The Islamic State (IS) in Afghanistan, IS-K, was one of the most active branches of IS outside of Syria and Iraq in 2019, said the latest report by the European Union Agency for Law Enforcement Cooperation (Europol).
The “Online Jihadist Propaganda: 2019 in Review” report was published on Tuesday and covers the time period from January 1 to December 31, 2019.
It highlights the major trends and developments in the propaganda of the most prominent Sunni jihadists organisations to analyse how they have shaped their online message in response to shifting political and operational realities.
Their latest report said IS was able to leverage its regional outposts, from West Africa to the Philippines, in a number of major media campaigns that distracted from its struggles in Syria and Iraq. The most important point was that this portrayed the group as still expanding to new territories.
The organisation’s branches in West Africa, Philippines, Libya, Egypt and Afghanistan, have been the most active provinces outside of Syria and Iraq, Europol notes.
In May 2019, IS had also announced a restructuring of its “Khorasan” province branch, which had previously covered operations in Afghanistan, Pakistan Tajikistan, Jammu and Kashmir, and parts of Iran.
A takedown actions by EU member states and Europol in November 2019, resulted in severe disruption of pro-IS accounts, channels and groups on Telegram.
The report also notes that Al Qaeda’s youngest affiliate, Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS), is a patchwork of jihadi groups and very much active and “collaborating with the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan,” also known as Taliban.
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Al Qaeda has succeeded in strengthening its network over the years by setting the overarching aims but delegating responsibility regarding tactics to local branches, in a process known as “flexible” administration. Europol labelled this as a “network of local militancy and focused incrementalism.”
Al Qaeda’s cooperation with local groups provides mutual benefits wherein the affiliate gains knowledge-sharing and a stronger jihadi standing, while Al Qaeda appears like a global movement that “nevertheless champions regional concerns.”
Despite this, Al Qaeda affiliates align their agendas to accommodate the goal of “fighting the far enemy… which is at war with Islam.”
The report also notes that the Taliban was among the first organisations to issue a public statement after a Christchurch shooting in New Zealand where a man gunned down at least 50 people at two mosques in March 2019.
Taliban expressed sympathy with the victims’ families and urged New Zealand to carry out a comprehensive investigation and “hand a hefty punishment to the attackers.”
The running themes across all jihadi groups online, Europol summarises, is their exploitation of right-wing terror attacks to push the narrative that the West is at war with Islam.
Combatting the terrorist groups’ media reach, limiting their ability to carry out attacks, and attributing online terrorist offences is an international priority, the report concludes.
The 26th report of the Analytical Support and Sanctions Monitoring Team (MT) by the UN, also said the IS-K and AQIS remained active in Afghanistan.