Among the complex and multifaceted impacts of the Taliban’s return to power in Afghanistan are the effects on the global terror threat; something that could impact stability far from Kabul. Lone-wolf attacks by extremists inspired by the group’s victory probably present the most immediate threat, although they are a risk Western societies have increasingly grown accustomed to. Of potentially greater concern are the long-term implications for the capacity of well-established jihadist organisations to launch mass-casualty attacks abroad.

Al Qaeda (AQ) are the primary beneficiary of the new reality, due to deep organisational ties with the Taliban. The country now offers fertile ground for training, recruitment and weapons procurement for groups seeking to perpetrate attacks abroad. The Taliban penned a deal to stop AQ attacks on NATO allies, but realistically the fear of immediate reprisals and the need to consolidate control will motivate peace in the immediate term. Over time, AQ are likely to regroup, and the political calculus for the Taliban to restrain their allies may become less clear-cut.

The threat horizon looks darker still from emerging markets in South Asia. No deal exists to protect Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and other potential targets from attacks by AQ and its local affiliates. India must also reckon with the potential reestablishment of ties between the Taliban and Kashmiri Islamist organisations. During the 1990s, Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed were granted safe haven in Afghanistan to organise attacks in Jammu and Kashmir, sparking a cycle of violence that killed thousands.

The presence of Islamic State Khorasan Province (ISKP), rivals of both the Taliban and AQ, complicates the picture further. Efforts by the Taliban to eradicate ISKP may drive the group from Afghanistan, forcing its fighters to settle elsewhere and bolstering alternative regional IS networks, compounding insecurity. Pakistan is particularly vulnerable, given the existing operational presence of the group there. For NATO, the fight in Afghanistan is essentially over, but the far-reaching repercussions have just begun.