In yet another devastating attack on the voter registration center in Kabul a suicide bomber killed 57 people while leaving over 100 more injured. The incident that followed another bloodiest attack on the eve of Nauroz, only last month, right in the heart of Kabul to leave over 30 civilians dead and 65 more wounded, has left dozens of questions for the political managers of Afghanistan to answer.

The local franchise of the Militant Islamic State Group has claimed the responsibility for both the deadly attacks. The attack has happened at a time when the nation is all set to go to polls in October this year. The spokesman for Afghanistan interior ministry Mr. Najib Danesh, while talking to the media said a bomber on foot approached the center where officials were issuing identity cards as part of the registration process for around ten million voters across the country. President Ghani in a statement, while condemning the attack, said “it can not divert us from our aims or weaken this national democratic process”.

According to UN estimates more than 750 people have been killed or maimed in suicide attacks and bombings by militants during the first quarter of the current year. The international partners of Afghanistan insist that elections should be held at any cost before the presidential elections next year. The political analysts believe there is a hard job ahead for the national army. If Kabul is not secure. How can they (The Afghan national army) ensure peaceful parliamentary elections in the rest of the country”, said Mr Tahir Khan, an Islamabad based expert on security issues and editor of the NNI news agency.

This is not the first time. The group often attacks shia communities in an attempt to stir up sectarian violence in the Sunni majority Afghanistan. In December 2017, an IS affiliated suicide bomber blew himself up near the National Directorate of Security (NDS) in close proximity to the NATO headquarters and the US Embassy. The deadly attacks by the militant Islamic State group right in the heart of Kabul speak volume for the fact how the group was making inroads into the region.“Coming out of the Middle Eastern frontiers, the IS has expanded the war from physical to virtual spaces which has made the challenge of terrorism even more complex”, said a retired army officer and defense analyst Brigadier Said Nazir. “Daesh with its expansionist designs to establish caliphate over the entire region is now struggling to hold its sway in the Af-Pak region”, Brigadare Nazir adds. It merits a mention here that previously the IS had its presence only in the eastern Nangrahar province but of late, the group has made its way to the northern Jouzjan province with some cells in the capital Kabul. General John Nicholson, commander of US and NATO forces in Afghanistan said most of the fighters in Jouzjan are Pakistani Pashtuns.

However, last week, the arrest of a French women fighting for the Islamic State Group in Afghanistan has given credence to the rumors’ that the IS affiliated militants fleeing Syria and Iraq are finding their way to the country. The lady was arrested along with five Afghan men during a military operation in the northern Jouzjan province, an IS stronghold. Giving details the provincial police chief Faqir Muhammad Jouzjani said that two other French fighters were arrested recently in the province.

The US special forces have recently ramped up airstrikes and ground offensives against IS fighters in Jouzjan province in the Northern Afghanistan aimed at disrupting the groups capacity to use foreign fighters. The growing threat of the Islamic State Group in the region has alarmed Russia equally. Last month, foreign ministers of Pakistan Khwaja Muhammad Asif and that of Russia Mr. Segey Lavrov during a meeting in Moscow, while expressing their deep concern over the potential growing threat of the group had criticized the NATO and US for ineffective handling of the situation.

“IS carried out sixty deadly attacks in Afghanistan last year. These fears probably brought Pakistan close to the Russian orbit”, said Mr. Haroon Rashid, editor BBC Pakistan, adding, “The joint military exercises of the two countries, inauguration of an honorary Russian consulate in Peshawar and 33 percent rise in the bilateral trade during the last one year speak volume for the closer coordination of the two countries”.

04/20/2018 - Any reproduction, copy, transmission or translation of this publication is prohibited.

Relatives of the victims mourn at a hospital after a suicide attack in Kabul, Afghanistan April 22, 2018
De Ashraf Ali