A “New” Terror Threat Emerges in Kabul
Thursday was a horrific day for America. Suicide bombers struck the airport in Kabul. Twelve Marines dead. At least sixty Afghan civilians killed. Hundreds wounded. And by the time you read this the count may be higher.
As I followed the news, I kept hearing the name ISIS and then ISIS-K. The media reported that they had taken credit for the bombing. I thought that really strange since we’ve never heard that term before. Having little trust (actually make that no trust) in the mainstream media, my initial reaction was to disbelieve it. So I decided to research it. And what I found is very enlightening (and scary). These terrorists make Al-Qaeda, Hezbollah and the Taliban seem like a “kinder/gentler” terrorist.
I started looking for links about this group. I found dozens of references from today. I skipped those. I wanted something from the past, not related to the the current, hectic news cycle. After several minutes, I finally found was I was looking for. The CSIS (Center for Strategic & International Studies) has a complete dossier on ISIS-K (which was published in 2018). You can read the whole thing here. Below I have laid out what I feel is the critical information on them:
Definition and Origin:
Islamic State Khorasan (IS-K) is the Islamic State’s Central Asian province and remains active three years after its inception. The Islamic State announced its expansion to the Khorasan region in 2015, which historically encompasses parts of modern day Iran, Central Asia, Afghanistan, and Pakistan.
IS-K has been responsible for nearly 100 attacks against civilians in Afghanistan and Pakistan, as well as roughly 250 clashes with the U.S., Afghan, and Pakistani security forces since January 2017. Though IS-K has yet to conduct attacks against the U.S. homeland, the group represents an enduring threat to U.S. and allied interests in South and Central Asia.
Since January 2017, the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED) has recorded 207 clashes between IS-K and the Afghan Taliban. These clashes occurred in 14 of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces, though the majority took place in Nangarhar, Jowzjan, and Kunar provinces.
Additionally, a recent United Nations publication commented that “[ISIS] core continues to facilitate the relocation of some of its key operatives to Afghanistan,” including Abu Qutaiba, the Islamic State’s former leader in Iraq’s Salah al-Din province.12 Afghanistan remains a top destination for foreign terrorist fighters (FTFs) in the region, as well as for fighters leaving battlefields in the Levant.13 IS-K’s public affairs prowess, global prestige, and sustained resources facilitate the recruitment of these FTFs, drawing them away from other militant movements.
IS-K has received support from the Islamic State’s core leadership in Iraq and Syria since its founding in 2015. As the Islamic State loses territory, it has increasingly turned to Afghanistan as a base for its global caliphate.
IS-K seeks to establish a Caliphate beginning in South and Central Asia, governed by sharia law, which will expand as Muslims from across the region and world join. IS-K disregards international borders and envisions its territory transcending nation-states like Afghanistan and Pakistan.
its global aspirations include “[raising] the banner of al-Uqab above Jerusalem and the White House,” which equates to the defeat of both Israel and the United States. IS-K’s ideology seeks to rid its territory of foreign “crusaders” who “proselytize Muslims” as well as “apostates,” which include anyone from Sunni Afghan National Army recruits to Hazara Shias.
U.S. policy indicates the recognition of—and response to—the threat posed by IS-K and the escalating violence it has provoked in Central Asia. The U.S. Department of State designated IS-K as a Foreign Terrorist Organization on January 14, 2016, and United States Central Command has escalated its air campaign against the group since 2016 when rules of engagement expanded under President Obama and President Trump. According to data compiled by ACLED, U.S. and NATO airstrikes against IS-K have been conducted over 300 times since January 2017. Though the group’s presence across Afghanistan is increasing, airstrikes have been nearly exclusive to Nangarhar and Kunar provinces (96 percent of all airstrikes since January 2017) in an effort to target operational bases and leadership. All in all, while IS-K’s goal of establishing an Islamic state in Central Asia remains improbable, its propensity for exploiting grievances, catalyzing instability, and taking advantage of ungoverned spaces will make peaceful reconciliation and nation-building in Afghanistan difficult for the foreseeable future.
I don’t know about you but this is chilling. We know that our hasty withdrawal left sophisticated weaponry behind. While it is scary that the Taliban now have access to them, what if ISIS-K gets their hands on them? Is there a future where a terrorist group uses our own weapons against us?
But I have a more pertinent question. The government knew about this group for years. Yet the Biden Administration, in coordination with the State Department, pulled out our troops before evacuating our citizens and allies. This left them to the mercy of the Taliban and ISIS-K. I have followed politics a long time and I have never seen such gross incompetence. And unfortunately we may very well be paying for it a long time.