ISIS-K threat to Taliban’s grip on Afghanistan
October 28, 2021 - Two months after seizing power, the Taliban faces an insurgency led by Islamic State-Khorasan. ISIS-K attacks are eroding public confidence in the Taliban, which has pledged to deliver peace.
Hardline ISIS-K militants consider that the Taliban -- who made a deal with the Trump administration in February 2020 -- have betrayed the Islamic cause.
Active in Afghanistan since 2015, ISIS-K wants to establish a broad Islamic caliphate across Afghanistan, Pakistan and parts of India and Iran -- the historical region known as Khorasan.
In 2016, the central Islamic State (ISIS) leadership formally acknowledged the group as it established strongholds in northeastern Afghanistan, particularly Kunar, Nangarhar and Nuristan provinces.
The group has mainly targeted religious minorities and those who resist the group’s austere form of Islam, including Shia and Sunni Hazara’s.
Last year, ISIS-K shooters went on a bloody rampage at a maternity ward in Kabul’s predominantly Shia Hazara neighbourhood, killing 16 mothers and mothers-to-be.
In April 2020, the Afghan security forces arrested ISIS-K leader Abdullah Orokzai, also known as Aslam Farooqi.
Two months later, an Afghan graduate of Kabul Polytechnic Institute known as Shahab al-Muhajir became the ISIS-K regional chief. Afghan security forces have since identified him as 31-year-old Sanaullah. In August, Muhajir sent two suicide bombers to Kabul’s international airport, killing thirteen U.S. troops and 170 Afghans. The deadliest day for U.S. armed forces in Afghanistan since the 2011 loss of a CH-47D Chinook helicopter killing 31 U.S. military personnel.
The group and its new leader pose an enduring threat to the peace and stability of Afghanistan and beyond.
“A reconstituted al Qaeda or ISIS, with aspirations to attack the United States, is a very real possibility,” Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman General Mark Milley told a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing last month. He estimated that ISIS-K would need between six months and several years for “reconstitution.”