The Taliban are “losing their grip on Afghanistan”, says Lynne O’Donnell in Foreign Policy. Relations with long-time partner Pakistan have almost completely broken down: Islamabad has effectively withdrawn its ambassador after he was attacked at the Pakistani embassy. Clashes have erupted on the border with Iran. Most damaging of all was a recent siege by gunmen on a Kabul hotel used by Chinese businessmen. The assault, which left five Chinese injured, prompted Beijing to order all its nationals to leave the country – a devastating blow to Afghanistan’s push for economic development. In a further sign of diminishing confidence, the UN is “consolidating its presence” in Kabul, scaling down multiple locations to one fortified compound.
The attacks are mostly the work of Islamic State-Khorasan, a breakaway group of disaffected Taliban fighters. Targeting the Chinese helps “boost recruitment” to their cause, because many Afghan Muslims are upset about Beijing’s mistreatment of Uighur Muslims – to which the Taliban turns a blind eye in order to secure trade deals. But the Taliban hasn’t helped itself. It has invited into the country “dozens of terrorist and jihadi groups” which are now causing mischief with Pakistan. And it has attracted further international condemnation for banning women from universities and secondary education, despite pledging not to. The main victims, of course, will be ordinary Afghans, two-thirds of whom already can’t afford enough to eat. The tragedy of this “war-ravaged” country goes on.