An attack on a religious gathering in Kabul killed 55 people, including several scholars and clerics.The clerics had gathered to mark the birth anniversary of Prophet Mohammed when the suicide bomber blew himself up. The Taliban denied responsibility and blamed the attack on “seditious circles”, pointing to the Islamic State.
But looking past the specific motives of the attack, the fact that a major religious gathering in the Afghan capital can be so easily targeted by terrorists is highly worrying. Despite repeated promises by the government, the security situation has deteriorated, putting all members of the public at potential risk.
“The government is responsible for securing these gatherings and ensuring the public’s safety,” former governor of the Balkh province, Atta Muhammad Noor, said in a statement.
“Unfortunately, the government’s weaknesses take more victims from us each passing day.”
“We see attacks on students, mosques, sport clubs and other civilian places,” said Ali Mashal, an Afghan student told Al Jazeera. “This time they targeted our religious figures. It is so brutal and barbaric.”
Afghan forces face two major threats. One is with the Taliban, targeting government offices and soldiers, and one with IS, targeting civilians, minorities and clerics. It is almost certain, after 17 years of war, that the government cannot stabilise the country using force.
This stalemate has prompted the Afghan government and its international backers to look for ways other than war to find a solution to the conflict, looking to the US’s special peace envoy for Afghanistan to meet with Taliban officials in Qatar.
The government must use this attack as a catalyst to strengthen its own counter-insurgency measures with backing from international actors. A lot to ask from a state fighting a war of two sides with the IS and the Taliban.