Terror Activities Of IS-K (Daesh) Eclipse Taliban’s Claim Of Peace And Security In Afghanistan

With the occupation of Afghanistan on August 15, 2021, the Taliban, despite facing a lot of opposition from inside and outside the country and struggling with numerous problems, consider security in Afghanistan as their greatest achievement. However, this achievement is no longer a defensible one with the repeated attacks of Islamic State-Khurasan (IS-K) against the Taliban group and Afghan civilians, especially the Shiites and Hazaras of Afghanistan shortly after August 15, 2021. The IS-K terrorist group continued to attack mosques, target cars, educational centers, schools, and other populated areas, and killed and wounded hundreds of people.

Go deeper: According to Anadulo news agency, since the Taliban took control of Afghanistan, more than 50 large and small bombings and armed attacks have taken place across the country. The IS-K terrorist group claimed further responsibility for the attacks and more than 330 people, most of them civilians, were killed in the attacks.

    • For most of the past six years the Islamic State has been contained to eastern Afghanistan amid American airstrikes and Afghan commando raids that killed many of its leaders. But since the Taliban seized power, the Islamic State has grown in reach and expanded to nearly all 34 provinces, according to the United Nations Mission in Afghanistan. After the Taliban broke open prisons across the country during their military advance last summer, the number of Islamic State fighters in Afghanistan doubled to nearly 4,000, the U.N. found.

Ground report: In the last four months of 2021, the Islamic State carried out 119 attacks in Afghanistan, up from 39 during the same period a year earlier. They included suicide bombings, assassinations and ambushes on security checkpoints. Of those, 96 targeted Taliban officials or the group’s fighters, compared with only two in the same period in 2020 — a marked shift from earlier last year when the group primarily targeted civilians, including activists and journalists.

The focus of IS-K attacks in Afghanistan has been on the country’s Shiites, the vast majority of whom are Hazaras. The extremist group IS-K does not consider this religious minority as Muslims and seeks to eliminate them. Despite the insistence by the Taliban that it can provide security and peace in the country, IS-K (Daesh) has continued its deadly attacks against the Hazaras. Compiled here is a list of major IS-K attacks against Hazaras and Shiites in Afghanistan since the Taliban takeover in the country:

    • On 8th October 2021, a BBIED detonated his vest inside a Shiite mosque in Kunduz city’s PD1 area. Aljazeera reports indicate that around 60 worshippers were killed and over 100 people were wounded.
    • On 15th October 2021, Fatemiya, a Shiite mosque in southern Kandahar province was hit by multiple suicide attackers, killing at least 47 people and wounding at least 70 more, based on Al Arabia.
    • On 13th November 2021, a mag-IED attached to a minivan detonated in western Kabul, claiming the lives of at least 5 people, wounding multiple others.
    • On 10th December 2021, 2 mag-IEDs attached to civilian vans detonated in Shiite dominated western Kabul at around 3pm local time, 2 were killed and 4 others were wounded per Taliban spokesman.
    • On 19th April 2022, two attacks (3 explosions) happened targeting students of a learning center and Abdulrahim Shahid high school in western Part of Kabul city. RFI reported at least 30 were killed and scores were wounded.
    • On 21st April 2022, an explosion took place in a Shiite/Hazara Mosque in northern Mazar-e Sharif city, killing at least 37 and wounding 90 others per Amnesty international.
    • On 28th April 2022, a civilian van was hit by a mag-IED in northern Mazar-e Sharif City, leaving 9 casualties, all Shiites.
    • On 25th May 2022, three explosions carried out by the IS-K members in PD5 and PD10 areas of the northern province of Mazar-i-Sharif left 10 killed and more than 40 injured.
    • On the same day (25th May 2022), Hazrat Zakariya Mosque in PD4 Kabul witnessed another bloody explosion among worshippers in the evening which left more than 10 dead and more than 22 others injured.

IS-K attacks on Taliban and non-Shiite groups in Afghanistan:

    • On August 27, 2021, IS-K carried out an explosion at the Kabul international airport, killing more than 170 The attack that was carried out among a crowd of scared Afghans who were trying to flee the country after the Taliban takeover, killing 28 Taliban members, 13 US troops and two British nationals.
    • On April 22, 2022, another suicide attack carried out by the IS-K on a mosque in Kunduz province left 40 dead and more than 50 injured.
    • On April 29, 2022, another mosque in Kabul was targeted by an explosion which left more than 66 killed and around 78 injured.

IS-K attacks beyond the Afghanistan border: The Taliban’s weakness in securing Afghanistan’s internal security and strengthening stability along its borders has caused concern among Afghanistan’s neighbors and the international community

    • On May 7, 2022, four missiles have been fired from Afghanistan into Tajikistan, that the IS-K claimed responsibility for launching.
    • On April 8, 2022, IS-K fighters fired 11 missiles into the Uzbekistan border from Afghanistan.

Back story: ISIS-K is the Afghanistan affiliate of Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). It emerged in 2015 after ISIS declared its caliphate in Iraq and Syria. Back then, the group’s aims and declared geography of operations were very broad. Advocating for mass-casualty attacks against civilians and states, the group intended to topple the Pakistani government, punish the Iranian government for being a “vanguard” of Shias, and “purify” Afghanistan — both by dislodging the Afghan Taliban as the main jihadi movement in Afghanistan and punishing minority groups, like the Hazaras.

To this end, ISIS-K recruited from the infighting-riven Pakistani insurgent group the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, the weakened al-Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan and the post-Mullah Omar Afghan Taliban. It also tapped into a crucial sectarian minority of Salafis in eastern Afghanistan and leveraged their rural networks to gain territorial control in the provinces of Nangarhar and Kunar.

Why it matters? IS-K — a rival of the Taliban — is essentially looking for ways to make the Taliban look bad and undermine its legitimacy. It also wants to “push back” against the Taliban’s narrative that it restored peace and stability across the country in the wake of the US departure. Also, Afghanistan’s crippling economic and humanitarian crisis has provided an environment for radicalized individuals to be recruited by IS-K. Apart from this, intelligence shared by United Nations member states indicates the group prioritized retaking territory and now controls some limited areas in eastern Afghanistan. Western intelligence officials and humanitarian groups have seen signs of IS-Khorasan is laying the groundwork for expanding its networks among Afghanistan’s neighbors.

Neighbors indicated that Central Asia is still facing major challenges resulting from terrorist activities. In this context, the deteriorating security situation resulting from the activities of Daesh and other terrorist activities in the Afghanistan territory, following the implementation of irresponsible policies by a number of external actors in this country, including the transfer of Daesh terrorists from Iraq and Syria to Afghanistan, deserves special attention, they said. Experts say that by attacking Afghanistan’s neighbors, IS-K is trying to sow more distrust in the already-strained relations between the Taliban and regional capitals.

What are the reactions pouring in to the insecurity surrounding Afghanistan?

    • Chairman of the US Joint Chief of Staff General Mark Milley said that the terrorist groups – including the Islamic State (ISIS) – are trying to regroup in Afghanistan, according to sources, exclaiming it poses a threat to the United States mainland.
    • Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is alarmed about the threat of IS-K infiltration from Afghanistan into Central Asia. This led to Russian forces been on high alert.
    • UN special rapporteur Richard Bennett also expressed concerns about the terrorist attacks taking place in Afghanistan and the IS-K has claimed responsibility for most of them.
    • UN has repeatedly too warned about minorities being targeted by the terrorist groups in Afghanistan and asked for protecting them by the ruling power.

Zoom out: Despite repeated IS-K attacks in various parts of Afghanistan and repeated warnings from the UN and foreign countries about the group gaining power in Afghanistan, the Taliban have always denied IS-K’s power and are trying to cover it up. In reaction to every deadly attack in different provinces of the country, the Taliban have announced that they are going to investigate and arrest the perpetrators of the attacks, but no details or results have been shared with the media community or people. What is important now is that if IS-K gains more power in Afghanistan and finds the soil a save haven for its fighters, it will ignite a fire in Afghanistan whose flames will engulf not only the people of Afghanistan, but the entire region. The Taliban do not seem to be able to fend off the IS-K and prevent the group from gaining power and larger measures are needed in the region to contain the IS-K security threats.

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