Isis-K: The jihadists caught the chaos of the Taliban’s return

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The Kabul attack claimed by the Afghan branch of the Islamic State has made the West worry that Afghanistan may become a haven for extremist groups to take advantage of the chaos left by the country’s government collapse and the withdrawal of US troops.

The organization known by the acronym Isis-K claims to Thursday’s attack, Resulting in the death of at least 79 Afghans and 13 American soldiers, and a devastating blow to the withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan. Despite multiple intelligence warnings, it came.

Isis-K was active there for the first time in 2015, and a year later, Isis-originally a branch of Al Qaeda and later developed into a rival-occupied large tracts of territory in Iraq and Syria and declared it a Caliphate or Islamic State.

The country has long been a base for radical Islamic movements from the Taliban to Al Qaeda. Although these groups are the focus of security operations in the United States and Afghanistan, Isis-K is formed by former members of the Pakistani branch of Al Qaeda and defectors from the Taliban and the Haqqani network (a criminal group connected to the Taliban). K refers to the Khorasan region, which includes Pakistan, Afghanistan, Central Asia, Iran, and parts of India and Russia. The organization regards it as the future caliphate.

Link to the Haqqani Network

Although both groups have a radical Islamist agenda, the Taliban leadership has a hostile relationship with Isis-K, who wants to establish a global caliphate instead of focusing on governing Afghanistan. Isis-K also criticized the Taliban’s contact with the United States.

When the Taliban negotiated with the Trump administration to reach an agreement that would lead to the withdrawal of the United States, it promised to prevent al-Qaeda and other extremist groups from using Afghanistan as a center for attacking the United States or its allies.

The Taliban’s ability and willingness to fight Isis-K will be a key test for this cause and a key determinant of whether it can succeed in gaining the international recognition it desires.

A coalition air strike destroyed an Isis-K position in 2018 © US Army Photo: Spc Jacob Krone/Alamy

However, despite analysts claiming that the Taliban had previously launched operations against jihadists, Isis-K suspected ties to the Taliban’s affiliate Haqqani Network, which includes multiple factions that often contradict each other.

A UN report published in June last year cited comments from member states that most of the attacks claimed by Isis-K indicated that the Haqqani network “participated in, promoted or provided technical assistance” to a certain extent. Since the Taliban came to power a week ago, it has put the Haqqani network in charge of the security of Kabul.

An Indian official who closely follows Afghanistan said that it is not surprising that Haqqani has links with ISIS-K and the Taliban, because the organization “does not conform to any ideology, they are an organized criminal group.” The official said: “The active members of Isis-K are experienced fighters. They used to be Haqqani cyber fighters.”

Attract funding and recruitment

Raffaello Pantucci, a terrorism expert at the S Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore, believes that Isis-K can use the rise of the Taliban to increase its visibility and strengthen its ability to attract funds and recruit personnel.

“In the final analysis, terrorism is anti-establishment, and the Taliban is now an establishment,” Pantucci said. “So the problem is that all the components of Isis-K that can grow and develop in a very favorable environment are present, and this may be what we are going to see.”

A UN report last year estimated that after Isis-K was defeated by the US and Afghan forces in Nangarhar, in the northeastern province of Afghanistan, there were only 2,200 fighters in Afghanistan, where it consolidated its position in the country.

But it remains a powerful threat and is suspected of two deadly attacks in Kabul in May, including a car bomb and mortar attack on a school, killing at least 80 people, most of them female students .

On May 9, 2021, after multiple explosions outside a girls’ school in Dasht-e-Barchi on the outskirts of Kabul, onlookers stand beside the victim’s backpack and books

On May 9, 2021, after multiple explosions outside a girls’ school in Dasht-e-Barchi, a suburb of Kabul, bystanders stand beside the victim’s backpack and books © Wakil Kohsar/AFP via Getty Images

The UN report also warned that Isis-K could use the Taliban’s deal with Washington to call itself the only credible jihadist movement. “The main risk [an Isis-K] The revival in the context of the Afghan peace process may lie in its ability to present itself as the country’s only provocative terrorist organization and attract new personnel and funds accordingly,” it said.

According to the report, the organization recruited fighters through coercion, threats of violence, and unfulfilled promises of high wages, while raising funds through extortion, taxation, and “possible timber and mineral mining.”

Without eyes staring at the ground

US President Joe Biden vowed to avenge the attack, saying that he had instructed military commanders to develop a plan to strike Isis-K’s “assets, leadership and facilities”. But his challenge will be to track down a shady organization that has no American assets there, the American intelligence services are blocked, and the Taliban are in power.

Hours before Thursday’s attack, the United States and its allies issued coordinated intelligence warnings. But Western officials worry that the gunmen and suicide bombers who attacked near the airport must have passed the Taliban checkpoint.

Major General Chip Chapman, the former head of counter-terrorism at the British Ministry of Defence, said that this is not unexpected. He said that although the Taliban agreed to crack down on extremist groups, “insiders are always likely to make cunning deals.”

Colin Clark, a counter-terrorism analyst at the Sufan Center in New York, said that since the United States may have “ears” on the ground in the form of signal intelligence, it will become complicated to perform “out-of-the-horizon” missions, but there will be no “ears” after the withdrawal. Eye”.

“Afghanistan collapsed over a weekend and no one saw it coming,” he said. “Therefore, if the intelligence does not predict this, I have little confidence that they can determine the revival of groups like Isis-K.”

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