Cross-Regional Support for Hamas: How an Afghanistan-Iran-Pakistan Triad Amplifies Destabilization of the Middle East & South Asia

On Oct. 7, 2023, the Palestinian quasi-political terrorist organization Hamas carried out an egregiously violent attack on Israelis in Gaza, catching the world by surprise. The offensive was met with a retaliation from Israel Defense Forces (IDF), who deployed a barrage of rocket and drone strikes on Gaza. After only a few hours following the initial assault, hundreds of both Israelis and Palestinians were reported dead. Scores of homes, businesses and other buildings were razed, including a music festival that Hamas terrorists descended on with makeshift motorized paraglides. In the hours and days following Hamas’ violent attack, information emerged and materialized detailing the incursion. How did Hamas carry out such a methodical attack with such confidence and wherewithal? Was Hamas stockpiling weapons, or were they equipped through a series of arms transfers? In the aftermath of such violence, there are lots of questions. As the shroud of uncertainty clears, the forces fueling and supporting the October 7th attack have become more apparent. While at this time it is difficult to determine official statistics and knowledge of the exact scale and breadth of the Hamas assault, it can be concluded, based on official reporting with near total certainty that Iran is complicit in supporting Hamas’ raid. Historically, as described by experts in the region, Iran has steered clear of direct violent confrontation in the Middle East but has instead acted through proxies, or militant insurgent groups like Hamas and Lebanon-based terror cell Hezbollah. Tehran’s hand in Hamas’ attack should not be a surprise – the country has long aligned itself with extremist ideology and terror tactics. Israel may decide to attack Iran’s nuclear program resources, potentially by physical destruction or in cyberspace. Mossad, Israel’s central intelligence agency, is renowned for its aptitude to gather information and conduct operations covertly. However, Mossad’s proficiency for foresight is under scrutiny in light of Hamas’ attack, which more than likely was planned for months in advance. If the IDF wages their response to Hamas in terms of the military and financial aid that they received from Iran, the Israeli-Palestine conflict could escalate to an unprecedented degree. 

While Iran appears to be involved in the recent Hamas attack, it is not the only country that seems to have aligned itself with the causes of the terrorist organization. Afghanistan blamed Israel for the recent escalation in violence, with the Afghan Taliban government affirming support for the Palestinian efforts. It is alleged that American arms from the United States’ 2021 withdrawal from Afghanistan made their way to Palestine and equipped Hamas’ Al-Qassam Brigades with the weaponry utilized in the 7th October attack. In June 2023, reports emerged concluding that US weapons reached Gaza. Direct support extended from the Taliban, a governing terrorist organization, could have immense implications for the state of both the Middle East and South Asia. With a growing likelihood that Syria may join the conflict to target Israel with Iranian weapons, support for a violent campaign against Israel could become multi-tiered. Arab nations may develop a cohesive strategy to stamp out Israel’s governance in an effort to establish a Palestinian state. Support from terrorist organizations will only heighten the risk of a greater regional battleground.

Afghanistan’s neighbor, Pakistan, may also be entangled in the Israel-Palestine conflict. Islamabad has previously been recognized by the international community as a state sponsor of terrorism. Despite official statements from the country declaring support for a ceasefire and a two-state solution, Pakistan is an Islamic country, meaning its support for Muslim causes is strong and concrete, evidenced by the country’s continued socio-political and religious dispute with India. Pakistan has been clear in its unwillingness to support the establishment of an official Jewish state, following suit of other Muslim countries, like Saudi Arabia. Despite the official statement from Islamabad declaring that a two-state solution is necessary and required for peace, Caretaker Prime Minister of Pakistan, Anwar-ul-Haq Kakar has affirmed his country’s solidarity with the Palestinian people, claiming that Israel is the oppressor in the ongoing conflict. In 2009, Pakistan pledged $3 million in aid for the Hamas-led Palestine government. Pakistan’s dichotomous position on the Israel-Palestine war could provoke a reaction from India. The 2023 G20 summit saw the announcement of the India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor (IMEEC), but Delhi might have to scrap this strategic plan until oil prices level out and railway stocks substantially decrease. Delhi’s ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has a record of discrimination against Muslims spanning years; Narendra Modi’s hastiness in marginalizing India’s Muslim population already pits India & Pakistan in a tense row, with disagreements over the war in Gaza potentially leading to further geopolitical escalation. 

In contemplation of the evidence and allegations aforementioned, it is not unreasonable to assume that there appears to be an Afghanistan-Iran-Pakistan triad of support for Hamas’ violent campaign to actualize its political and social beliefs. Even if this triad is rudimentary at best and in no fashion coordinated or premeditated, when contextualized within the geography of the Middle East and South Asia, such a nexus of support — material or otherwise — severely amplifies the risk of severe destabilization in both regions. The role of Afghanistan and Pakistan in showing solidarity and support, presumably for the Islamic factors fueling Hamas’ surprise attack, requires the international community and South Asian governments to power-check Kabul and Islamabad. Hamas may view the Taliban’s support as a potential partnership which will only result in further catastrophe across the region. Pakistan’s history of state-sponsored terrorism and previous financial support of Hamas may imply that Islamabad is open to an affiliation with the group. Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan are aligned in their policies as largely Muslim nations, all taking the same stance towards Israeli retaliation against Hamas. As thousands of innocent civilians are caught in the fighting, with hundreds of women and children among the dead, the international community must condemn the sheer brutality that has enveloped the region on both sides of the war. Those complicit in supporting Hamas’ vicious onslaught with military aid or diplomatic support must be held accountable for their actions. Iran’s continued involvement in funneling material support to violent conflict demands attention from global fora. An Afghanistan-Iran-Pakistan axis of aid will not lead to a two-state solution and is likely to drastically cause further chaos.

[Photo by Wafa, via Wikimedia Commons]

Josh Bowes is a geopolitical researcher and analyst with South Asia Foresight Network (SAFN) in Washington, D.C. Josh is a published writer on countering violent extremism (CVE) and synergistic thinking for the South Asian region. The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect TGP’s editorial stance.

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