Can the Taliban prove its sincerity with counter-terrorism?
Published: Oct 14, 2021 07:08 PM
Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

We should "adopt a zero-tolerance approach to ensure that Afghanistan keeps itself far away from terrorism," Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi said on Tuesday while attending the G20 Extraordinary Leaders' Meeting on Afghanistan in Beijing via video link. The remarks echoed his previous statement in September that Afghanistan should strive not to become a shelter or a source for terrorist activities again.

The international community's concern about Afghanistan's breaking off all its relations with all kinds of terrorists stems from memories of history and realistic threats. Historically, Afghanistan was hotbed for terrorism. This not only deeply harmed the country itself, but also posed challenges to international security by allowing terrorism to spread to neighboring regions and globally. If the Taliban want to be recognized by the international community, they must change its current relations with terrorism. Currently, there are still more than 20 active terrorist groups that have ties with the Taliban in Afghanistan.

Of course, the Taliban have stated that they will not allow any terrorists to attack other countries from Afghanistan. But this will depend both on the Taliban's true intent and their real capability to fulfill such promises. 

Due to contradictions between factions and disputes in opinions against terrorist forces as well as pressures from the international community, the Taliban face internal differences in handling ties with terrorist groups - including the East Turkistan Islamic Movement. 

From a realistic point of view, the Taliban also worry that a forcible expulsion or outright elimination of extremist terrorist groups will spark fierce backlashes and push those members into the arms of enemy camps. In addition, it is hard to completely uproot those forces. Some of them have been operating in the country for many years and deeply entrenched. 

After the Taliban took control of Kabul, the Islamic State - Khorasan, a branch of IS, has been more blatantly opposing the Taliban. IS has also carried out significantly more terror attacks in Afghanistan. 

It is commonly believed that extreme terrorist forces in Afghanistan can be suppressed if the Taliban adopt stringent governing rules. It will be hard for the new government to crack down on terrorist organizations any time soon. 

In terms of cutting off connections with terrorism, the Taliban face both issues of willingness and capability challenges. The international community should not simply hope the Taliban will deliver its promises by itself. There should be monitoring mechanisms and restrictive measures. We should give the Taliban more time. While waiting, the global community should work with the Taliban to formulate a clearer plan and roadmap on the issue. 

The Taliban must take practical actions to prove their changes and sincerity in counter-terrorism. 

The author is director of the Center for Afghanistan Studies in Lanzhou University. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn
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