Is BoJo Gov't Ready to Tackle Potential Terror Threats From Afghanistan's Daesh-K & Other Jihadists?
04:15 GMT 01.09.2021 (Updated: 15:15 GMT 28.05.2023)
Former Commander of the British Forces in Afghanistan Colonel Richard Kemp has raised a red flag, arguing that Britain is facing "the greatest danger from terrorism since [Daesh* was] at its height" following the withdrawal of US-NATO forces from the Central Asian state and the Taliban* takeover. Is the UK facing a new wave of jihadist terrorism?
Speaking to Times Radio, Colonel Richard Kemp suggested that the Taliban* "will allow and probably encourage jihadists to pour into the country from around the world, who plan, meet, prepare, train, organise and carry out strikes against the West from Afghanistan". The remarks came on the heels of Prime Minister Boris Johnson's notion that the Taliban could get access to funds and gain diplomatic recognition if they ensure safe passage for those who want to leave Afghanistan and stamp out terror in the country.
Earlier, on 20 August, the influential British think tank Policy Exchange published an op-ed by Sir John Jenkins who specifically warned that a Taliban victory could embolden other Islamist groups and create new threats to Britain.
Daesh-K May Step Up Recruitment to Fill Power Vacuum in Afghanistan
Kemp's concerns are justified as Daesh-K* (ISIS-K*) and other jihadi groups may be able to attract individuals who support their cause after the US-NATO pull-out from Afghanistan, believes Dr David Lowe, terrorism and security expert and former police officer.
Although the Taliban has been fighting against Daesh-K since 2015, one cannot rule out that in the coming months, the group will form training camps and encourage followers from around the world, including the UK, to go to the region in order to fill the vacuum left by the US and NATO, according to Lowe.
The security expert suggests that Daesh-K's potential recruits could travel "through Pakistan up to the Waziristan region to access the group". In addition, Daesh may exploit various media and communication systems "to get out its propaganda in order to influence individuals", according to Lowe. He refers to Daesh's recruitment techniques during the Syrian civil war, when Britons and citizens of other states "used their tradecraft to disguise their travel intentions and travel to [Syria] to join Daesh to fight in the country".
"We have seen in the past how successful Daesh have been in doing this with the attacks we have seen in the UK and around the world", he says. "Daesh are not just operating in the Middle East and Afghanistan, but they have also seized territory in Africa in northern Mozambique and in West Africa in Nigeria and Mali, so Daesh should never be underestimated in their capability to carry out terrorist attacks, be it in the UK or globally".
Will the UK be Able to Handle the Potential Threat?
Meanwhile, the "chaotic withdrawal" of the US and allied troops and citizens does not make things easy for the UK, according to Peter Williams, a senior lecturer with the Liverpool Centre for Advanced Policing Studies at Liverpool John Moores University and a former police officer.
"Chaotic mess", he says. "So, it's not an ideal situation at all. It will be a case of doing what we can and monitoring people in the best way possible since they've arrived in the United Kingdom. So, there's no two ways about it. It is a challenge, to say the least, to the intelligence services. But we'll need to vet and monitor as best we can".
To make matters worse, "none of the public services were ready for this", according to Williams.
"From the UK government down in relation to the public services - I don't just mean the police, the intelligence services, I mean all the public services, such as local authorities, housing, education, health - none of them expected this", he notes. "And the same applies to counterterrorism policing and intelligence services. And they will be working hard behind the scenes trying to catch up for lost time".
However, there's hope that the UK will be capable of responding to and preventing any planned attacks since Britain has adopted "quite an effective counterterrorism policy" since the early 2000s, according to the academic
In addition to that, "there has been greater co-operation between states’ counter-terrorism agencies" since 2001, echoes David Lowe. In June 2003, the UK established the Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre (JTAC) to deal with growing terrorism threats. The centre is based in MI5's headquarters at Thames House in London.
JTAC enhanced co-operation between the security services and counter-terrorism police, "where JTAC collate all the intelligence received and make threat assessments as well as assessing who would be the best agency to deal with various issues related to that threat as the intelligence comes in", Lowe explains.
However, it is equally important to collect information on the ground in Afghanistan following the pull-out, according to the terrorism expert. To that end, the UK’s Secret Intelligence Service (MI6) will recruit agents to provide valuable information with regard to threats posed by jihadists to the UK and other Western states, according to him.
"If the UK has no diplomatic relations with Afghanistan, that means no embassy or consulates, that will make it more difficult for MI6 to operate agents in the area", Lowe admits. "Of course there is enhanced surveillance of electronic communications, but the best intelligence comes from individuals on the ground to confirm what is being received".
In May 2021, The New York Times revealed that European and American intelligence agencies were "evaluating and courting regional leaders outside the Afghan government" who "might be able to provide intelligence about terrorist threats long after US forces withdraw". The newspaper cited current and former American, European, and Afghan officials with knowledge of the matter. The NYT suggested at the time that Western intelligence agencies that sought informants and intelligence assets were preparing for a "collapse of the central government and an inevitable return to civil war".
*The Taliban, Daesh-K (ISIS-K) are terrorist organisations banned in Russia and many other states.