Emergence of ISIS-K in Afghanistan: The Only National Security Threat to the USA

by Eli Mshomi
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The ISIS-Khorasan (ISIS-K) rose to prominence rapidly in Afghanistan in the last 2 to 3 years, but their emergence was highlighted in the wake of the Taliban taking control of Kabul and American forces evacuation. 

ISIS-K is a South Asian affiliate of ISIS that originated in Afghanistan and Pakistan in early 2015. Khorasan is a regional term that is used to represent the territories covered by modern-day Afghanistan, Pakistan, and other regional countries.

The manpower of the group was recruited by a faction separated from the Afghan Taliban and another faction separated from the Pakistani Taliban.

Both of them teamed up to pose a new significant threat to the security of both Pakistan and Afghanistan. Although the situation in Pakistan is under control, principally due to the military offensive against the terror groups, Afghanistan still remains the breeding ground of the ISIS-K.

After the peace deal with the Afghan Taliban, the major rivalry in the war-torn country has shifted from Taliban Vs. USA to ISIS-K Vs. The USA. 

ISIS-K claimed responsibility for the attack on Kabul airport, which resulted in the death of more than 160 Afghans and 13 US service members. With this, both the Taliban and the US have a common enemy in the form of ISIS-K.

Top Pentagon officials, including General Mark Milley, have already indicated an attack on US soil from Afghanistan, which depicts a worrying state of affairs.

Recently Panama also detained some Al-Qaeda members who were trying to enter the US with immigrants, which is a clear depiction that all eyes are on US security these days.

The rise of ISIS-K poses significant threat to the security of the US as well as the top military leadership has indicated an imminent attack in the upcoming months

The rise of ISIS-K poses significant threat to the security of the US as well as the top military leadership has indicated an imminent attack in the upcoming months

ISIS-K is an only Security Threat to the US in Post War-on-Terror Era

Attacking on the US seems to be the only goal for ISIS-K right now, considering that they are at a crossroads with the Taliban right now.

ISIS-K is an anti-Taliban faction, and the Taliban’s government in Afghanistan is a sign of death for the group.

Currently, the US-Taliban agreement mentions that the Taliban will not let any group use Afghan soil against external attacks.

It means that in case of an attack, the US-Taliban agreement will stand canceled, which will be a win-win situation for the ISIS-K. 

The warning of military leadership cannot be ruled out because the newly formed Afghan government of the Taliban does not have the capacity and experience to prevent the operation of these terrorist organizations.

These terrorist organizations, ISIS-K and Al Qaeda, have roots in multiple countries, and they always try to expand their network. 

The Panama foreign minister recently told US officials that the number of immigrants trying to enter the US through Panama has increased from 800 per month to 20,000 per month. 

But the point of worry is that she made a claim that Panama authorities caught several individuals from those immigrants who have links with Al Qaeda. 

She also told reporters that thousands of those immigrants have already crossed the border of the USA and are in the USA right now.

This should serve as an eye-opener for the Biden administration, as connecting all the dots is showing a dangerous sign.

The former President of Afghanistan Hamid Karzai blamed the US for the  emergence of the ISIS-K in Afghanistan, saying that the US intentionally installed them in the region as its proxy

The former President of Afghanistan Hamid Karzai blamed the US for the emergence of the ISIS-K in Afghanistan, saying that the US intentionally installed them in the region as its proxy

The US and the Taliban Need to Counter Al Qaeda and ISIS-K Together
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USA and Taliban can prevent the expansion of ISIS-K in Afghanistan if they act on common grounds.

The announcement of President Biden that the USA would exempt some of the Afghan civil servants from the Taliban era of 1996-2001 from the terror-related ban list can improve the relations between the two stakeholders.

But there are many factors at play that are creating systematic hindrances right now.

Firstly, if the USA wants to work with the Taliban, it has to recognize the rule of the Taliban, which would hurt the USA’s long-standing point of view. It will push the Biden administration into troubled waters as it will be an exception of defeat on an international stage.

Secondly, the Taliban lacks logistics and intel experience to counter terrorist threats on their own. 

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For instance, the Islamic State Khorasan attack on Hamid Karzai international airport exposed this weakness of the Taliban. 

Thirdly, there is an ambiguity that the Taliban does not have links with these terrorist organizations.

Shahab Al Muhajir, who is an ISIS-K’s leader, for instance, was the Haqqani group commander in the past before leaving for the Islamic State.

As this Haqqani network is a close associate of the Afghan Taliban, it is worrying many stakeholders about the intermingling of the two organizations. 

Furthermore, according to the report of the United Nations, tens of thousands of fighters are gathering in Afghanistan from the countries of Central Asia after the US withdrawal & Taliban takeover, and are joining the Taliban, Al-Qaeda, and ISIS-K. 

This is creating a trust deficit in American power corridors that the Taliban can play a dual game with the US just for the sake of getting international recognition.

The USA needs to keep its eyes open while dealing with the Taliban against ISIS-K. Otherwise, the expansion of the Islamic State’s caliphate could endanger the USA land in the longer term. 

The recent United Nations counterterrorism officials reported that the terrorist attacks in Afghanistan by ISIS-K have increased from 21 to 77 during the year 2020 to 2021. 

The global power can face a similar attack on its land if it does not act pre-emptively against these terrorist groups.

Pakistan, China and Russia are most concerned about the emergence of ISIS-K in Afghanistan as all of them are regional countries that hold the key to curb the ISIS in Afghanistan.

Pakistan, China and Russia are most concerned about the emergence of ISIS-K in Afghanistan as all of them are regional countries that hold the key to curb the ISIS in Afghanistan.

Final Thoughts

The way to counter ISIS-K is to collaborate not only with Taliban leaders but also with the regional countries, especially China, Russia, and Pakistan. 

Only collective consensus against the common enemy can bring fruitful results. Secondly, there is a need to put the leaders of these militant groups on the travel ban lists. 

In addition to this, the US and regional countries should provide Taliban training and help on a milestone basis. 

Because Afghanistan is a nurturing ground for Al Qaeda and ISIS-K, and Taliban can prove to be effective in countering them on a ground basis.

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