Islamic extremists feared to be among Afghan refugees making their way to neighbouring countries

Tajikistan is one of several countries bordering Afghanistan that is taking in refugees following the Taliban takeover.(Photo: Central Intelligency Agency World Factbook 2021)

Islamic extremists are feared to be among the more than 12,000 Afghan refugees pouring into the Central Asian republic of Tajikistan, according to an Open Doors expert on the region.

William Hollander (not his real name for security reasons) says they are likely to pose a threat to Christians 

The Open Doors International Relations Officer, who has nearly 40 years' experience of helping persecuted Christians in Central Asia, gave his warning in an interview with Christian Today.

Asked how the Taliban takeover in Afghanistan is likely to affect Christians in Central Asia, he said: "There is already an increase of concerns.

"It is very likely that there are some extremists among the 12,000+ refugees into Tajikistan.

"There is a fear that extremism will be encouraged by the recent events and the extremists that are present in the different republics will start raising their voices again and become more active.

"Any growth of Islamic extremism can be a threat to the Christians, as there will be increased pressure on them to convert (back) to Islam. This is because from the cultural perspective the native Central Asians are Muslim, and should be Muslim.

"The apparent success of the extreme Islamists will likely encourage the silent extremist Islamic groups, who might wield more pressure and increase violence to push out Christians from their communities, which in effect is already happening. But it could seriously increase."

Hollander explained that the Islamist militants among the refugees from Afghanistan would be Taliban infiltrators seeking to spread their version of Islam in neighbouring Tajikistan.

According to the Reuters news agency, the Tajikistan government has said it is ready to accept up to 100,000 Afghan refugees.

US President Joe Biden has refused to extend the deadline for the evacuation of American troops from Afghanistan beyond August 31.

The Guardian reported that the President's announcement at the White House on Tuesday "is likely to fuel criticism that America is abandoning Afghan partners to the Taliban".

The President acknowledged that completing the airlift from the Afghan capital Kabul – one of the biggest in history – by the deadline depends on the Taliban continuing to cooperate and allowing access to the airport with no disruption to operations.

Commenting on the story, the Guardian's Diplomatic Editor, Patrick Wintour, wrote: "In some ways Biden's decision is the logical outcome once he announced he would adhere to Donald Trump's original agreement with the Taliban in February 2020. The Taliban have won, and to the victor goes the spoils."