US exit will stop ISIS attacks in Afghanistan, Taleban says

KABUL (AFP) – The Taleban’s spokesman says the hardline Islamist group will crack down on Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) attacks and expects them to end once foreign forces leave the country.

“We hope that those Afghans who are influenced by IS… will give up their operations on seeing the formation of an Islamic government in the absence of foreigners,” Taleban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told AFP in a weekend interview.

“If they create a situation for war and continue with their operations, the Islamic government… we will deal with them,” he added.

A devastating suicide bomb attack claimed by ISIS outside Kabul airport on Thursday (Aug 26) killed scores of people who were hoping to flee the country, as well as 13 US service members.

Retaliatory or pre-emptive strikes by the United States on ISIS positions over the past few days have angered the movement, however.

The Pentagon said it carried out a drone strike Sunday against a vehicle threatening Kabul airport that had been linked to ISIS.

“There is no permission for them to do such operations… our independence must be respected,” said the Taleban spokesman.

The evacuation of tens of thousands of foreigners and Afghans who feel at risk of reprisal or repression under the Taleban is due to end on Tuesday, along with the full withdrawal of US and Nato troops.

ISIS has been highly critical of the troop withdrawal deal struck between the Taleban and Washington last year, which saw the Taleban offer security guarantees.

One ISIS commentary published after the fall of Kabul accused the Taleban of betraying terrorists with the US withdrawal deal and vowed to continue its fight, according to the SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors militant communications.

During the Taleban’s prison break spree this summer to free its fighters, many battle-hardened ISIS militants were also released – increasingly looking like a lethal error.

Although both groups are hardline Sunni Islamist militants, they have differed on the minutiae of religion and strategy, while each claiming to be the true flag-bearers of their cause.

In recent years, the ISIS Afghanistan-Pakistan chapter has been responsible for some of the deadliest attacks in those countries.

They have massacred civilians at mosques, public squares, schools, and even hospitals.

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Mr Mujahid reiterated that the new Taleban government will not be announced until after the last US soldier has left.

“It is important to announce the government but this requires a lot of patience. We are holding consultations to form the government responsibly,” Mr Mujahid said.

“We have some technical problems on this issue,” he added.

Banks, government offices and other public institutions remain largely shut with employees prevented from entering offices since the takeover, which sent the Afghani sliding.

The Taleban has promised to improve Afghanistan’s economy, but to do that the new regime will have to rely on foreign aid – and there is no guarantee it will get the funds it needs.

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