US special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad clearly hasn’t watched the American spy thriller television series Homeland. After the terrible attack on a funeral and a maternity ward in Afghanistan, an attack mainly on girls and women, some of them pregnant, children and even babies, the brave Khalilzad rushed, in fact, to blame ISIS-Khorasan for the carnage, defending the Taliban and their supposed commitment to 'peace'.
And when asked to comment on what Afghan intelligence agencies were claiming (of a proven link between ISIS and Taliban), the special envoy replied: “We believe that ISIS and the Taliban are mortal enemies, and in the war against ISIS, the Taliban have played an important role.”
Why Afghan Intelligence Is Under Review
Maybe Khalilzad should watch more TV and spend less time listening to his Taliban cheerleaders from both sides of the ocean, the same cheerleaders of the shameful 'peace agreement' who wrote the Haqqani op-ed in The New York Times and made US sign a ‘withdrawal’ with not much disguise. Hiring Homeland's script writers would be a better idea, it seems.
In fact, there's an episode in Season 8, where a member of a Haqqani faction, the one handled in the fictional story directly by the Pakistani intelligence, shoots a video of an American hostage making him wearing the typical orange suit against the typical ISIS video background. Just a fictional story? Not completely.
Not only are fiction writers in fact assessing the fact that Pakistan has links with both groups, a number of experts are reviewing the whole of the Afghan intelligence.
According to Antonio Giustozzi, a well-known terrorism expert, in 2017, the ISIS-Levant split into two factions – one faction led by Ustad Moawya and another faction led by Aslam Faroqqi. According to the scholar, one of the reasons for the split was the belief that Faroqqi and his men were mainly Pakistani and were being directly handled by Pakistani ISI who would arrange financial support for them and give safe havens in Pakistan's tribal areas. Faroqqi is quite well-known to the intelligence agencies. The Afghanistan National Department of Security (NDS) maintains in fact, that Faroqqi has links with Lashkar-e-Tayyiba, with Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, with the Taliban, and with the Haqqani Network.
After US-Taliban ‘Peace Deal’, Exponential Rise in Violence in Afghanistan
When Faroqqi was arrested in April 2019 by Afghans after a deadly attack on a Sikh gurudwara, Pakistan rushed, through their Ambassador in Islamabad, to ask for Faroqqi’s extradition, alleging supposed plots against Pakistani targets. According to the Afghanistan National Department of Security, ISIS-K has become very active only with the help of Pakistan. It is practically doing – under another brand – all the jobs the Taliban will not openly do because of the 'peace agreement', but trying to asses, nevertheless, Pakistan's point of view and its (not-so) remote control in the region. And, of course, it is trying to delegitimise the Afghan government in order to install an Islamabad-friendly Cabinet in its place.
But according to Khalilzad, none of this is ‘real’. In his black and white world, where there are no shades of grey and where intelligence agencies play fair games Camelot-style, ISIS and Taliban are enemies, and “one supports a peace process; the other is against it”.
It does not seem to matter that after the ‘peace agreement’ signed at the end of February in Doha between the US and the Taliban, there’s been an exponential increase of violence in the country.
And it does not matter that Bill Roggio, one of the most quoted terrorism analysts, has been posting on social media, scary pictures of the Taliban's 'peace training camps', and that the same US experts are complaining against the Taliban's actions and their lack of willingness to stick to the agreements. The show must go on. And the show is a replica of what we saw in the past years and a triumph of the Pakistani narrative over it.
Why US Special Envoy Khalilzad Must Stop ‘Playing Dumb’
‘Good’ terrorists against ‘bad’ terrorists, terrorists labeled bad or good according to the need of the moment. Terrorists clashing against each other when it is useful, and joining hands when they have to. The master is one and the same, and the puppeteer stages his own show making the puppets perform according to the script.
The US Special Envoy should stop playing dumb in order to keep a shameful agreement with a terrorist group and its terrorist supporters. And if he does not want to listen to terrorism experts or to Afghan intelligence, if he really thinks that ISIS and Taliban are ‘mortal enemies’, he should maybe relax, spend a couple of days at home and watch Homeland Season 8. After all, Oscar Wilde wrote many years ago, that “life imitates art far more than art imitates life”.
(Francesca Marino is a journalist and a South Asia expert who has written ‘Apocalypse Pakistan’ with B Natale. She tweets at @francescam63. This is an opinion piece, and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for them.)