Another apparent suicide attack resulted in a large explosion and heavy casualties at a Shiite mosque in the Afghan city of Kandahar. This is the second major attack on Afghanistan’s Shiite minority in the space of two weeks; an attack in the city of Kunduz killed dozens last week. Both attacks are probably the work of the small ISIS branch in Afghanistan, which also carried out the attack on the Kabul airport which killed American troops and Afghan civilians.
Heavy casualties in Kandahar attack
The attacks are a concerning indication that ISIS is becoming more active and is finding more resources to draw from now that their Taliban enemies have taken power.
The Taliban and ISIS are sworn enemies who have carried on a brutal war for a number of years now. Small numbers of ISIS radicals have survived since most of the group was wiped out by a Taliban offensive in 2018.
The fact that ISIS is now targeting Shiite Muslims specifically places the Taliban in a very unusual situation.
The Taliban is known for its strict adherence to Sunni Islam but it has promised that its new regime will work to protect minority groups from persecution.
Shiites are a minority in Afghanistan but a significant one. ISIS is apparently trying to test the Taliban’s commitment to protecting minorities. It is a test which he rest of the world will be watching with interest.
Neighboring Iran, the leading Shiite power, has already reminded that Taliban that it expects Shiites in Afghanistan to receive protection. There may be consequences if the Taliban fails to provide this protection.
Taliban struggling to suppress ISIS threat
Taliban special forces quickly descended to secure the scene of the explosion in Kandahar and they appear to have made some effort to help the wounded.
Kandahar has historically been the spiritual home of the Taliban so the attack struck close to the heart of the new regime.
If the Taliban cannot protect minority groups in Afghanistan from attacks like this it will be a massive source of trouble for their new government as it seeks to prove itself.
Iran and the rest of the world will be watching closely to see that Shiites are protected. Other Afghans will be equally concerned about an increase in casualties from suicide bombings.
This sort of bombing is exactly what most of the country hoped to avoid by accepting the Taliban takeover.
If the Taliban cannot prevent ISIS from killing dozens of people weekly then the regime will face serious problems in consolidating its power and presenting itself as a legitimate protector of Afghan lives.