According to some reports, the worst nightmare of Afghan and US officials has come true: the Islamic State and the Afghani Taliban have agreed on a ceasefire and may create an alliance to fight against foreign forces in Afghanistan.
"If it is true that there really is this alliance, this union so to speak, and if it maintains itself, then we are really looking at a big problem that could well end up transgressing into a nightmare scenario. Because the idea of the Taliban and ISIS (Daesh) — and by extension al-Qaeda — uniting in a place as volatile and unstable as Afghanistan is really terrifying," Kugelman told Sputnik.
The two jihadist groups have been fighting against each other for more than a year. Washington-trained Afghan forces capitalized on their enmity. However, several months ago Daesh and the Taliban called for a truce, which allowed the former to focus on fighting local army in the Nangarhar province and move to the Kunar province, where according to Afghan officials the group is recruiting new members before launching military operations.
However, experts note that although the Taliban and Daesh managed to reach a truce, it seems that it won't last long as both groups have different objectives in the region. Kugelman also supports this opinion saying that a long-lasting cooperation between the two terrorist groups is unlikely.
"I think the biggest reason why one is so surprised about this type of alliance is that essentially the Taliban has liked to cast itself as a more moderate alternative to ISIS that essentially tried to appeal to recruits by saying ‘well look, you know, we are leading a just campaign against foreign occupation, whereas you have this ISIS group that is committing these horrific attacks'. The Taliban likes to say that it doesn't target civilians, which is not true. And it likes to project itself as a better alternative to ISIS. If the Taliban decides to join forces with ISIS, then of course this whole arguing goes up in smoke," the expert argued.
Commenting on the question of whether the Taliban could be in need of assistance to fight against the US-backed Afghan forces, Kugelman said that such scenario is questionable. According to him, the Taliban might have wanted such "cooperation" for tactical reasons as it feels that it could achieve significant progress when it links up with Daesh, but he is "skeptical" about the idea, the expert said.
"The Taliban has been doing pretty well without the need of assistance from the group like ISIS," he said. "So the idea that it would wanna look to the rag team of ISIS alliance fighters to help it with this task of expelling foreign occupiers, so to speak, to me it seems unnecessary," he concluded.
The Afghan wing of Daesh was formed in 2015, when infighting between Taliban factions broke out.