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Friday 17 August 2018

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FILE: Border guards along Tajikistan's border with Afghanistan

In this latest episode of the Majlis podcast, we returned to northern provinces of Afghanistan that border Central Asia. Information about the presence of militants from the so-called Islamic State extremist group continues to be reported and it appears China is playing a greater role in the Afghan area near the Chinese border, which is also near the Tajik and Pakistani borders.

With the cast of players increasing in northern Afghanistan, Muhammad Tahir, RFE/RL's media relations manager, moderated a discussion on the increasingly complicated landscape in the area.

Participating in the discussion was Michael Semple, a professor in the George Mitchell Institute for Global Peace, Security and Justice at Queen's University Belfast, and a person with decades of experience in Afghan affairs. From Vietnam, we were joined by Jacob Zenn, a fellow of African and Eurasian Affairs for the Jamestown Foundation and a consultant on countering violent extremism. And from Istanbul, Josh Kucera, a freelance writer and editor at Eurasia Net who specializes in international relations and military affairs, made his long-awaited debut on the Majlis (we’ve been trying to get him on for years). I had a few things to share also.

Audio of the Majlis session can be heard here:

Majlis Podcast: The Increasingly Complicated Political Landscape Of Northern Afghanistan
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Alleged fighters for the Islamic State and Taliban walk being presented to the media at the police headquarters in the eastern Afghan city of Jalalabad in October.

For more than two years, a resilient Islamic State (IS) militant cell in northern Afghanistan has grown amid tough fighting against its Taliban enemies and crumbling government authority.

Since its emergence in Jawzjan, a rural province bordering Turkmenistan and in close proximity to Uzbekistan, the IS presence has grown from hideouts in remote villages. With estimated hundreds of fighters, the group now controls two of Jawzjan’s 11 districts.

It has attracted former members of the Afghan Taliban to join hands with the Central Asian remnants of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan. Alarmingly, its apparent success now appears to be attracting global jihadists -- many fleeing the end of IS control over large swathes of territory in Iraq and Syria.

This turns the IS enclave in Jawzjan into a security threat for Washington and its Western allies while undermining the security of Afghanistan and its Central Asian neighbors.

To discuss the issue, Barmak Pazhwak, a senior Afghanistan analyst at the United States Institute of Peace, joined our moderator and RFE/RL Media Manager Muhammad Tahir in Washington. Caitlin Forrest, an operations manager at the Institute for the Study of War think tank, joined the discussion from the same city. I joined the discussion from Prague.

Listen to or download the Gandhara Podcast:

Gandhara Podcast: Evaluating An IS Enclave In Northern Afghanistan
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The views expressed in this podcast do not necessarily reflect the views of RFE/RL.

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