08:57 GMT24 February 2020
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    The Afghan government's claims that ISIL is threatening the sovereignty of the state, could create rationality for the international presence, according to the experts.

    MOSCOW (Sputnik), Svetlana Alexandrova — The Afghan leadership can count on a continuing international military presence and financial support if it can make a case that the Islamic Sate (ISIL) is threatening the sovereignty of the state, international experts told Sputnik.

    "If the Afghan government can portray that the Islamic Sate of Iraq and Syria [ISIL] is threatening the sovereignty of the state, it creates better rationality for the international presence," professor of political science at the University of Illinois Marvin Weinbaum told Sputnik, when asked to evaluate the ISIL threat to Afghanistan.

    Afghanistan has seen an upsurge in violence since foreign troops started to withdraw from the country, resulting in an enormous number of casualties. According to recent UN reports, civilian causalities rose by 8 percent in the first three months of 2015.

    Last Saturday, ISIL claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing in the eastern city of Jalalabad. It appears to be the first major attack in Afghanistan by insurgents aligning themselves with this terrorist organization.

    "As of today, it is hard to evaluate the ISIS [ISIL] presence in Afghanistan," Weinbaum stated, adding that there is no direct indication that "Abu Bakr Al-Bagdadi, [the leader of the ISIL group], is calling the shots there."

    He pointed out, however, that this new emerging terrorist force may have found additional supporters among Taliban and al-Qaeda insurgents, "who are ready to find another loyalty and affiliate with another name that is on everyone's lips."

    The emergence of ISIL in the region is playing into the hands of the Afghan leadership, Marvin Weinbaum, who served as an analyst for Pakistan and Afghanistan in the US Department of State's Bureau of Intelligence and Research, stressed.

    The Taliban fighters
    © AP Photo / Pakistani Taliban handout
    He believes that Afghan president Ashraf Ghani and his immediate circle are "downplaying the responsibility of the the Taliban" for the rising violence. "They try to get a negotiating settlement with the Islamist movement, therefore they tend to blame ISIS [ISIL] rather than the Taliban," the expert noted.

    According to Weinbaum, the Afghan strategy "is to keep the international community involved in Afghanistan but also to pursue the possibility of negotiations with the Taliban."

    However, the Taliban itself states that it will not negotiate seriously as long as there are foreign troops in the region.

    In January, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) formally ended its International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) mission in Afghanistan and launched its new "Resolute Support" mission in Afghanistan.

    At the moment, US military presence is expected to be cut to 5,500 troops by the middle of 2015, and to be equal to a normal embassy presence by the end of 2016.

    Jasteena Dhillon, International, Military and Development Affairs Consultant at the University of Windsor Law School, welcomes the United States' decision to reduce its military presence in Afghanistan.

    "The long term development of the country can't be done by the military alliance, because it does not have the credibility in the civilian agencies, civil society and among citizens," she told Sputnik.

    According to the expert, NATO's decision to launch a follow-on mission demonstrates that the military bloc is trying to help the Afghan leadership stabilize the situation in the country.

    Dhillon also sees a natural progression in the transfer from an active phase, with military and political intervention, to another — when international forces continue to offer a stabilizing influence, political advice and facilitate human rights.

    "The [previous] NATO mission in Afghanistan has not failed [completely], it has fallen well short on its goals," Marvin Weinbaum pointed out, adding, however, that "although, the Taliban doesn't hold openly any territory in Afghanistan, its presence across the country remains rather substantial."

    Both experts agreed, however, that while none of the neighboring countries, including Russia, Pakistan and Iran, want to see a permanent international military presence in Afghanistan, they also realize that a quick departure will bring chaos in the region.


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