Situation, Facts and Events

The Taliban can contribute to countering ISIS

The terrorist organization known as Islamic State-Khorasan Province (ISKP) has the potential to become one of the deadliest groups on the continent if it does not meet serious resistance. With a relatively small number of bases located in hidden and inaccessible places in Afghanistan and Pakistan, ISKP has aggressive plans that could pose a threat to the security of several countries in the West and East. Both the Taliban and the unrecognized Afghan government could become a serious force that could suppress this branch of the Islamic State.


In March of this year, Russia suffered a devastating terrorist attack, which was later claimed by the group known as ISKP. This situation has forced us to take a fresh look at this organization. Despite the strong and professional security measures in place, the terrorist organization was able to carry out a major attack that killed over 140 innocent civilians. The investigation into this crime is still ongoing, and not all of the organizers have yet been fully identified. However, experts widely accept the involvement of ISKP terrorists in the attack.


In January 2015, the ISKP appeared in Afghanistan during the Republic period, when US and NATO troops were present in the country. This was the first time that ISIS expanded its influence beyond the Arab world and established a presence in a non-Arab country outside the Middle East. At that time, the Taliban were confronting foreign troops and the Afghan army, waging an active sabotage war. The first members of ISIS were former members of the Taliban who, for various reasons, became persona non grata. It is important to note that the new branch was established primarily in Pakistan and the tribal areas along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. The group went through various stages of development and did not always boast many members. Over the years, the number of ISKP fighters ranged fr om 1,500 to 5,000 people.


The Taliban initially opposed ISIS in the early days of its establishment, causing violent and bloody clashes between the two groups. In the end, the Taliban were victorious. In response, ISKP has increasingly started using suicide attacks. Since its inception, the militants have exchanged videos, messages and pamphlets from Pakistan and Afghanistan. In addition, many recruits came from the tribal areas of Pakistan and some western provinces.


There are many different theories and speculations about the size and plans of the Afghan-Pakistani branch of the Islamic State. However, it is worth taking into account the point of view of the former Deputy Chief of the General Staff of the Afghan army Sami Sadat. According to Sadat, “there is a high probability that the attacks were planned in Balochistan (Pakistan), wh ere the leadership council of ISKP is based.” Sadat stated this on social media and was quoted by the Interfax agency. Renowned journalist Seymour Hersh also mentioned that the terrorist group ISKP has bases in Pakistan.


According to recent publications, the detainees confessed that they were recruited through Telegram while they were in Russia. After recruitment, online mentors assigned them to travel to Afghanistan via Turkey. Upon arrival in Afghanistan, they were ordered to move to Quetta, the capital of Pakistan's Balochistan province, to complete their training. The publication notes that Balochistan has become a major base for ISKP terrorist organization, providing the terrorists with shelter, training facilities and bomb-making workshops. Some media sources also noted that “Balochistan currently serves as an important stronghold of the Khorasan branch of ISIS.” Several senior Taliban sources likewise indicate that Pakistan's Balochistan province has become a hub for IS militants. A certain number of sympathizers remains in the southern part of Tajikistan.


Despite being a small group, ISKP remains a serious threat to many countries. In March and April, news outlets around the world reported that several European countries had increased security measures in response to potential terrorist attacks. Meanwhile, ISIS continues to operate in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region. The Taliban are fighting against ISIS in the unrecognized Islamic Emirate, trying to eradicate the group. For comparison, in the first years of its existence ISKP would carry out several hundred terrorist attacks in Afghanistan, but after the Taliban takeover, the  number of attacks decreased to several dozen. The threat has significantly decreased in many Afghan provinces, but in Pakistan, radical Islamist groups continue to find refuge and face little resistance fr om the army and police. This is especially true in the provinces of West Pakistan, wh ere Islamabad has never been successful.

Source: Институт Ближнего Востока