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Terror sleeper cells activated in central Asia after Taliban comeback in Afghanistan

Experts reckon that even though the Taliban is currently projecting to the world that it will not allow terrorists to operate from the Afghanistan soil, it won’t be too long for these radical groups to launch operations in Central Asian countries after receiving direct orders from Kabul.

IANS | New Delhi |

The real threat of terror sleeper cells getting active after the return of the Taliban in Afghanistan is worrying several Central Asian countries, especially Tajikistan.

Ata Mohammad Noor, leader of Jamiat-e Islami Afghanistan and the former governor of Balkh Province, had recently compiled and made public a list of 39 jihadist organisations operating in the region – from the Islamic State and Jamaat Ansarullah to the East Turkestan Islamic Movement and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan.

An ethnic Tajik who had left Afghanistan with Abdul Rashid Dostum and vowed to “settle accounts” with the Taliban, Noor revealed the contents of his list before the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) Summit in Dushanbe, earlier this month.

“According to the politician, the leaders of these organisations are located in the Afghan province of Badakhshan. And the main leader of the groups is Haji Furqan, a citizen of Kazakhstan and a representative of the East Turkestan Islamic Movement,” said a report in Sputnik Tajikistan.

It mentions that the Taliban calls the members of these most dangerous terrorist groups “Islamic brothers” and continues to cooperate with them.

Experts reckon that even though the Taliban is currently projecting to the world that it will not allow terrorists to operate from the Afghanistan soil, it won’t be too long for these radical groups to launch operations in Central Asian countries after receiving direct orders from Kabul.

They say that several cells in the neighbouring countries have already become active since August 15, the day Taliban took control of the Afghan capital.

“Together with the Taliban, the victory is being celebrated by Salafis and jihadists all over the world, including in the CIS countries. In their eyes, the victory of the Taliban looks like a good example that should be repeated in other countries. So, of course, it would be logical to expect an intensification of the propaganda of the jihadist and Salafi underground throughout the CIS,” Parviz Mullojanov, a noted political scientist from Tajikistan told Dushanbe-based news agency Asia-Plus.

The analyst believes that most likely, the Taliban will hold back their allies for some time and will not allow massive breakthroughs across the borders, so as not to spoil relations with Russia and China, with which they apparently already have agreements on this matter.

“But they will not be kicked out of the country either, and they are unlikely to be able to. So they will be given the opportunity to continue their activities: create training camps, bases, conduct propaganda and recruit new supporters through the Internet and social networks,” he said.

The Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO) organisation members Russia, Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan have already announced a series of large-scale military exercises on the Tajikistan-Afghanistan border to counter the Taliban threat.

Last week, while speaking at the 76th session of the UN General Assembly, Tajikistan President Emomali Rahmon highlighted once again the threat Taliban’s return to power in Kabul poses to regional security and stability.

Asserting that the Tajiks of Afghanistan – who comprise more than 46 per cent of the country’s population – have the right to take their deserved pie in the public affairs, Rahmon said that the growing intensity of fights between the ethnic groups and tribes is another factor further destabilizing the political and security situation in the region.

“Various terrorist groups are actively using the unstable military and political situation in Afghanistan to strengthen their position. We have witnessed the release of thousands of members of ISIS, al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups,” said the Tajikistan President.

“In other words, it is a matter of concern and regret that today Afghanistan is once again on the path to becoming a breeding ground for international terrorism,” he added.

Tajikistan, which he said due to its geographical location, is at the forefront of countering current threats and challenges, such as terrorism, extremism, radicalization, drug trafficking and other transnational organised crime, will continue its efforts to prevent their further spread.