What is known about the Islamic State of Afghanistan and why is it considered a major terrorist threat?

Kabul Airport Attack

President Joe Biden blamed the group for the attacks, which occurred on Thursday near the Kabul airport, and stressed that they will hunt them down and make them pay for it.

The Islamic State of Greater Khorasan, a branch of the terrorist group blamed by the US government for the deadly attacks that took place in Kabul on Thursday, was formed in eastern Afghanistan 6 years ago and quickly became one of the biggest threats worldwide. Despite the years of the Washington-led coalition’s military campaign, the jihadist Salafi organization survived and launched a new massive attack as the US and its NATO partners withdraw their troops from Afghan territory, and as the Taliban have returned to power.

President Joe Biden cited the threat of IS attacks to keep the August 31 deadline for the withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan. He blamed the group for the attacks near the airport in the Afghan capital, perpetrated by two suicide bombers, who were among the crowd of civilians outside the gates of facilities controlled by US service members. “May those who carried out this attack, as well as anyone who wishes [to] harm America (US), know this: We will not forgive. We will not forgetWe will hunt them down and make them pay,” he declared during a speech from the White House.

What is the Islamic State of Greater Khorasan?

ISIS’s Central Asia affiliate emerged in the months after the group’s core of fighters swept through Syria and Iraq, forging a self-styled caliphate, or Islamic empire, in the summer of 2014. In Syria and Iraq, local and international forces took 5 years of fighting to push them back. The Afghan branch takes its name from the Greater Khorasan region, which encompassed much of Afghanistan, Iran, and Central Asia in the Middle Ages. The group is also known as ‘ISK’ or ‘ISIS K’.

The group started with several hundred Pakistani Taliban fighters, who took refuge across the border in Afghanistan after military operations drove them from their home country. There they were joined by other like-minded extremists, including Afghan Taliban fighters unhappy with what they – unlike the West – viewed as the overly moderate and peaceful forms of the Taliban.

As the Taliban sought peace talks with the US in recent years, other disgruntled radicals  turned to the more extremist Islamic State, increasing in number. Most of them were frustrated by negotiations with the US authorities at a time when they thought the movement could achieve a military victory.

The group has also attracted an important cadre of the Islamic Movement from neighboring Uzbekistan; fighters from Iran’s only Sunni Muslim-majority province; and members of the Islamic Party of Turkestan, made up of Uighurs from northeast China. Many of them were drawn to the violent and extreme ideology of the Islamic State, which includes the promise of a caliphate to unite the Islamic world, a goal the Taliban never embraced.

Why is IS Khorasan a major terrorist threat?

While the Taliban have limited their fight to Afghan territory, the Islamic State group in Afghanistan and Pakistan has endorsed the call for a global jihad against non-Muslims.

The Center for International and Strategic Studies, based in Washington, counts dozens of attacks that IS fighters have launched against civilians in Afghanistan and Pakistan, including the Shiite Muslim minority, as well as hundreds of clashes with Afghan, Pakistani and of the US-led coalition since January 2017,  reports AP. Although the group has yet to carry out attacks on US territory, the US government believes that it  represents a chronic threat to its interests and those of its allies in South and Central Asia.

What is your role with the Taliban?

While intelligence officials claim that al Qaeda fighters are embedded among the Taliban, the Taliban, on the contrary, have carried out major coordinated offensives against IS in Afghanistan. Insurgents sometimes joined US and Afghan government forces to drive the terrorist group out of the northeast of the country.

A U.S. Department of Defense official, who spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity, previously stated that the Donald Trump administration had sought its 2020 withdrawal deal with the Taliban in part in hopes of joining forces with them against the IS affiliate. The US authorities at that time saw this terrorist group as the real threat to their country.

Why is it so dangerous now?

Even when the US had combat troops, planes and armed drones stationed on the ground in Afghanistan to monitor and strike the Islamic State, ISIS militants were able to sustain the attacks despite suffering thousands of casualties, the officials said. analysts Amira Jadoon and Andrew Mines in a report for the West Point Counter-Terrorism Center.

The withdrawal is depriving the United States of its ability to strike on the ground in Afghanistan, and threatens to also weaken its ability to track the Islamic State and its planning of attacks, the experts added. Biden administration officials say IS is just one of many terrorist threats they face globally and insist they can handle it with so-called state-based ‘military and intelligence assets on the horizon’. from the Gulf, on aircraft carriers or other more distant sites.

One of the biggest fears of the US authorities, as they withdraw their fighting forces after two decades, is that Afghanistan, under the rule of the Taliban, will once again become a magnet and a base for extremists planning attacks against the West. As noted CNN last Sunday’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, the threat is something that “we are focused, with all the tools in our arsenal.”