Afghanistan is being terrorized by the Islamic State

October 15, 2021

As I posted previously (“Taliban finds new enemy“), the Taliban have a new enemy — the Islamic State.

The Islamic State is an international terrorist organization that plans attacks against the West and encourages local men around the world to also perpetrate attacks in the West. It also terrorizes local populations such as people in Afghanistan where it settled in to form a local branch.

The Islamic State in Afghanistan is known as the Islamic State-Khorasan Province (IS-KP *; also Daesh after the Arabic acronym) where Khorasan is an archaic name for the region between today’s Iran and India. Their denomination of Islam is Salafist (Salafi) — a non-orthodox vision of returning to what adherents believe to be “true Islam.” This true Islam is that which was practiced by the desert Arabs of Mohammed’s time as Salafists imagine it. One feature of Mohammed’s Islam was jihad — a holy war to go out to conquer the world at the edge of a sword for Islam. People who they came across had the choice of becoming Muslims or being executed.

Today’s Islamic State Salafists regard the Taliban * as heretics since they won’t engage in a holy war against the Western world. The Taliban are only satisfied with ridding Afghanistan itself of Western armed forces and Western cultural influences. And suicide bombing is not the Taliban’s way of terrorizing Afghans into submitting to Islamic law — Sharia.

IS-KP took credit for recently bombing a packed mosque in the northern province of Kunduz. The ostensible reason for bombing the mosque was that the suicide bomber was a Uygher Muslim, saying that the attack targeted both Shias (Shiites) and the Taliban for their purported willingness to expel Uyghers to meet demands from China.* In addition, the worshipers in the mosque subscribed to the Shia belief system which differs from the belief system of the IS-KP, and IS-KP considers them heretics for their beliefs. The Muslims of Iran are Shias, as are many Iraqis. The other large belief system is Sunni. Both the Taliban and IS-KP are Sunnis. However, we see that subscribing to the Sunni belief system does not make IS-KP brethren with the Taliban.

The Taliban maintain that the Shias in Afghanistan are also loyal Afghans so they should be treated fairly. The idea that the Taliban have committed atrocities against Shias is probably an urban legend according to James Fergusson. See his Taliban: The Unknown Enemy (Cambridge, MA: Da Capo Press, 2010). As a journalist, he covered the Taliban’s Afghanistan during the late 90s, and then he covered the allied war in Afghanistan during its first decade.

Journalist Samya Kullab from AP explains what the Islamic State-Khorasan Province (IS-KP) has against the Taliban in Afghanistan. See “Can the Taliban suppress the potent IS threat?” from October 12, 2021. However, he also subscribes to the probable myth of Taliban massacres of Shias.

Kullab also surmises that IS-KP’s “immediate aim is to destabilize the Taliban and shatter the group’s image as a guardian of security.” However, “… the Taliban have shown themselves capable of rooting out some IS [Islamic State] cells, using their vast local intelligence-gathering networks…. IS — unlike the Taliban during their insurgency — don’t have access to safe havens in Pakistan and Iran.” Furthermore, some or many of the IS-KP are foreign fighters who are not any more welcome in Afghanistan than the Western coalition forces were.

Whatever we say about the Taliban, I wish them well in defeating IS-KP.

● IS-KP — Some journalists and academics refer to them as “IS-K.” I’ve also seen journalistic reports that call these terrorists ISIS. I do not understand this since ISIS is an abbreviation for ‘Islamic State Iraq Syria’. IS-KP has reportedly received financial support from ISIS, though.

● IS-KP — For more online background about IS-KP see “Islamic State Khorasan (IS-K)” from the Center for Strategic & International Studies. This report is from 2018.

● Taliban – At times they refer to themselves as “mujahideen” — “those who are fighting for G-dly rule” of Afghanistan. The early mujahideen, some of whom were Taliban, fought against the Soviets when they occupied Afghanistan in the 1980s. Today’s Taliban fought the Western coalition who were also seen as occupying Afghanistan. I gleaned that they call themselves mujahideen from a Frontline documentary “Taliban Takeover.”

● willingness to expel Uyghers … China – The mosque had no security so it was a soft target. Beyond this, IS-KP considers the Shia sect to be apostates rather than good Muslims. So perhaps this was why a Shia congregation was chosen for the attack. See “IS bomber kills 46 inside Afghan mosque, challenges Taliban” from AP.

● As I write this, another packed Shia mosque was attacked in Kandahar city killing and wounding a number of people. See “Suicide attack on Shiite mosque in Afghanistan kills 37.” AP is likely to update this article as more information comes in.

Taliban finds new enemy

October 7, 2021

Just as the Taliban got their wish that all troops of the United States and its allies would leave Afghanistan, they found themselves with a new enemy. The Islamic State has reared its head.

The Islamic State in Afghanistan is known as Islamic State-Khorasan Province (IS-KP *; also Daesh after the Arabic acronym) where Khorasan is an archaic name for the region between today’s Iran and India. They have found sanctuary in the Afghan province that is just north of the province centered on the city of Jalalabad. So, IS-KP’s refuge is not far north of a major city but in daunting, rugged mountains. Al-Qaeda has long had a base there although it does not get along with IS-KP. Actually, IS-KP and the Taliban regard each other as enemies too.

IS-KP has now turned loose suicide bombers against Afghan civilians. In contrast, the Taliban used suicide bombers sparingly and only against military targets, never civilians (except for one extremist network). In addition, the Taliban has no aspirations to engage in terrorist attacks abroad. Neither do they use social media to inspire foreign attacks initiated by locals as does IS-KP.

The most recent IS-KP bombing of civilians was only several days ago in Kabul. Their bomber set up road-side explosives outside a packed mosque. Several Afghans were killed and a number wounded when the bomb went off outside the mosque’s gate.
(Details vary in the reports that I’ve seen. See “Bomb at Kabul mosque kills 5 civilians, Taliban say” and “Taliban raid suspected IS hideout after bombing in capital” from AP; “Deadly explosion targets memorial service near Kabul mosque” from Al Jazeera.)

IS-KP’s previous attack in Kabul was on August 26th when a suicide bomber blew himself up outside the gates of Kabul International Airport where civilians who wanted to leave Afghanistan to escape Taliban rule had massed. Several American service members were killed as were 169 Afghans. The American service members don’t seem to have been the target. If they were, the bomber was indifferent to civilian lives.

While American forces were still in Afghanistan, they conducted drone strikes against IS-KP with intelligence from Afghanistan’s National Directorate of Security (NDS). Without American support — drones and helicopters — the Taliban are left to slug it out with IS-KP on the ground. This reminds us of the adage, “Be careful what you wish for.”

If things weren’t bad enough, IS-KP is allegedly getting support from elements in Pakistan’s military, the Pakistani army’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency (ISI). According to Wikipedia as far as the Taliban is concerned, “The ISI and other parts of the Pakistan military … provided financial, logistical, military and direct combat support to the Taliban.… the ISI in conjunction with the military leadership has also provided some amount of support and refuge to al-Qaeda.” And now it looks like a replay with IS-KP.

(For more about Pakistani support for the Taliban, especially an extreme element, see “Inter-Services Intelligence activities in Afghanistan” from Wikipedia.

● IS-KP — I’ve also seen journalistic reports that call these terrorists ISIS. I do not understand this since ISIS is an abbreviation for ‘Islamic State Iraq Syria’. IS-KP has reportedly received financial support from ISIS, though.

● Books I’ve read on the subject:
Morgan, Wesley. 2021. The Hardest Place: The American Military Adrift in Afghanistan’s Pech Valley. New York: Random House. The Pech Valley has been where IS-KP has settled displacing al-Qaeda.
Lamb, Christina. 2015. Farewell Kabul: From Afghanistan to a More Dangerous World. London: William Collins. Lamb documents how the ISI has collaborated with the Taliban from early times.