Welcome to The Azadi Briefing, an RFE/RL newsletter that unpacks the key issues in Afghanistan. To subscribe, click here.
I’m Abubakar Siddique, a senior correspondent at RFE/RL’s Radio Azadi. Here’s what I’ve been tracking and what I’m keeping an eye on in the days ahead.
The Key Issue
The Afghan Taliban and Pakistan have been engaged in an escalating war of words over Islamabad’s mass expulsion of Afghan refugees.
Last month, Islamabad ordered 1.7 million undocumented Afghan refugees and migrants to leave the South Asian country or face arrest and forced deportation after November 1. Over 300,000 Afghans, many with only the clothes on their back, have returned to their homeland since then.
Pakistan said its decision was in response to the Taliban’s refusal to expel the Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP) extremist group. Islamabad has accused the Taliban of sheltering the TTP, which is waging a deadly insurgency against Pakistan. The TTP has close ideological and organizational ties with the Afghan Taliban.
“After noncooperation by the Afghan interim government, Pakistan has decided to take matters into its own hands, and Pakistan’s recent actions are neither unexpected or surprising,” Pakistani caretaker Prime Minister Anwar ul-Haq Kakar said on November 8.
Chief Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid, meanwhile, said on November 8 that the group was not “responsible for maintaining peace in Pakistan.”
Last week, the Taliban’s defense minister, Mullah Mohammad Yaqoob, warned Pakistan to “consider the consequences of its actions and sow as much as it can reap.”
Amir Khan Muttaqi, the Taliban’s foreign minister, told the BBC that Islamabad was using the mass deportations to pressure the group to formally recognize the border with Pakistan, which Afghanistan rejects.
Why It’s Important: The war of words has exposed the escalating tensions between the Taliban and Pakistan, longtime allies that appear to have fallen out.
The sides appear to be on a collision course, with little indication that they can smooth over their growing differences.
There have been several rounds of deadly clashes between Pakistani and Taliban forces in recent months, leading Islamabad to close the border.
What’s Next: Pakistan and the Taliban appear likely to remain on a path of confrontation. As their interests clash, Islamabad and the Taliban are likely to continue seeing each other as adversaries.
Meanwhile, the continued mass expulsions of Afghans by Pakistan are likely to worsen the devastating humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan, the world’s largest.
What To Keep An Eye On
The Islamic State-Khorasan (IS-K) extremist group claimed responsibility for the latest attack targeting Afghanistan’s Shi’ite Hazara minority.
On November 7, at least seven people were killed and 20 injured in a bomb attack on a bus in the predominantly Shi’ite neighborhood of Dasht-e Barchi in Kabul.
“The situation was terrible,” one eyewitness told RFE/RL’s Radio Azadi. “I think the casualties were high.”
This was the third IS-K attack on the Shi’ite community in recent weeks. On October 26, a bomb attack killed four people inside a sports club in Dasht-e Barchi. In the deadliest attack, at least 25 worshippers were killed when a bomb targeted a mosque in the northern city of Pul-e Khumri on October 13.
Why It’s Important: The Taliban has pledged to protect Afghanistan’s religious minorities. But the Shi’ite community has accused the Taliban of failing to prevent deadly attacks on Hazara.
IS-K’s new wave of attacks has also raised questions about the Taliban’s claims that it has severely weakened the extremist group, which once controlled rural territory in eastern Afghanistan.
That’s all from me for now. Don’t forget to send me any questions, comments, or tips that you have. You can always reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Until next time,
If you enjoyed this briefing and don’t want to miss the next edition, subscribe here. It will be sent to your inbox every Friday.
The Azadi Briefing will next appear on December 1.