Big claims, ground realities
As the number of rebel casualties rise in recent days, the Ministry of Defence and NATO-led Resolute Support Mission are eyeing 2017 as the year ISIS is eliminated in Afghanistan.
At a joint press conference, spokesperson for the latter said, "We know that we are facing many big challenges in 2017 …"
Insisting that the year would be the year of elimination of ISIS he went on to add, "Since March 21, 2017, 200 forces of ISIS and al-Qaida have been killed in Nangarhar through airstrikes. ISIS has lost 50 percent forces as well as two thirds of its positions in the areas that they had under their control in Afghanistan."
Farid Ahmad, a civil society activist, believes the claim is more political move than military. "The current war is not against any one group that its elimination can be anticipated. Right now Afghanistan is fighting against many armed opponents and it cannot focus only on countering the ISIS," he says.
The general opinion is that Afghanistan's western allies are quick to make promises, but it does not translate into action on the ground.
Fatana, a resident of the capital Kabul says, "We are hearing promises to eliminate armed opponents for one and a half decades. We even heard once that Afghanistan would be the graveyard of terrorism. These vows reverberate when they are made but they have rarely succeeded."
One school of thought believes ISIS has been propped up by countries that are not behind the NATO-led Resolute Support mission.
Hamid Karzai, the former president cautioned has been quoted saying to the Indian media, "It is important how ISIS came into existence in Afghanistan despite the military presence of the US in Afghanistan." Karzai believes that Moscow used to support the anti-terrorism mission of the US in Afghanistan but as the continued presence of the US stoked the fire of terrorism, Moscow's concern has grown. Recently Russia has reached out to Taleban in the hope of countering the ISIS but the US has blamed it of joining hands with the Taleban – a claim that is hard to prove.
There is no doubt that Afghanistan as an unstable country with a weak centre, fertile ground for such type of political plans. Naweed Elham, political expert believes, "ISIS is a dangerous political and military project that benefits from foreign support. As Taleban and other military groups cannot exist without foreign support, the identification and elimination of these sources of funding and support would help to crush them."
He appeals to the Resolute Support mission to cut the support channels for armed groups.
Can ISIS, which has emerged in the eastern provinces, be crushed in the course of 2017?
There is a fear that while the force may be crushed in Iraq and Syria, the spread of its caliphate ideology may remain persuasive outside the Middle East in unstable countries like Libya, Somalia, Yemen, Pakistan, Afghanistan and central Asia.
Helmatullah Arefi, lecturer at Gharjistan private university believes, "ISIS is a group with roots in social institutions even in Afghanistan. The elimination of this group through military means and physical strength is not possible. There is need to counter the roots of its idea so setting a month's deadline, for instance, for the elimination of the group is not reasonable. There are other groups with the same identity and structure."
Not all agree. Farhad Amin, political expert thinks ISIS has "shaky roots" in Afghanistan. "If it loses its external support and is targeted successfully on the ground, its scanty military presence is easily uprooted."