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Taliban's victory likely to boost Indonesian terror groups

If the government is not vigilant, it could face a new wave of Islamic militancy

Taliban's victory likely to boost Indonesian terror groups
Armed Taliban fighters stand next to an imam during Friday prayers in the Abdul Rahman Mosque in Kabul on Aug. 20 as the Islamists stamp their authority on Afghanistan. (Photo: Hoshang Hashimi/AFP)

Indonesia is facing a multitude of crises such as terrorism, Covid-19 and climate change, and the government is scrambling to find ways to solve them.  

The fight against terrorism has been an uphill battle in a Southeast Asian country that remains an extremist hotbed. 

Countless police raids and arrests over the last several years — the most recent on Aug. 14 — show that terrorism remains a huge threat to the Muslim-majority nation. 

Indonesia’s anti-terrorism efforts, and probably those throughout the world, will become much more complex now with the return of the Taliban and its declaration of an Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.

It's well remembered that the United States and its allies invaded the Central Asian country when the Taliban regime refused to extradite al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, who masterminded the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attack on the US. 

For 20 years Afghanistan was occupied by US-led forces who kept the Taliban at bay. However, the US move to step back and withdraw has allowed the hardline group to seize the initiative and occupy most of the country, including the capital Kabul, in a move that has shocked the world.

Alarm bells are now ringing around the world, including in Indonesia and other Southeast Asian nations

It has also sparked grave concerns about a resurgence in global terrorism. Terrorism experts believe that Afghanistan will once again play host to terrorist groups. Alarm bells are now ringing around the world, including in Indonesia and other Southeast Asian nations.

However, Indonesian experts are divided on the matter. Some believe the Taliban’s victory will certainly impact terrorism in Indonesia. Others dismiss the claim, saying the upheaval in Afghanistan is not something Indonesia’s government and people should worry about.

The Taliban's victory will not trigger acts of terrorism in Indonesia, Abu Tholut, a former terrorist who fought in Afghanistan, told a recent webinar. He said the Taliban’s influence in Indonesia is not as strong as Islamic State’s or al-Qaeda’s. 

He also pointed to the Doha Agreement the Taliban signed with the US in Qatar last year that it will not allow any foreign terror groups, including al-Qaeda, to operate in Afghanistan. The US agreed to withdraw its troops, close military bases and lift economic sanctions.

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It’s true that the impact of the Taliban's triumph on terrorism activities in Indonesia may not be felt immediately, but the threat is there. 

The Taliban might have promised not to govern Afghanistan the way it did for years, but a huge number of Afghans who want to flee the country say the hardliners are still monsters.  

Threatening Christian families showed that the Taliban cannot keep its promises, Aid to the Church in Need said last week. It indicates an intention to root out non-Muslims and those with moderate views within the country, it said. 

Said Aqil Siradj, chairman of Nahdlatul Ulama, Indonesia’s largest Islamic organization, also sees the Taliban as posing a threat to Indonesia.

He warned that the Taliban victory could spark a new wave of radicalism in Indonesia and inspire jihadists to continue, if not increase, terrorist activities.

Some experts may not see a direct link between the Taliban victory and terrorism in Indonesia. But the declaration of an Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, with strict Islamic rules, could trigger the growth of any movement seeking an Islamic caliphate. 

Let’s not forget the Taliban allowed al-Qaeda and Jemaah Islamiyah fighters to undergo military training in Afghanistan.

The latter became Southeast Asia’s most powerful terrorist group and Indonesia bore the brunt of its vicious attacks on churches and Western targets — the worst being the Bali bombings. 

Before the 9/11 attack, Afghanistan — with Taliban support — was the home of terrorist groups such as al-Qaeda and Jemaah Islamiyah

Jemaah Islamiyah is alive. Despite not launching any recent attacks — unlike Jemaah Ansharut Daulah (JAD) and East Indonesia Mujahideen (MIT) — it has returned to the stage and is waiting for the right time to morph.

This is what Indonesia should worry about. The Taliban victory could be used by groups affiliated with Al-Qaeda to seek funding to support terrorism in Indonesia. Before the 9/11 attack, Afghanistan — with Taliban support — was the home of terrorist groups such as al-Qaeda and Jemaah Islamiyah.

In a previous interview with UCA News, Nasir Abbas, a former Jemaah Islamiyah commander who was captured and later repented to help the Indonesian police, said that the most exciting moment for him in his career as a fighter was the military training he had in Afghanistan. As a young jihadist, he said, learning how to fight and use guns had brought him self-esteem.  

Jemaah Islamiyah was responsible for series of bombings in Indonesia between 2000 and 2009 and now it provides financial support to other terrorist groups such as JAD and MIT. 

If the Indonesian government does not respond properly to the Taliban's rise to power, the jihadists who could not make it to join Islamic State in Syria may cross the border to Afghanistan.

Indonesia and other Southeast Asian countries have to be prepared for the possibility that the Taliban will accommodate all these groups and from there they can organize cells in those countries.

The State Intelligence Agency, the police, military, religious groups and civil society must anticipate and monitor the movement of radical groups in Indonesia, especially those affiliated with the Taliban and Islamic State. 

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official editorial position of UCA News.

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