to the CIA,” as described by Foreign Policy magazine..
In an interview presented with a series of trademark imperial lies – “law and order is disintegrating,” “Afghanistan has no friends in the international community,” “the Taliban have no diplomatic partners” – Nabil, at least, does not make a complete fool of himself.
He confirms that ISIS-K keeps recruiting, and adds that former Afghan defense/security ops are joining ISIS-K because “they see the Islamic State as a better platform for themselves.”
He’s also correct that the Taliban leadership in Kabul is “afraid the extreme and young generation of their fighters” may join ISIS-K, “which has a regional agenda.”
Russia “playing a double game” is just silly. In presidential envoy Zamir Kabulov, Moscow maintains a first-class interlocutor in constant touch with the Taliban, and would never allow the “resistance,” as in CIA assets, to be based in Tajikistan with an Afghan destabilization agenda.
On Pakistan, it’s correct that Islamabad is “trying to convince the Taliban to include pro-Pakistan technocrats in their system.” But that’s not “in return for lobbying for international recognition.” It’s a matter of responding to the Taliban’s own management needs.
The SCO is very closely connected on what they collectively expect from the Taliban. That includes an inclusive government and no influx of refugees. Uzbekistan, for instance, as the main gateway to Central Asia for Afghanistan, has committed to participating in the reconstruction business.
For its part, Tajikistan announced that China will build a $10 million military base in the geologically spectacular Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Region. Countering western hysteria, Dushanbe made sure that the base will essentially host a special rapid reaction unit of the Regional Department for Organized Crime Control, subordinated to Tajikistan’s Minister of Internal Affairs.
That will include around 500 servicemen, several light armored vehicles, and drones. The base is part of a deal between Tajikistan’s Interior Ministry and China’s Ministry of State Security.
The base is a necessary compromise. Tajik President Emomali Rahmon has a serious problem with the Taliban: he refuses to recognize them, and insists on better Tajik representation in a new government in Kabul.
Beijing, for its part, never deviates from its number one priority: preventing Uighurs from the East Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM) by all means from crossing Tajik borders to wreak havoc in Xinjiang.
So all the major SCO players are acting in tandem towards a stable Afghanistan. As for US Think Tankland, predictably, they don’t have much of a strategy, apart from praying for chaos.
those who prematurely celebrated the Empire’s demise might be utterly dumbfounded right now
this resurgence of the Empire is happening because the Empire is not just a physical domain
but spiritual as well
not all chaos should be attributed to western meddling, evil inhabits and drives all nations
I’ve been saying for awhile now that the Empire isn’t dead, it’s not even slowed down. No one is invading a nuclear power, so the state of the Empire’s military as compared to the Russian or Chinese military is irrelevant. The only “enemy” the Empire’s military is likely to fight is a domestic one, for which blue-haired trannies are actually better, as they are more likely to push a button to drop nerve gas on a town from a drone.
Wrong. The fallacy of your claims is in plain sight; the US isn’t in a dominant position in Afghanistan, the damage they can inflict on the Taliban is very low because at any moment Taliban can ask for help from the SCO and even now, they might be getting it as intel. ISIS will never attain a dominant position in Afghanistan as they did in Syria.
Back to the US. The supply chain is crumbling, supermarkets are out of goods, oil prices rising, Biden at the lowest of his popular support. Seems like its the US that’s in chaos.
The Wakhan Corridor, that little worthless piece of land.
Yes, indeed the neighbor is salivating at the fence. You can see the spital on his chin.
Afghanistan is a failed and divided country. Just like Iraq or Bosnia. The gas pipes would never pass there. If ISIS takes over only a part of the territory there, the Anglo-Americans may again have an excuse to bomb and destabilize the region as they do in Syria. Those states should be divided in my opinion. In the case of Afghanistan to the southern Pashtun part and the northern Turkish Uzbek-Turkmen and third Tajik part. Only when people’s borders are created will the situation calm down (and the people’s focus directed at their local corrupt sheriffs), only then is it possible for them to live in peace with their neighbors and to look after their own affairs. Since international law is no longer valid and there is no consensus in the UNSC with the next war(it would certanly come), something like that should be proposed to nuclear Pakistan. And be supported by China, Russia and Iran. With the obligatory turn of Pakistan towards the Asian bloc.Turks and Russians can pacify the northern part of the Hindu Kush, Pakistan and China southern. India may disagree, but with time it will accept the situation on the ground. Especially if they get a share in Baltistan Kashmir. Pakistan is responsible for fundamentalization and should take those people under its responsibility. Like one of the controlled federal units. In this way it is possible to send the emirates to the past and develop a Pashtun society Hazarjet should gain some autonomy like the Turkmens in Iran or Turks in China or Russia. With obligation of all four powers to guarantee the neutrality of the central asian Turkish republic. Iran in the similar way can take over the Kurdish part of Iraq. It is one nation, if they have the will, they can be under one national roof. Otherwise, the Anglo-Zionists will constantly use corrupt politicants for the instability like they are doing through Bosniak politicians in Bosnia. Divide and empire. This is the only way the West (less than half of billion) can survive. By inciting each other until borders and national issues are resolved. Baltistan in Kashmir should be resolved in the same way. Tajikistan, ie Russia and India, can also be connected to Korakorum Highway via the northern parts of Chitral or Skardu. The area around the highway can be neutralized with equal rights for all national units. A free trade area can become a partnership area between four nuclear powers.
India will have no say in gilgit baltistan. You think we’re stupid? Sure we’ll connect them with TAPI but India has zero leverage over Pakistan but we have leverage over them. Huge amounts.
That comment is typical western analysis, having no knowledge of history, culture and politics of the region. He thinks that the non-pashtun ethnic groups are going to accept the division of afghanistan. He forgets that the corrupt officials were placed by NATO and thinks that people will oust them once the territories are divided, but the corrupt officials are already out, best part is that they are in his lands, given refuge by the NATO states. He doesn’t even know that IS-K was defeated by the taliban even before NATO exit and IS-K can at best carry out blasts but cannot capture any territories (and he is foolish enough to think that iran and pak will allow IS-K to get a hold in afghanistan). He thinks that pak will accept the division and try to implement it. He inserts turks and russians into afghan hindu kush, this is the pinnacle of wishful thinking, he thinks that pashtuns and pak will allow turks and russians into hindu kush. Pashtuns will fight both pak and china if they even try to invade the southern parts. He also thinks that india will stop with just a part of blatistan and that the baltis will allow themselves to be ruled by india and that pak will even give any territory to india. He thinks that the kurds are friendly towards the persians and will allow themselves to be governed by the persians. He compares afghanistan where there is a local self rule to bosnia, which is under western control. He tries to insert russia into afghanistan and gilgit-baltistan kashmir, where it has no role. He calls afghanistan and iraq as failed states, ignoring that it was the NATO which destroyed them. And afghanistan isn’t even divided, it is more united that it has been in decades.
He offers his entire ‘solution’ thinking that this is a fairytale where everyone will live happily ever after.
Like a true western analyst, he doesn’t see a far simpler solution, about dismantling NATO and some of its states.
I’ll leave the grandiose ideas to the thinkers, but for this country bumpkin with one eye, the map reads like story. Any country that borders Iran and China will be kept a cauldron. Next up Pakistan. China can drop 10% of its GDP on it, but, it will go towards war.
china giving pakistan a navy is certainly a chess piece move. india and its masters mustnt be pleased .a decade or two to show any type of fruition. but at least there another flag in the water to look at.
They’re trying hard to make it so but Pakistan is an old hand at this game. Expecially with China at its back. This danger has been called out publicly by certain Generals years ago. We understand our very existence is at stake and judging by how we’ve dealt with existential dangers since our creation, I’m very confident this will be dealt with successfully.
Pepe as a good scout points us to the next step in the wilderness of lies, chaos and hegemony.
Escobar’s machete clears the undergrowth and gives us the markings to guide us. Afghanistan has never been a nation. It is the country of tribes and campgrounds of Empires.
Surrounded by the biggest players on Earth, the Afghanistan that poses as a unitary nation for this historic moment will be roiled and rocked by the US. Pepe explains how the proxy force of ISIS-K is merely disguised as a natural formation, dressed up with an allusion to Khorasan.
The first big clue to the immediate future for Afghanistan is the $85 Billion in abandoned weapons and vehicles. The intention was clear from the get-go when we saw this. The Taliban would sell some and much of it would fall into the hands of ISIS-K so a civil war could ensue. It would also be fodder for corruption among the Taliban, creating fissures in their unity. Tribal sentiments and regional war lords would get involved. It becomes kindling for the blaze the US wants to burn in its absence.
The US didn’t leave so Afghanistan could progress and become stable. The US bailed out as a strategic move. It’s just that Biden abandoned the CIA bases and Bagram, leaving the US with no operational platform to stay active within country. Trump’s withdrawal was not going to be so inept and would have left the US inside the country, based at Bagram with special forces, CIA and contractors.
Hell is returning to Afghanistan. The Devil in Washington has planned it and can still manipulate its puppets and proxies.
Indeed, seeing the successful Taliban foot soldiers parading in US humvee is like seeing the Trogans partying with the wooden horse the Greeks left behind in their faux retreat. Well spotted.
Looks to be true. Beware of Empires bearing gifts.
And you think the SCO will stand back and watch while a civil war starts at their doorstep? Seems unlikely to me.
yes – China / Russia / Iran – know every US tactic for the last 100 years from Yugoslavia to Ukraine to S. China Sea.
who would you bet on in Biden Admin – Milley? Blinken – please? or Lavrov et al for check mate strategy.
yes disruption from US no doubt – but 24 / 7 the three amigos want the same thing – stability and markets – they are on the borders of Afgan.
long term no contest
“The US bailed out as a strategic move.”
I would rather call it a panicked tactical move. Strategy implies thorough long term planning, of which I see none. The way I see it, they left because they lost their only land access to Afghanistan through Pakistan courtesy to China’s BRI, and their position was becoming simply untenable under such circumstances. You’re probably right about the “abandoned weapons” and ISIS-K, but at best it only serves to prolong a little while their real strategic goal which is obviously to keep Afghanistan a failed state. However, after they all fire the last of the abandoned ammunition and they finish playing “indians vs cowboys”, my guess is ISIS-K will simply dissolve into thin air as will the Massoud “rebels”. There is of course one wild card with Turkey in the mix, but at this point I fail to see their motivation to go against the grain. I guess what I’m saying is I’m more optimistic.
“Russian, Chinese and Iranian intel operate on the basis that the US ‘withdrawal’ from Afghanistan, as in Syria and Iraq, was not a withdrawal but a repositioning. What’s left is the trademark, undiluted American strategy of chaos executed via both direct (troops stealing Syrian oil) and indirect (ISIS-K) actors.”
The dirty secret that America and its crime partners don’t want to admit is that the United States is sponsoring and aiding jihadi terrorist groups throughout the world–particularly those terrorist groups like ISIS and Al-Queda that America claims to be fighting against.
Just think, the same United States insists that it is leading the world in a Global War on Terrorism against Al-Queda (which supposedly did 9-11) and ISIS–that same United States is bosom buddies with these same terrorist groups in all but name.
This is the crime of the century.
America State Terrorism is the Terrorism that Dare Not Speak Its Name.
ISIS IS US: The Shocking Truth: Behind the Army of Terror
saw a snippet article regarding nearly a dozen explosions in china within a day or so. obviously accidents happen but the sheer number seemed interesting. sorry dont have the link (on another device) but thought it rated a mention. who knows how many gas leaks can occur. certainly an up tick in pressure by zog wouldnt be far fetched.