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Kabul Gurdwara Attack Pakistan Nailed

April 11, 2020 By Lt. General P.C. Katoch (Retd)
The Author is Former Director General of Information Systems and A Special Forces Veteran, Indian Army


The dastardly attack by four terrorist on the Gurdwara in Kabul on March 25, 2020 killed 27 Sikhs and a follow up bomb blast close to the crematorium where the dead were being cremated caused injuries to some. The Islamic State of Khorasan Province (ISKP) claimed responsibility and posted the picture of Abdul Khayum@ Abu Khalid for having bombed the Gurdwara to avenge violence against Muslims in India. Abu Khalid is a Keralite who joined IS in 2016-2017 and is on NIA radar since 2017. Sikhs were warned to leave Afghanistan or be prepared to die. Initial news reports had stated terrorists wanted to attack the Indian Embassy but having failed went for the Gurdwara. This doesn't appear to be the case because the embassy targeted previously too is in a safer zone whereas the Gurdwara attacked is located in Shor Bazar. Besides, arms, ammunition and explosives were recovered in vicinity of the terror attack. The attack was timed one day after US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced, during his visit to Kabul, that US would cut $1 billion aid to Afghanistan if President Ashraf Ghani and CEO Abdullah Abdullah (who also declared himself President) don't resolve differences over the election results. But Pompeo's visit was more to pressure Ghani to release 5000 Taliban prisoners in exchange for 1000 ANSF prisoners albeit the US-Taliban deal never took Afghan Government in confidence in arriving at this exchange figure.

On April 3, 2020, Afghan security forces, in a special operation, arrested Malawi Abdullah@Aslam.Farooqi, so-called emir of ISKP who masterminded the terror attack on the Kabul Gurdwara, along with 19 associates, from Kandahar. Aslam Farooqi, a Pakistani national, belongs to the Mamozai tribe of Pashtuns inhabiting the Orakzai Agency in FATA. This confirms Pakistani hand in the Kabul Gurdwara terror attack, suspected from the very beginning. In 2015, US intelligence had stated ISKP was an "amalgamation of primarily disaffected and rebranded former Afghan Taliban and Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) members". But what remained unsaid was that they had coalesced under the aegis of Pakistan's ISI about a brigade-sized formation that also incorporated, ISI, Pak regulars, cadres from Mujahid battalions and from multiple Pakistan-based terrorist organisations including LeT whose origins lie in Kunar Province of Afghanistan. Afghans at that time called it an ISI Brigade, not ISKP. Aslam Farooqi himself is a former commander of LeT. Pakistan was providing terrorist training to youth from India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Maldives, even before the formation of ISKP. Later, cadres from ISIS in Iraq-Syria under attack began joining up in Afghanistan, the conduit for which again was Pakistan.

The US has generally looked the other way, issuing perfunctory warnings to Islamabad, despite Pakistan being responsible for large number of US-NATO casualties in Afghanistan. This because of sustenance of these forces is through Pakistani territory and the vain hope that Pakistan would help US troop exit from Afghanistan without much damage. But another major reason also was the CIA-ISI links that enabled use of Pakistani terrorist organisations to further US interests. Michael Flynn, former Director US Defense Intelligence Agency and briefly NSA to President Donald Trump had publicly stated that the rise of Islamic State and Jabhat al-Nusra was willful decision of the US. Under tutelage of Pakistan's ISI, TTP had provided around 4,000 terrorists to fight in support of ISIS in Iraq-Syria, also setting up office there. In February 2018, major ISIS/ISKP movement was reported in Afghanistan; some 10,000 cadres that included Algerian and French fighters from Iraq-Syria, as also Uyghur fighters. Large presence was reported in Badakshan region of Northern Afghanistan. In January 2019, Russian Deputy Interior Minister Igor Zubov stated that unidentified helicopters transported a large number of Daesh (Islamic State) terrorists from Pakistan to the border with Tajikistan, which is close to Russia's southern borders. Earlier, Andrey Novikov heading CIS Anti-Terrorism Centre had also stated that IS terrorists were being transported to Afghanistan and Pakistan after facing defeat in Syria and Iraq. Such an action without Washington-Islamabad involvement was hardly possible. Pakistan denies providing safe haven to terrorist groups but in July 2019, Pakistani PM Imran Khan visiting US admitted 30,000 to 40,000 armed terrorists in his country.

Not only is Aslam Farooqi a Pakistani national, so was AQIS chief killed last year (successor not yet announced) and Ataullah abu Ammar Jununi heading Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) operating in Rakhine state of Myanmar all supported, funded and armed by Pakistan. Many are surprised that Pakistan who opened the Kartarpur Corridor as a goodwill measure towards India is behind the attack on the Gurdwara in Kabul. But they fail to understand that opening of the Kartarpur Corridor was no goodwill measure by Pakistan; they simply wanted to use it for terrorism. Finally, if US abandon Afghanistan to Taliban, Pakistan's terrorism will get further boost.