As ISIS and other jihadist groups wreak havoc across the Middle East and Africa, they’ve blurred borders, taken over cities and created millions of refugees. You may be surprised to learn that many share an enemy besides the “infidel:” each other. But all that is about to change.
While ISIS began as a faction of al-Qaida, team terror began breaking down a few years ago. Among other reasons, they were expelled from al-Qaeia for being being TOO brutal, as they feared a connection to the group would damage its reputation. Yes – really. Since then, the groups have both declared a jihad against one another. In that war, we’ll all be rooting for both sides.
Another terror group in opposition to ISIS is the Taliban. While they share the end goal of implementing Sharia law, territorial disputes still arise, as do concerns over leadership. The Taliban, for one, doesn’t want ISIS to have any territory in Afghanistan. Additionally, they don’t accept ISIS leader Abu Bakr al Baghdadi as their caliph, because “in Islam, Khalifa means that he has command over all the Muslim world, while Baghdadi has no such command; he has command over a specific people and territory.”
ISIS has also been locked in combat with the Taliban over territory in Afghanistan. But there’s a disturbing new development on the horizon as both groups unite to drive out U.S. troops.
As the Wall Street Journal reported: ISIS and the Taliban, after more than a year of fierce combat, have forged a patchwork cease-fire across much of eastern Afghanistan that has helped both insurgencies regroup and counter U.S.-backed efforts to dislodge them.Until several months ago, Islamic State fought bloody battles with local Taliban units over fighters and territory in several provinces. The long-running Taliban insurgency has sought to stamp out its smaller rival, which only emerged in 2014. Afghan and U.S.-led coalition forces took advantage of the conflict, engaging the militants on multiple fronts to push them back and reclaim territory they held. But recently, Afghan officials say, the two insurgencies have worked out local deals to stop fighting each other and turn their sights on the government. The upshot is that Islamic State has been able to focus on fighting U.S.- backed Afghan forces in Nangarhar province and shift north into Kunar province, establishing a new foothold in a longtime Taliban and former al-Qaida stronghold.
“They fought deadly battles with the Taliban before. But over the past two months, there has been no fighting among them,” said Gen. Mohammad Zaman Waziri, who commands Afghan troops in the east.
Islamic State’s presence in Afghanistan is still nascent. Even in its stronghold Nangarhar, Afghan officials estimate the group remains several times smaller than the Taliban. And the cease-fire between them could break apart at any time. Islamic State’s alliance with the Taliban comes as the U.S. steps up efforts to combat it. A joint Afghan-U. S. operation against Islamic State in February was hailed as a success until it became clear the militants had regrouped and were regaining lost ground.
Could this be a lasting truce? Probably not. Their plan is to drive out American soldiers, then resume war with one another, but neither group is close to having the necessary resources to do that. However, given our restrictive Rules of Engagement and the Obama administration’s never-ending efforts to diminish and demoralize our military, you just never know.
Hopefully this truce breaks down quickly and they can resume aiding the U.S. – by fighting each other.
[Note: This post was authored by Matt Palumbo. Follow him on Twitter @MattPalumbo12]