IS-K Afghan prison attack is ISI ploy to suppress Pashtun insurgency in Waziristan

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Jalalabad before the Taliban takeover. (Representative photo)
Jalalabad before the Taliban takeover. (Representative photo)

A group of ISI-backed militia attacked a jail in the Afghan city of Jalalabad and killed more than thirty people and injured another fifty people. After this attack more than a hundred inmates escaped from the Nangarhar jail most of which are Pakistan faction of the Taliban. The militia attack comes just days after a truce deal was signed between the Afghanistan government and the Taliban that had irked ISI as it wants chaos to continue on the other side of Durand Line.

Sohrab Qadri, a member of the Nangarhar Provincial Council, described the incident as “low-intensity explosions and then a car explosion outside an Afghan government-run prison in Jalalabad on Sunday”. Sohrab Qadri further added that the attackers clashed with security forces after the blasts.

Interestingly, a militant faction of the ISIS (IS-K — Islamic State in Khorasan) claimed responsibility for the Nangarhar prison attack. A statement issued by the ISIS news agency Amaq said that the attack on Sunday was carried out by ISIS fighters. The statement did not provide further details on the attack. A Taliban spokesman said his organization had no hand in the attack. It is an open secret that IS-K is backed by the Pakistan Army and ISI.

Clashes between ISI-backed militia and security forces continued for several hours after the Nangarhar prison attack during which grievous injuries were reported from both sides. Afghan sources say the number of casualties could rise further.

The Nangarhar prison attack came in on Sunday which was the last day of a three-day ceasefire between the Afghan government and the Taliban on Eid al-Adha, before which the Afghan government had already released hundreds of Taliban prisoners.

“If the Taliban had wanted more prisoners to be freed from Afghanistan government’s custody then it could have simply re-negotiated the deal or pressed for their release. The talks had been quite cordial. The Nangarhar prison attack is a clear indication that Pakistan wants to keep the pot boiling in Afghanistan,” an Afghan commander of the Special Operations Corps told News Intervention on condition of anonymity.

In fact, under a peace deal reached between the United States and the Taliban in February this year, the Afghan government is obliged to release 5,000 Taliban prisoners. The Taliban, on their part, have released around 1,000 Afghan prisoners from their custody. If the Taliban had wanted prisoners from the Nangarhar prison to be freed it simply had to add their names in the list of Taliban being freed under the peace deal.

Also, the inter-Afghan talks are set to begin after the release of prisoners under the peace deal. Afghanistan’s President Ashraf Ghani and the Taliban had hinted that inter-Afghan talks could begin after Eid al-Adha. And if this peace deal works out then Pakistan would be left to deal with Pashtun insurgency across Waziristan, which is gaining momentum by the day.

It in this backdrop that ISI put out its proxy faction of the ISIS (IS-K) to carry out attacks at the Nangarhar prison in Jalalabad. “An unstable Afghanistan and chaos on both side of the Durand Line is ISI’s way of dealing with Pashtun insurgency,” explained the Afghan commander of Special Operations Corps.

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