ISIS branch in Afghanistan threatens to evacuate Kabul
On the other side of the jihadist ledger is ISIS-K. The group is one of many subsidiaries that ISIS established after invading northern Iraq from Syria in 2014, and creating a religious state or caliphate the size of Britain. A campaign led by the United States crushed the caliphate, but more than 10,000 ISIS fighters remain in Iraq and Syria, and ISIS affiliates like the Sahel or the Sinai Peninsula are thriving.
But ISIS-K has never been a major force in Afghanistan, let alone globally, analysts say. The group’s ranks fell to around 1,500 to 2,000 fighters, about half of its peak levels in 2016 before US airstrikes and Afghan commando raids wreaked havoc.
As of June 2020, however, under the leadership of an ambitious new leader, Shahab al-Muhajir, the branch “remains active and dangerous” and seeks to swell its ranks with disgruntled Taliban fighters and other activists, the report concluded. of ONU.
“They haven’t been a leading affiliate of ISIS, but with the demise of the Afghan commandos and the US military, does that give them leeway? It is possible, ”said Seth G. Jones, Afghanistan specialist at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.
Even though the group’s general ranks have declined in recent years, Mr Jones said, ISIS-K has maintained cells of underground fighters who have carried out terrorist attacks.
Understanding the Taliban takeover in Afghanistan
Who are the Taliban? The Taliban emerged in 1994 amid the unrest following the withdrawal of Soviet forces from Afghanistan in 1989. They used brutal public punishments, including flogging, amputations and mass executions, to enforce their rules. Here’s more on their origin story and their record as leaders.
United Nations counterterrorism officials said in the June report that Islamic State carried out 77 attacks in Afghanistan in the first four months of this year, up from 21 during the same period in 2020. Last year’s attacks included a strike on Kabul University in November. and a rocket barrage against Kabul airport a month later. ISIS-K is suspected of being responsible for a school bombing in the capital that killed 80 schoolgirls in May.
“Kabul has been the target of the majority of ISIS-K’s most sophisticated and complex attacks in the past,” said Abdul Sayed, an expert on jihadist groups in Afghanistan and Pakistan based in Lund, Sweden.