Afghan Crisis: What you need to know about IS-K

Aneela SiddiquiWeb Editor

27th Aug, 2021. 03:09 pm

IS-K is the Islamic State’s Central Asian province, and remains active three years after it was founded. It is the extremist and violent jihadist militant group of Afghanistan.

It was founded in January 2015, during the height of IS’s dominance in Iraq and Syria, before a US-led force attacked and demolished the group’s self-declared caliphate.

It recruits people jihadists from both Afghanistan and Pakistan, particularly defecting Afghan Taliban militants who do not believe their own group is extreme enough.

How extreme is extreme?

IS-K has been responsible for some of the worst atrocities in recent times, including targeting girls in schools, hospitals and shooting of pregnant women and nurses in maternity wards.

Unlike the Taliban, who are only interested in Afghanistan, IS-K is part of the global IS network, which aspires to target West, international, and humanitarian interests wherever they can.

Where are they located?

IS-K is based in Nangarhar which is the Pakistan’s eastern province, close to narcotics and people smuggling routes in and out of the country.

The group had about 3,000 fighters and has sustained considerable losses in conflicts with US and security forces of Afghanistan and the Taliban.

Are they linked to the Taliban?

Yes, through a third party, the Haqqani network.

According to analysts, IS-K and the Haqqani network, which is tied to the Taliban, have a strong relationship.

Khalil Haqqani, who has a $5 million (£3.6 million) bounty on his head, is now in charge of security in Kabul.

For years, Dr. Sajjan Gohel of the Asia Pacific Foundation has been tracking extremist networks in Afghanistan.

He claims that “between 2019 and 2021, IS-K, the Taliban’s Haqqani network, and other terror groups located in Pakistan collaborated on so many major attacks.”

When the Taliban gained control of Kabul on August 15, they freed a great number of prisoners from the Pul-e-Charki Prison, including IS and al-Qaeda terrorists, according to reports. These people are currently at large.

There is a major difference between the Taliban and IS-K, accusing them of abandoning Jihad and the battlefield in favour of a negotiated peace settlement hammered out in “posh hotels” in Doha, Qatar.

IS militants now present a huge security threat to the upcoming government of Taliban, a concern shared by both the Taliban leadership and Western intelligence agencies.



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