Authorities discovered an ISIS hideout inside the Afghan capital of Kabul on Friday, exposing the abject failure of the country’s corrupt government to protect its capital city.
The discovery of the ISIS safe house follows a series of deadly attacks, including a car bomb packed into an ambulance and a siege at a luxury hotel, that have killed nearly 200 people and injured hundreds more.
The hideout was located in the Qala-e-Wahid district, a poor neighborhood in the western part of the city. It was filled with suicide vests, weapons, and explosives that ISIS was planning to use in three large attacks in the capital, said one official.
Authorities were led to the hideout by an insurgent they captured Monday during an ISIS attack on a military academy in Kabul. Eleven soldiers died during the attack.
Citizens living in Qala-e-Wahid have complained about the government’s failure to provide safety. Locals know to stay indoors after dark, and say they rarely see police in the area.
Resident Khan Mohammed, who lives directly across from the safe house, says ISIS came to Qala-e-Wahid “because it is an insecure area.” For ISIS, “this was the perfect area because you can bring everything here from anywhere.”
The terrorist group’s ability to conduct attacks inside the capital represents the “utter failure of the intelligence services,” argues political analyst Haroon Mir. “You can’t blame it on lack of resources or lack of international support,” he continued, referencing the billions of dollars that have poured into Afghanistan over the past two decades.
Much of this money has been claimed by people in positions of power, leaving the majority of the Afghan population feeling vulnerable.
“There is no security in this country,” complains Mohammad Hajan, another local who lives near the ISIS hideout. “Our nation is very good, but our leaders are bad, and our government is weak…In the morning, I wake up and I don’t know if I will be alive in the evening.”
President Ashraf Ghani responded to the widespread security complaints by calling for a review of security forces in the capital. He also blamed Pakistan for sheltering Taliban militants – an accusation Pakistan has repeatedly denied.
The real reason for the lack of security in Kabul, says security analyst Waheed Mozhdah, is corruption within the nation’s security forces, adding that soldiers can be bribed to bring “ammunition, explosives, everything” inside the city.
For the poorest residents of Kabul, helping suicide bombers has become a source of income. Locals can earn up to $4,000 to help a single militant into the city, says Mir.
Kabul is located less than 100 miles from the Nangarhar Province, where ISIS is believed to have established an extensive base. The group has recently gained a foothold in the northern part of the country, however, by recruiting ethnic Uzbeks.
There are an estimated 5,000 ISIS militants currently living in the northern half of the country.