The Islamic State in the Khorasan Province (IS-KP)

The Islamic State in Khorasan Province (IS-KP) is a branch of the Salafi militant organization, the Islamic State, that is active in Afghanistan and Pakistan

Key Statistics

2015 First Recorded Activity
2015 First Attack
2018 Profile Last Updated

Profile Contents

Overview

Brief Summary of the Organization's History.

Organization

Leadership, Name Changes, Size Estimates, Resources, Geographic Locations

Strategy

Ideology, Aims, Political Activities, Targets, and Tactics

Major Attacks

First Attacks, Largest Attacks, Notable Attacks

Interactions

Foreign Designations and Listings, Community Relations, Relations with Other Groups, State Sponsors and External Influences

Maps

Mapping relationships with other militant groups over time

Contact

Send a message to the Mapping Militants team.

How to Cite

Mapping Militant Organizations. "The Islamic State in Khorasan Province (IS-KP)." Stanford University. Last modified June 2018. <https://internal.fsi.stanford.edu/content/mmp-is-kp>

Overview

Brief History

    Overview
  • Overview
  • Narrative

Overview

Formed2015
DisbandedGroup is active.
First AttackApril 18, 2015: IS-KP conducted a suicide bombing outside a bank in Jalalabad, Afghanistan. (33 killed, 100+ wounded).
Last AttackApril 30, 2018: IS-KP conducted two suicide bombings in Kabulm Afghanistan. (29 killed, 50 wounded).
UpdatedAugust, 2018

The Islamic State in Khorasan Province (IS-KP) is a branch of the Salafi militant organization, the Islamic State, that is active in Afghanistan and Pakistan. IS-KP’s main goal is to establish and maintain Khorasan as a wilayat (province) of the global IS caliphate. IS-KP’s primary militant adversary is the Afghan Taliban, with which it frequently engages in battles for territorial control over Afghanistan. The hostility between the two groups stems both from ideological differences and competition for resources. IS-KP is strongest in the Nangarhar Province of eastern Afghanistan, particularly in the Chaprarhar, Nazyan, and Deh Bala districts. However, as of 2017, U.S. and Afghan forces have rolled back the group’s reach by capturing significant portions of IS-KP territory. Although U.S. and Afghan forces have killed the first tier of IS-KP leadership and 75% of its fighters, the group has proven resilient. Since spring 2017 and continuing through 2018, IS-KP has launched several major assaults in Kabul, Herat, and Jalalabad. U.S. experts estimate that IS-KP will continue to recruit militants, disseminate propaganda, and launch attacks on urban centers as long as IS exists.

 

 

Narrative

Before 2010, many of the militants who currently belong to IS-KP fought for other militant organizations, such as the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). In 2010, the majority of these militants fled Orakzai Agency, Pakistan for Nangarhar province, Afghanistan, in order to escape the Pakistan Army’s major anti-terror operation, Khwakh Ba dee Sham.[i] After arriving in Nangarhar with their families, the militants claimed to be refugees, or muhajerin, and demanded hospitality from the local Pashtun population. As they settled into their new home, the muhajerin continued to carry weapons and display their allegiance to Pakistani militant groups such as the TTP. However, after TTP leader Hakimullah Mehsud died in November 2013, the TTP fragmented. As a result, many of the muhajerin militant groups in Nangarhar began to operate autonomously, splitting into smaller, more ruthless factions.[ii]

Throughout 2014, these groups operated in Afghanistan and Pakistan as apolitical armed gangs, extorting money from villagers and conducting kidnappings for ransom. The mujaherin’s predatory behavior further strained their relationship with the TTP and the Taliban. In 2014, IS propaganda began to circulate throughout the Afghanistan-Pakistan region. Leaflets encouraging militants to defect to IS were found in multiple rural provinces, as well as in larger cities such as Kabul, Afghanistan, and Jalalabad, Pakistan.[iii] One sign of the IS’s growing influence in Afghanistan came in March that year, when nine former Yemeni and Saudi Al Qaeda leaders defected to IS, while hiding along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.[iv] Shortly thereafter, several other militant groups operating in Pakistan and Afghanistan, including the Al Tawhid Brigade, Ansar ul-Khilafat Wal-Jihad, and Jundullah, pledged allegiance to IS.[v] However, IS’s position in Afghanistan did not solidify until July 1, 2014, when Afghan national Rahim Muslim Dost, a former Guantanamo Bay detainee with connections to Al Qaeda and the Taliban, publicly declared his allegiance to IS.[vi] This announcement coincided with the release of a booklet called Fata (victory), which advocated for the violent establishment of an IS in Nangarhar and Kunar provinces.[vii]

In the months to follow, the Khorasan chapter grew in strength as TTP commanders defected from the TTP to join IS, following the contentious appointment of Mullah Fazlullah as the leader of the TTP.[viii] For example, in October 2014, Hafiz Saeed Khan (originally considered to succeed the TTP’s Hakimullah Mehsud) and Shahidullah Shahid (the main spokesman of the TTP) both pledged allegiance to IS. Additionally, the TTP chiefs of Kurram Agency, Khyber Agency, Peshawar, and Hanugu district, who collectively maintained TTP control over the central FATA, also defected to IS. This loss for the TTP was an extremely valuable victory for IS, as it provided the group control over the strategic travel and trade routes stretching from Peshawar to Khyber Pass.[ix]

On January 10, 2015, Hafiz Saeed, Shahid, and the four former TTP chiefs of the central FATA released a video in conjunction with an expanded group of former Taliban commanders and leaders from other jihadi groups in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The video reaffirmed their allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and declared themselves to be the new administrators of the official IS province in Afghanistan. The men, who had appointed Hafiz Saeed Khan as their leader, also claimed to be backed by an even broader network of groups in Khyber, Kunar, and Dir. Immediately after the release of the video, 50 militants from the Amr Bil Maroof group joined the ranks of Hafiz Saeed’s group. On January 26, Abu Muhammad al-Adnani backed this statement, and subsequently named Hafiz Saeed as the emir for the Islamic State in Khorasan Province (IS-KP).[x] Adnani encouraged all militants in Khorasan (a historic name for the region including Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Central Asia) to unite under IS-KP.[xi] Hafiz Saeed and his deputy, Mullah Abdul Rauf Khadim, utilized their existing connections to militant networks to recruit from the eastern and southern provinces of Afghanistan. IS-KP quickly attracted new recruits, due to the appeal of its international reputation.[xii]

 

One notable effect of the official establishment of IS-KP is that it spurred IS and the Afghan Taliban to declare war on one another in January 2015. The hostility between the two groups arose both from ideological differences and competition for resources. IS accused the Taliban of drawing its legitimacy from a narrow ethnic and nationalistic base, rather than a universal Islamic creed.[xiii] Meanwhile the Taliban continued to suffer as large numbers of its militants defected from the Taliban to join IS-KP.[xiv]

Within Nangarhar, the franchise first took root in the Mamand area of Achin district near the strategically advantageous Tirah Valley corridor, a popular and relatively unregulated militant crossing between Afghanistan and Pakistan. However, by February 2015, locals were flying the black IS flag from residences in seven districts in southeastern Nangarhar. In the following month, IS-KP also expanded into Logar province, establishing a training base and attacking multiple Sufi shrines.[xv]

Meanwhile, about five hundred miles southwest of Nangarhar, Abdul Rauf Khadim was leading a parallel effort to establish an IS front in Helmand province. Although Khadim’s cell was well-financed and approximately three hundred men strong, the Taliban surrounded its position. Without access to open supply routes and safe havens in Pakistan, the cell fell to the Taliban by early February 2015.[xvi]

As the Taliban began to realize the potential threat IS-KP posed to its control over the Nangarhar region, it attempted to shut down muhajer madrassas, and confiscated a shipment of weapons in Mamand. In March and April 2015, the Taliban entered into a brief period of negotiations with IS-KP. However, the militants refused to leave Nangarhar, resulting in a series of violent clashes with the Taliban. By mid-May 2015, the Taliban had become the minority group in the Mamand Valley, Achin, Deh Bala, Kot, and Nazian districts, and was forced to withdraw and regroup.[xvii]

In May 2015, IS-KP established its headquarters in Mamand under the supervision of visiting IS leaders.[xviii] During the initial months of IS-KP’s rule in Mamand, specifically from mid-May to early July 2015, villagers viewed the group as a benign and positive alternative to the Taliban. Unlike the Taliban, which forcibly took from the local population, IS-KP provided its own food and shelter, and did not impose a tax. It also initially allowed both male and female schools to remain open.[xix] Furthermore, IS-KP commanders claimed that the group had no quarrel with the Afghan government and was instead focused on opposing the Taliban and its link to the ISI. With IS-KP in power, Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) and government personnel enjoyed newfound freedom of movement, unhindered by the persecution of the Taliban. Viewing IS-KP as a valuable counterweight to its longtime enemy, the Taliban, the Afghan government refrained from challenging IS-KP for its first two formative months after its emergence in Nangarhar. In return, IS-KP launched no attacks against ANSF and Afghan government personnel during May and June 2015.[xx]

By the end of June 2015, IS-KP had captured or contested much of the Taliban’s territory in Nangarhar and was in control of eight of the 22 districts. IS-KP subsequently attempted to expand and consolidate its control through a variety of cruel tactics, including summary justice, forced displacement, and executions of clerics and elders.[xxi] Despite both forcible and diplomatic attempts by the Taliban to convince IS to leave Afghanistan, local and top-level leadership insisted that the Taliban disband itself and pledge allegiance to the IS caliphate. In response to these failed negotiations, the Taliban issued a fatwa and gathered new support from local tribal elders and political elites in order to launch a defensive campaign against IS-KP in late June 2015. In less than two weeks, the Taliban seized most of IS-KP’s territory in the southwestern districts of Nangarhar. However, its campaign was largely unsuccessful in the southeastern districts of Nangarhar. On July 3, 2015, the Taliban took IS-KP by surprise and successfully ousted the militants from Mamand. However, this victory was short lived. On July 16, the eve of the Muslim holiday, Eid-ul-Fitr, IS-KP militants returned and retook Mamand. After killing a dozen Taliban soldiers and detaining 80 locals, IS-KP slaughtered an additional ten tribal elders accused of supporting the Taliban.[xxii] This execution, during which the men were blindfolded and then blown up in a field of explosives, brought IS-KP international attention when IS-KP released the gruesome footage from the attack in a propaganda video.[xxiii]

As IS-KP grew more violent, villagers not aligned with IS-KP fled their homes for safer locations, such as Jalalabad or Taliban-controlled areas in western Nangarhar. Once the original residents had been displaced, IS-KP confiscated abandoned property and allowed IS-KP affiliated militants from Kunduz and Helmand to resettle the area.[xxiv]

As a result, IS-KP became so entrenched in Nangarhar that it was virtually impossible for the Afghan government and security forces to exercise any degree of control over the area. From this secured position, IS-KP’s ranks continued to grow as Afghan and Pakistani Taliban militants defected to the group in order to escape the pressure of counterinsurgency operations, such as the Pakistani military’s operation Zarb-e-Azb. Furthermore, IS-KP also partnered with Lashkar-e-Islam (LeI) in order to increase its operational capacity and broaden the base of its support across the Afghanistan and Pakistan border.[xxv]

Once it had secured power in Nangarhar, IS-KP changed its policy of tolerance toward the Afghan government to one of open aggression. This shift followed the Afghan government’s decision in July 2015 to begin combatting the spread of IS-KP. The government’s new strategy coincided with the series of lethal U.S. airstrikes against three top IS-KP leaders in July 2015, for which the Afghan government claimed to have provided intelligence support. The Afghan government subsequently announced its official plan to unite with the United States in combatting IS-KP, and unveiled a new unit tasked with fighting the group. In addition to blaming the Afghan government for this increased targeting, IS-KP condemned the Afghan government for its persecution of Pakistani militants, its cooperation with the Pakistan Army and ISI, and its support of local, Taliban-backed uprisings against IS-KP. However, despite IS-KP’s declared hostility against the Afghan government, most of its resources were directed at combatting the Taliban. Throughout late 2015 and into 2016, the two groups battled for control over territory in Nangarhar, each time brutally executing and banishing the fighters and sympathizers of the losing group. Certain districts, such as Chaparhar, changed hands multiple times, as the Taliban and IS-KP took turns executing elaborate counterattacks.[xxvi]

By early autumn of 2015, IS-KP had lost much of its popularity among the Nangarhari locals. Although the leniency of IS-KP’s early rule was initially promising, citizens became disenchanted with the group as it began to engage in violent guerilla tactics and enforce Shariah law with brutal punishments. Examples of IS-KP’s brutal governance included school and clinic closures, public executions, killings of tribal elders, kidnappings for ransom, destruction of Sufi shrines, and cigarette bans.[xxvii]

One of IS-KP’s most unpopular policies was its ban on poppy cultivation, which was an extremely important source of income for many families in Nangarhar. Additionally, rumors also began to circulate that local families would be forced to provide IS-KP militants with brides, without dowry payments or consideration for tribe and family lineage. Ultimately, the threats IS-KP posed to the physical, economic, and social wellbeing of the citizens of Nangarhar incited public support for the return of the Taliban.[xxviii]

Recognizing the waning public support of IS-KP as an opportunity to strike, the Taliban launched counter-offensives against the group during summer and autumn of 2015. On January 4, 2016, the Taliban initiated a large-scale operation against IS-KP. Operating with a strength of over 3,000 militants, the Taliban succeeded in expelling IS-KP from Chaparhar and Bati Kot in only three days. Furthermore, from December 2015 through February 2016, the combined effectiveness of Taliban attacks, local uprisings, U.S. drone strikes, and ANSF and pro-Afghan government militia operations halted IS-KP’s territorial expansion. Although IS-KP still controlled Achin, Deh, Bala, Kot, and Nazian, the group’s control over Afghanistan significantly diminished.[xxix]

By March 2016, a large number of IS-KP fighters and their families had begun to retreat into Pakistan’s Khyber and Orakzai agencies. At the same time, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani announced to the Afghan Parliament that IS-KP had been defeated in eastern Afghanistan. However, toward the end of March, locals in Achin and Nazyan reported that IS-KP fighters had begun to return to Nangarhar.[xxx]

In late June 2016, IS-KP used its strongholds in Achin, De Bala, and Pakistani sanctuaries to launch a large offensive against ANSF in central Nangarhar. Operating with a strength of approximately 600 fighters, IS-KP overran six ANSF posts in Kot. However, it suffered severe casualties (estimates ranging from 50 to 250 killed) during these attacks, overwhelmed by the combination of ground combat with the ANSF and U.S. airstrikes. In July 2016, the ANSF launched a series of offensive operations against IS-KP. These ANSF operations were met with varying levels of success. Some resulted in reclaimed territory from IS-KP, while others yielded no significant or lasting gains. In addition to deploying ANSF soldiers, the Afghan government partnered with local militias to halt further IS-KP advances.[xxxi]

Throughout the remainder of 2016, IS-KP dug into its remaining districts in Achin, Kot, Nazyan and Deh Bala. The group’s hold over these districts remained firm until mid-March, when U.S. and Afghan special forces ramped up their joint offensives against IS-KP. In April 2017, the combined special forces launched a new campaign, Operation Hazma, which targeted IS-KP in both Nangarhar and Kunar provinces. Although IS-KP remained entrenched primarily in southern Nangarhar, it began to use Kunar as a source of recruitment and safe haven.[xxxii]

As part of Operation Hazma, the U.S. military coupled ground offensives and night raids with heavy air strikes. This combination was particularly effective in weakening IS-KP in its Mamand stronghold. In their 2017 campaign, Afghan and U.S. forces were almost completely successful in clearing Kot of IS-KP forces. This was a major blow to IS-KP’s territorial control and logistics. Specifically, by capturing Kot, Afghan and U.S. forces succeeded in cutting off one of IS-KP’s main supply lines, through which it previously supplied its fighters with weapons and ammunition.[xxxiii]

While Afghan and U.S. forces were successful in Kot, they were less effective in capturing Mamand and Pekha. This was primarily due to the fact that IS-KP was able to avoid penetration by entrenching itself into the valleys’ caves and mountainous terrain.[xxxiv] In addition to losing territory to Afghan and U.S. forces, IS-KP suffered an increase in casualties of both low-level militants and high-level leaders. In spring of 2017, IS-KP reportedly lost 300 fighters, and endured two of the deadliest U.S/Afghan attacks to date. On April 13, 2017, the United States dropped the most powerful conventional bomb its arsenal, the “mother of all bombs,” on an IS-KP cave complex. The strike killed an alleged 94 IS-KP militants, including four commanders.[xxxv] Then, on April 27, 2017, U.S. and Afghan special forces launched a particularly successful operation in the heart of IS-KP territory, killing over 30 with bombings and commando raids. Although the U.S. and Afghan forces were successful in removing several high-value IS-KP targets, such as emir Abdul Haseeb Logari, IS-KP used the raids as material for propaganda. Specifically, IS-KP exaggerated the collateral damage of the raids in an attempt to turn locals against the Afghan government.[xxxvi]

Although IS-KP experienced setbacks in the east in Achin and Kot, in 2017, it made significant advances into Chaprarhar. This was notable due to the fact that IS-KP and the Taliban have fought for control over this district since 2015. On April 2, 2017, IS-KP captured nearly half of Chaprarhar in a coordinated offensive against the Taliban. Meanwhile, IS-KP retains control over most of the Nazyan and Deh Bala districts.[xxxvii] According to U.S. military estimates, the first tier of IS-KP leadership and 75% of its fighters have been killed since 2015.[xxxviii] Despite these setbacks, the group has proven its ability to remain active. In 2016, IS-KP killed over 800 people in more than 100 attacks.[xxxix] Since then, IS-KP has showcased its ability to strike the Afghan state while enduring continuous airstrikes by the U.S. government. For example, in October of 2017 the U.S. and its Afghan military partners dropped 653 bombs and missiles on targets within Afghanistan.[xl] The group has continued launching major assaults in Kabul, Heart, and Jalalabad in 2018, particularly on high-profile targets including voter registration centers and Shiite religious and cultural centers .In December of 2017, General Nicholson, Commander of U.S. and NATO troops in the region, claimed that another 1,600 IS-KP fighters had been removed from the battlefield, particularly in eastern Afghanistan.[xli] Despite the loss of territory and continuous military assaults by the U.S. government and its Afghan allies, IS-KP has increased the scale and number of suicide bombings in Kabul, specifically on Shiite neighborhoods. U.S. experts estimate that IS-KP will continue to recruit militants, disseminate propaganda, and launch attacks on urban centers when possible.[xlii]



[i] Shah, Tayyab Ali. “Pakistan’s Challenges in Orkazai Agency.” Combatting Terrorism Center at West Point, 3 July, 2010, https://ctc.usma.edu/posts/pakistan%E2%80%99s-challenges-in-orakzai-agency; Osman, Borhan. “The Islamic State in ‘Khorasan’: How it began and where it stands now in Nangarhar.” Afghanistan Analysts Network, 27 July, 2016, https://www.afghanistan-analysts.org/the-islamic-state-in-khorasan-how-it-began-and-where-it-stands-now-in-nangarhar/.

[ii] Osman, Borhan. "The Islamic State in 'Khorasan': How it began and where it stands now in Nangarhar." Afghanistan Analysts Network, 27 July, 2016, <https://www.afghanistan-analysts.org/the-islamic-state-in-khorasan-how-i....

[iii] McNally, Lauren, Alex Amiral, Marvin Weinbaum, and Antoun Issa. “The Islamic State in Afghanistan: Examining Its Threat to Stability.” Middle East Institute Policy Focus Series 2016-11, May 2016, http://www.mei.edu/sites/default/files/publications/PF12_McNallyAmiral_ISISAfghan_web.pdf.

[iv] Rassler, Don. “Situating the Emergence of the Islamic State of Khorasan.” Combatting Terrorism Center at West Point, 18 Mar. 2015. https://ctc.usma.edu/posts/situating-the-emergence-of-the-islamic-state-of-khorasan;  Johnson, Casey Garret. “The Rise and Stall of the Islamic State in Afghanistan.” United States Institute of Peace: Special Report 395, 16 Nov, https://www.usip.org/sites/default/files/SR395-The-Rise-and-Stall-of-the-Islamic-State-in-Afghanistan.pdf.

[v] McNally, Lauren, Alex Amiral, Marvin Weinbaum, and Antoun Issa. “The Islamic State in Afghanistan: Examining Its Threat to Stability.” Middle East Institute Policy Focus Series 2016-11, May 2016, http://www.mei.edu/sites/default/files/publications/PF12_McNallyAmiral_ISISAfghan_web.pdf.

[vi] “Abdul Rahim Muslim Dost.” Counter Extremism Project, n.d., https://www.counterextremism.com/extremists/abdul-rahim-muslim-dost; Roggio, Bill. “Ex-Gitmo ‘poet’ and committed jihadist denounces Islamic State for attacks on civilians.” FDD’s Long War Journal, 20 July, 2016. https://www.longwarjournal.org/tags/abdul-rahim-muslim-dost.

[vii] Johnson, Casey Garret. “The Rise and Stall of the Islamic State in Afghanistan.” United States Institute of Peace: Special Report 395, 16 Nov, https://www.usip.org/sites/default/files/SR395-The-Rise-and-Stall-of-the-Islamic-State-in-Afghanistan.pdf.

[viii] McNally, Lauren, Alex Amiral, Marvin Weinbaum, and Antoun Issa. “The Islamic State in Afghanistan: Examining Its Threat to Stability.” Middle East Institute Policy Focus Series 2016-11, May 2016, http://www.mei.edu/sites/default/files/publications/PF12_McNallyAmiral_I....

[ix] Rassler, Don. “Situating the Emergence of the Islamic State of Khorasan.” Combatting Terrorism Center at West Point, 18 Mar. 2015. https://ctc.usma.edu/posts/situating-the-emergence-of-the-islamic-state-of-khorasan; Shah, Tayyab Ali. “Pakistan’s Challenges in Orkazai Agency.” Combatting Terrorism Center at West Point, 3 July, 2010, https://ctc.usma.edu/posts/pakistan%E2%80%99s-challenges-in-orakzai-agency; “The Khyber Pass.” National Geographic, n.d., https://www.nationalgeographic.org/media/khyber-pass/.

[x] Rassler, Don. “Situating the Emergence of the Islamic State of Khorasan.” Combatting Terrorism Center at West Point, 18 Mar. 2015. https://ctc.usma.edu/posts/situating-the-emergence-of-the-islamic-state-of-khorasan.

[xi] McNally, Lauren, Alex Amiral, Marvin Weinbaum, and Antoun Issa. “The Islamic State in Afghanistan: Examining Its Threat to Stability.” Middle East Institute Policy Focus Series 2016-11, May 2016, http://www.mei.edu/sites/default/files/publications/PF12_McNallyAmiral_ISISAfghan_web.pdf.

[xii] McNally, Lauren, Alex Amiral, Marvin Weinbaum, and Antoun Issa. “The Islamic State in Afghanistan: Examining Its Threat to Stability.” Middle East Institute Policy Focus Series 2016-11, May 2016, http://www.mei.edu/sites/default/files/publications/PF12_McNallyAmiral_I....

[xiii] Pillalamarri, Akhilesh. “Revealed: Why ISIS Hates the Taliban.” The Diplomat, 29 Jan. 2016, https://thediplomat.com/2016/01/revealed-why-isis-hates-the-taliban/.

[xiv] Dawood, Azami. “Why Taliban special forces are fighting Islamic State.” BBC News, 18 Dec. 2015, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-35123748.

[xv] Johnson, Casey Garret. “The Rise and Stall of the Islamic State in Afghanistan.” United States Institute of Peace: Special Report 395, 16 Nov, https://www.usip.org/sites/default/files/SR395-The-Rise-and-Stall-of-the-Islamic-State-in-Afghanistan.pdf.

[xvi] Johnson, Casey Garret. “The Rise and Stall of the Islamic State in Afghanistan.” United States Institute of Peace: Special Report 395, 16 Nov, https://www.usip.org/sites/default/files/SR395-The-Rise-and-Stall-of-the-Islamic-State-in-Afghanistan.pdf.

[xvii] Osman, Borhan. "The Islamic State in 'Khorasan': How it began and where it stands now in Nangarhar." Afghanistan Analysts Network, 27 July, 2016, https://www.afghanistan-analysts.org/the-islamic-state-in-khorasan-how-it-began-and-where-it-stands-now-in-nangarhar/; Johnson, Casey Garret. “The Rise and Stall of the Islamic State in Afghanistan.” United States Institute of Peace: Special Report 395, 16 Nov, https://www.usip.org/sites/default/files/SR395-The-Rise-and-Stall-of-the-Islamic-State-in-Afghanistan.pdf; Johnson, Casey Garret. “The Rise and Stall of the Islamic State in Afghanistan.” United States Institute of Peace: Special Report 395, 16 Nov, https://www.usip.org/sites/default/files/SR395-The-Rise-and-Stall-of-the-Islamic-State-in-Afghanistan.pdf.

[xviii] Johnson, Casey Garret. “The Rise and Stall of the Islamic State in Afghanistan.” United States Institute of Peace: Special Report 395, 16 Nov, https://www.usip.org/sites/default/files/SR395-The-Rise-and-Stall-of-the-Islamic-State-in-Afghanistan.pdf.

[xix] Johnson, Casey Garret. “The Rise and Stall of the Islamic State in Afghanistan.” United States Institute of Peace: Special Report 395, 16 Nov, https://www.usip.org/sites/default/files/SR395-The-Rise-and-Stall-of-the-Islamic-State-in-Afghanistan.pdf.

[xx] Osman, Borhan. "The Islamic State in 'Khorasan': How it began and where it stands now in Nangarhar." Afghanistan Analysts Network, 27 July, 2016, <https://www.afghanistan-analysts.org/the-islamic-state-in-khorasan-how-i....

[xxi] Johnson, Casey Garret. “The Rise and Stall of the Islamic State in Afghanistan.” United States Institute of Peace: Special Report 395, 16 Nov, https://www.usip.org/sites/default/files/SR395-The-Rise-and-Stall-of-the-Islamic-State-in-Afghanistan.pdf.

[xxii] Johnson, Casey Garret. “The Rise and Stall of the Islamic State in Afghanistan.” United States Institute of Peace: Special Report 395, 16 Nov, https://www.usip.org/sites/default/files/SR395-The-Rise-and-Stall-of-the-Islamic-State-in-Afghanistan.pdf.

[xxiii] Osman, Borhan. "The Islamic State in 'Khorasan': How it began and where it stands now in Nangarhar." Afghanistan Analysts Network, 27 July, 2016, <https://www.afghanistan-analysts.org/the-islamic-state-in-khorasan-how-i....

 

[xxiv] Johnson, Casey Garret. “The Rise and Stall of the Islamic State in Afghanistan.” United States Institute of Peace: Special Report 395, 16 Nov, https://www.usip.org/sites/default/files/SR395-The-Rise-and-Stall-of-the-Islamic-State-in-Afghanistan.pdf.

[xxv] Johnson, Casey Garret. “The Rise and Stall of the Islamic State in Afghanistan.” United States Institute of Peace: Special Report 395, 16 Nov, https://www.usip.org/sites/default/files/SR395-The-Rise-and-Stall-of-the-Islamic-State-in-Afghanistan.pdf.

[xxvi] Osman, Borhan. "The Islamic State in 'Khorasan': How it began and where it stands now in Nangarhar." Afghanistan Analysts Network, 27 July, 2016, <https://www.afghanistan-analysts.org/the-islamic-state-in-khorasan-how-i....

[xxvii] McNally, Lauren, Alex Amiral, Marvin Weinbaum, and Antoun Issa. “The Islamic State in Afghanistan: Examining Its Threat to Stability.” Middle East Institute Policy Focus Series 2016-11, May 2016, http://www.mei.edu/sites/default/files/publications/PF12_McNallyAmiral_ISISAfghan_web.pdf; Johnson, Casey Garret. “The Rise and Stall of the Islamic State in Afghanistan.” United States Institute of Peace: Special Report 395, 16 Nov, https://www.usip.org/sites/default/files/SR395-The-Rise-and-Stall-of-the-Islamic-State-in-Afghanistan.pdf.

[xxviii] Johnson, Casey Garret. “The Rise and Stall of the Islamic State in Afghanistan.” United States Institute of Peace: Special Report 395, 16 Nov, https://www.usip.org/sites/default/files/SR395-The-Rise-and-Stall-of-the-Islamic-State-in-Afghanistan.pdf.

[xxix] Osman, Borhan. "The Islamic State in 'Khorasan': How it began and where it stands now in Nangarhar." Afghanistan Analysts Network, 27 July, 2016, <https://www.afghanistan-analysts.org/the-islamic-state-in-khorasan-how-i....

[xxx] Johnson, Casey Garret. “The Rise and Stall of the Islamic State in Afghanistan.” United States Institute of Peace: Special Report 395, 16 Nov, https://www.usip.org/sites/default/files/SR395-The-Rise-and-Stall-of-the-Islamic-State-in-Afghanistan.pdf.

[xxxi] Osman, Borhan. "The Islamic State in 'Khorasan': How it began and where it stands now in Nangarhar." Afghanistan Analysts Network, 27 July, 2016, <https://www.afghanistan-analysts.org/the-islamic-state-in-khorasan-how-i....

[xxxii] Osman, Borhan. “The Battle for Mamand: ISKP under strain, but not yet defeated.” Afghan Analysts Network, 23 May, 2017, https://www.afghanistan-analysts.org/the-battle-for-mamand-iskp-under-strain-but-not-yet-defeated/.

[xxxiii] Osman, Borhan. “The Battle for Mamand: ISKP under strain, but not yet defeated.” Afghan Analysts Network, 23 May, 2017, https://www.afghanistan-analysts.org/the-battle-for-mamand-iskp-under-strain-but-not-yet-defeated/.

[xxxiv] Osman, Borhan. “The Battle for Mamand: ISKP under strain, but not yet defeated.” Afghan Analysts Network, 23 May, 2017, https://www.afghanistan-analysts.org/the-battle-for-mamand-iskp-under-strain-but-not-yet-defeated/.

[xxxv] Cooper, Helene, and Mujib Mashal. “U.S. Drops ‘Mother of All Bombs’ on ISIS Caves in Afghanistan.” The New York Times, 13 Apr. 2017. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/13/world/asia/moab-mother-of-all-bombs-afghanistan.html; Popalzai, Ehsan. “’Mother of all bombs’ killed 94 ISIS fighters, Afghan official says.” CNN, 15 Apr. 2017, http://www.cnn.com/2017/04/15/asia/afghanistan-isis-moab-strike/index.html.

[xxxvi] Osman, Borhan. “The Battle for Mamand: ISKP under strain, but not yet defeated.” Afghan Analysts Network, 23 May, 2017, https://www.afghanistan-analysts.org/the-battle-for-mamand-iskp-under-st....

[xxxvii] Osman, Borhan. “The Battle for Mamand: ISKP under strain, but not yet defeated.” Afghan Analysts Network, 23 May, 2017, https://www.afghanistan-analysts.org/the-battle-for-mamand-iskp-under-st....

[xxxviii] Osman, Borhan. “The Battle for Mamand: ISKP under strain, but not yet defeated.” Afghan Analysts Network, 23 May, 2017, https://www.afghanistan-analysts.org/the-battle-for-mamand-iskp-under-st....

[xxxix] Wright, Robin. “The Ignominious End of the ISIS Caliphate.” The New Yorker, 17, Oct. 2017. https://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/the-ignominious-end-of-the-isis-caliphate.

[xl] Calamur, Krishnadev. “ISIS in Afghanistan Is Like a Balloon That Won't Pop.” The Atlantic, Atlantic Media Company, 28 Dec. 2017, www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2017/12/afghanistan-isis/549311/.

[xli] Nordland, Rod, and Zabihullah Ghazi. “ISIS Leader in Afghanistan Is Killed in U.S. Airstrike.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 9 Apr. 2018, www.nytimes.com/2018/04/09/world/asia/afghanistan-isis-leader.html.

[xlii] Osman, Borhan. “The Battle for Mamand: ISKP under strain, but not yet defeated.” Afghan Analysts Network, 23 May, 2017, https://www.afghanistan-analysts.org/the-battle-for-mamand-iskp-under-strain-but-not-yet-defeated/.

 

Organizational Structure

Leadership, Name Changes, Size Estimates, Resources, Geographic Locations

    Leadership
  • Leadership
  • Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi (2010 - Present):
  • Muslim Dost (2014 - October 2015):
  • Hafiz Saeed Khan (2015 - July 2016):
  • Abdul Haseeb Logari (2016 - April 2017):
  • Abu Saeed Ghaleb (June 2017 - July 11 2017):
  • Abdul Rahman (July 2017 - August 10, 2017):
  • Abdulrazaq Mehdi (Unknown - November 30, 2017):
  • Abu Sayed (July 2016-July 11, 2017):

Leadership

This section describes various leaders, their deputies, and other important officials in the militant organization.

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi (2010 - Present):

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi (also known as Abu Du’a, Dr. Ibrahim Awwad Ibrahim Ali al-Badri al-Samarrai) is the global leader of IS, to whom each IS wilayat pledges allegiance. Despite his power, little is known about him. Among young jihadists, Baghdadi is respected as a highly organized and ruthless battlefield tactician. The United States officially designated Baghdadi as a terrorist in October 2011, offering $10 million as a reward for information leading to his capture or death.[i] In June 2017, Russian officials said that Baghdadi had likely been killed in a Russian airstrike on Raqqa, Syria. However, U.S. military officials later announced that they believe Baghdadi is still alive. In November 2017, a media outlet linked to the Syrian military reported that Baghdadi may be holed up in Boukamal in eastern Syria. However, the exact location of Baghdadi remains unconfirmed.[ii]



[i] “Profile: Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.” BBC News, 15 May, 2015, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-27801676.

[ii] Mroue, Bassem. “Report: ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi may be in Syrian city of Boukamal.” USA Today, 10 Nov. 2017, https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2017/11/10/isis-leader-abu-bak....

 

Muslim Dost (2014 - October 2015):

On July 1, 2014, Muslim Dost became the first Afghan, as well as the first high-profile jihadist leader outside Iraq and Syria, to publically declare allegiance to IS. Dost’s defection from the Taliban and subsequent statement of support came two days after Baghdadi declared the establishment of IS.[i] Before joining IS, Dost spent over three years as a Guantanamo Bay detainee, and reportedly engaged in terrorist activities with Al Qaeda, the Taliban, and Jamaat ud Dawa il al Quran al Sunnat. During his year as a member of IS-KP, Dost served as a key commander and recruiter, using pamphlets and graffiti to spread pro-IS messages throughout the Afghanistan-Pakistan region. Although his support as a recruiter and propagandist was instrumental in IS’s efforts to secure its position in Afghanistan, when IS-KP leadership positions were appointed in January 2015, Dost received a relatively powerless seat on the IS-KP leadership shura.[ii] Dost defected from IS in October 2015, and publically denounced the group’s violent attacks against civilians in July 2016.[iii]



[i] Johnson, Casey Garret. “The Rise and Stall of the Islamic State in Afghanistan.” United States Institute of Peace: Special Report 395, 16 Nov, https://www.usip.org/sites/default/files/SR395-The-Rise-and-Stall-of-the... Roggio, Bill. “Ex-Gitmo ‘poet’ and committed jihadist denounces Islamic State for attacks on civilians.” FDD’s Long War Journal, 20 July, 2016, https://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2016/07/ex-gitmo-poet-and-committed-jihadist-denounces-islamic-state-for-attacks-on-civilians.php.

[ii] Johnson, Casey Garret. “The Rise and Stall of the Islamic State in Afghanistan.” United States Institute of Peace: Special Report 395, 16 Nov, https://www.usip.org/sites/default/files/SR395-The-Rise-and-Stall-of-the-Islamic-State-in-Afghanistan.pdf.

[iii] Roggio, Bill. “Ex-Gitmo ‘poet’ and committed jihadist denounces Islamic State for attacks on civilians.” FDD’s Long War Journal, 20 July, 2016, https://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2016/07/ex-gitmo-poet-and-committed-jihadist-denounces-islamic-state-for-attacks-on-civilians.php.

 

Hafiz Saeed Khan (2015 - July 2016):

On October 15, 2014, Hafiz Saeed Khan (originally considered to succeed the TTP’s Hakimullah Mehsud) defected from the TTP and pledged allegiance to IS, along with five other TTP commanders.[i] On January 10, 2015, the former commanders released a video, appointing Hafiz Saeed as their leader. On January 26, 2015 senior IS leader and spokesman Abu Muhammad al-Adnani backed this statement, officially naming Hafiz Saeed as the emir for IS-KP.[ii] Hafiz Saeed was killed along with his top commanders and fighters in a U.S. drone strike on July 26, 2016, in Kot, Afghanistan.[iii]



[i] Rassler, Don. “Situating the Emergence of the Islamic State of Khorasan.” Combatting Terrorism Center at West Point, 18 Mar. 2015. https://ctc.usma.edu/posts/situating-the-emergence-of-the-islamic-state-of-khorasan; Shah, Tayyab Ali. “Pakistan’s Challenges in Orkazai Agency.” Combatting Terrorism Center at West Point, 3 July, 2010, https://ctc.usma.edu/posts/pakistan%E2%80%99s-challenges-in-orakzai-agency.

[ii] Rassler, Don. “Situating the Emergence of the Islamic State of Khorasan.” Combatting Terrorism Center at West Point, 18 Mar. 2015. https://ctc.usma.edu/posts/situating-the-emergence-of-the-islamic-state-....

[iii] “Afghanistan-Pakistan ISIL’s Hafiz Saeed Khan killed.” Al Jazeera, 13 Aug. 2016, http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2016/08/report-isil-leader-hafiz-saeed-killed-strike-160812175040690.html.

 

Abdul Haseeb Logari (2016 - April 2017):

Abdul Haseeb Logari was the second leader of IS-KP. According to Afghan president Ashraf Ghani, Abdul Haseeb was responsible for ordering the March 8, 2017 attack on a military hospital in Kabul. Abdul Haseeb was killed in a combined raid by Afghan and U.S. special forces in April 2017.[i]



[i] ISIS dealt series of serious blows in Afghan stronghold.” CBS News, 8 May, 2017, https://www.cbsnews.com/news/afghanistan-isis-airstrikes-commander-abdul....

 

Abu Saeed Ghaleb (June 2017 - July 11 2017):

Abu Saeed Ghaleb (also known as Mawlawi Abdul Rahman Ghaleb), an experienced militant and former deputy chief commander of the TTP, was the third leader of IS-KP. After the death of Saeed Khan, Abu Saeed served as IS-KP’s emir for Nangarhar, and was reportedly appointed as a deputy to Abdul Haseeb. After a month-long succession dispute following the death of Abdul Haseeb, Abu Saeed was appointed IS-KP’s third leader. Abu Saeed was reportedly killed less than three weeks after his appointment, on July 11, 2017, in a U.S. drone strike in Kunar Province, Afghanistan.[i]



[i] Osman, Borhan. “Another ISKP leader ‘dead’: Where is the group headed after losing so many amirs?” Afghan Analysts Network, 23 July, 2017. https://www.afghanistan-analysts.org/another-iskp-leader-dead-where-is-the-group-headed-after-losing-so-many-amirs/.

 

Abdul Rahman (July 2017 - August 10, 2017):

Abdul Rahman was the fourth leader of IS-KP. He was killed a month after his appointment, on August 10, 2017, in a U.S. air strike in Kunar Province, Afghanistan. Three other senior IS-KP members were reportedly killed along with Rahman.[i]



[i] Smith, Josh. “Senior Islamic State commanders killed in Afghanistan air strike: U.S. military.” Reuters, 13 Aug. 2017, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-afghanistan-airstrike/senior-islamic-state-commanders-killed-in-afghanistan-air-strike-u-s-military-idUSKCN1AT06J.

 

Abdulrazaq Mehdi (Unknown - November 30, 2017):

Abdulrazaq Mehdi was the deputy chief of IS-KP. On November 30, 2017, IS-KP spokesman Quari Yousef Ahmadi, announced that Mehdi had defected from IS to the Taliban. Mehdi denounced IS’s cruel actions in Afghanistan, calling the group “anti-Islam” and anti-Muslim.[i]



[i] Zahid, Noor. “Taliban Says IS Deputy Leader Has Joined Its Ranks.” VOA News, 30 Nov. 2017, https://www.voanews.com/a/afghan-taliban-says-islamic-state-deputy-leader-has-/4144740.html.

 

Abu Sayed (July 2016-July 11, 2017):

Abu Sayed was chosen as the head of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria Khorasan after Afghan and U.S. forces killed the previous ISIS-K leaders. Sayed was killed in a U.S. air strike in July of 2017.[i]



[i] “ISIS-K Leader Killed in Afghanistan.” U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE, DoD News, 14 July 2017, www.defense.gov/News/Article/Article/1248231/isis-k-leader-killed-in-afg....

 

    Name Changes
  • Name Changes
  • Size Estimates
  • Resources
  • Geographic Locations

Name Changes

There are no reported name changes for IS-KP.

 

Size Estimates

2016: 7,000-8,500 *estimate includes both fighters and support elements (Royal United Service Institute)[i]

2016: 1,000-3,000 (United States Department of Defense)[ii]

April 2017: 600-800 (United States Department of Defense)[iii]

November 2017: Disclaimer: the size estimate includes both fighters and support elements. 9,000-11,500 (Australian National Security)[iv]



[i] McNally, Lauren, Alex Amiral, Marvin Weinbaum, and Antoun Issa. “The Islamic State in Afghanistan: Examining Its Threat to Stability.” Middle East Institute Policy Focus Series 2016-11, May 2016, http://www.mei.edu/sites/default/files/publications/PF12_McNallyAmiral_ISISAfghan_web.pdf.

[ii] McNally, Lauren, Alex Amiral, Marvin Weinbaum, and Antoun Issa. “The Islamic State in Afghanistan: Examining Its Threat to Stability.” Middle East Institute Policy Focus Series 2016-11, May 2016, http://www.mei.edu/sites/default/files/publications/PF12_McNallyAmiral_ISISAfghan_web.pdf.

[iii] Bengali, Shashank. “Islamic State has fewer than 1,000 fighters in Afghanistan. So why did Trump drop the ‘mother of all bombs’?” Los Angeles Times, 14 Apr. 2017, http://www.latimes.com/world/asia/la-fg-afghanistan-islamic-state-explai....

[iv] “Islamic State Khorasan Province. Australian National Security, n.d., https://www.nationalsecurity.gov.au/Listedterroristorganisations/Pages/Islamic-State-Khorasan-Province.aspx.

 

Resources

IS’s material support to IS-KP is minimal. According to a September 2015 report by the United Nations, IS has only sent approximately 70 militants from Iraq and Syria to fight for IS-KP. However, monetary support provided by the IS core group in the Middle East remains vital to IS-KP’s survival in Afghanistan. In late 2015, IS sent IS-KP several hundred thousand dollars in order to boost the group’s expansion and ability to attract new recruits.[i]

IS-KP also brings in revenue from its criminal enterprises and receives additional funding from international sympathizers.[ii] To boost its ranks, IS-KP primarily recruits disaffected former Taliban fighters, as well as a small number of Afghan Salafists.[iii] In addition to its ideological propaganda, IS-KP uses monetary incentives to encourage young men to join the group. Specifically, the generous funding IS-KP receives allows it to supply fighters with laptops, trucks, and ample paychecks, with which recruits can support their families.[iv]



[i] McNally, Lauren, Alex Amiral, Marvin Weinbaum, and Antoun Issa. “The Islamic State in Afghanistan: Examining Its Threat to Stability.” Middle East Institute Policy Focus Series 2016-11, May 2016, http://www.mei.edu/sites/default/files/publications/PF12_McNallyAmiral_ISISAfghan_web.pdf.

[ii] “Islamic State Khorasan Province. Australian National Security, n.d., https://www.nationalsecurity.gov.au/Listedterroristorganisations/Pages/Islamic-State-Khorasan-Province.aspx.

[iii] “Islamic State Khorasan Province. Australian National Security, n.d., https://www.nationalsecurity.gov.au/Listedterroristorganisations/Pages/I....

[iv] Johnson, Casey Garret. “The Rise and Stall of the Islamic State in Afghanistan.” United States Institute of Peace: Special Report 395, 16 Nov, https://www.usip.org/sites/default/files/SR395-The-Rise-and-Stall-of-the-Islamic-State-in-Afghanistan.pdf; McNally, Lauren, Alex Amiral, Marvin Weinbaum, and Antoun Issa. “The Islamic State in Afghanistan: Examining Its Threat to Stability.” Middle East Institute Policy Focus Series 2016-11, May 2016, http://www.mei.edu/sites/default/files/publications/PF12_McNallyAmiral_ISISAfghan_web.pdf.

 

Geographic Locations

Disclaimer: This is a partial list of where the militant organization has bases and where it operates. This does not include information on where the group conducts major attacks or has external influences.

IS-KP is strongest in Nangarhar Province of eastern Afghanistan. According to a 2015 United Nations Report, IS-KP was present in at least 25 of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces.[i] IS-KP reached the peak of its territorial control in the summer of 2015, when it controlled eight of the 22 districts in Nangarhar province.[ii]

However, in 2017, U.S. and Afghan forces rolled back the group’s reach. Although the 2017 U.S. and Afghan offensives were successful in certain districts in Nangarhar, such as Kot, they were unsuccessful in capturing Mamand and Pekha. This was primarily due to the fact that IS-KP was able to avoid penetration by entrenching itself into the valleys’ caves and mountainous terrain.[iii]

Despite these setbacks, in 2017, IS-KP made significant advances into Chaprarhar. IS-KP and the Taliban have fought for control over this district since 2015. On April 2, 2017, IS-KP captured nearly half of Chaprarhar in a coordinated offensive against the Taliban. Meanwhile, IS-KP retains control over most of the Nazyan and Deh Bala districts.[iv]

It is important to note that, throughout 2015, several other groups also attempted to establish IS-KP franchises in other areas of Afghanistan. First, former Taliban commander Abdul Rauf Khadem briefly established an IS-KP cell in Helmand province Afghanistan in January 2015. However, Khadem was killed in a drone strike on February 9, 2015. The Taliban ultimately routed the cell in September 2015.[v] Another reportedly well-financed IS-KP cell emerged in Farah, led by two estranged Taliban commanders. However, the Taliban defeated the group in May 2015, when the cell attempted to expand into other areas. The third failed cell emerged in Logar province, also under the leadership of an estranged Taliban commander. The group was active in April and June 2015, but eradicated shortly thereafter by the Taliban in July 2015. The final, and perhaps most significant failed IS-KP cell emerged in Zabul. The cell was comprised of approximately 200 militants from the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), who had resettled in Zabul with the help of the Taliban, following the Pakistan Army’s 2014 operations in North Waziristan. In spring of 2015, these IMU militants pledged allegiance to IS. In the next few months, some of these newly-branded IS militants left Zabul to fight with IS-KP in Nangarhar. In November 2015, the Taliban destroyed the remaining IS militants in Zabul.[vi]



[i] McNally, Lauren, Alex Amiral, Marvin Weinbaum, and Antoun Issa. “The Islamic State in Afghanistan: Examining Its Threat to Stability.” Middle East Institute Policy Focus Series 2016-11, May 2016, http://www.mei.edu/sites/default/files/publications/PF12_McNallyAmiral_ISISAfghan_web.pdf.

[ii] Osman, Borhan. “The Battle for Mamand: ISKP under strain, but not yet defeated.” Afghan Analysts Network, 23 May, 2017, https://www.afghanistan-analysts.org/the-battle-for-mamand-iskp-under-strain-but-not-yet-defeated/.

[iii] Osman, Borhan. “The Battle for Mamand: ISKP under strain, but not yet defeated.” Afghan Analysts Network, 23 May, 2017, https://www.afghanistan-analysts.org/the-battle-for-mamand-iskp-under-strain-but-not-yet-defeated/.

[iv] Osman, Borhan. “The Battle for Mamand: ISKP under strain, but not yet defeated.” Afghan Analysts Network, 23 May, 2017, https://www.afghanistan-analysts.org/the-battle-for-mamand-iskp-under-st....

[v] Johnson, Casey Garret. “The Rise and Stall of the Islamic State in Afghanistan.” United States Institute of Peace: Special Report 395, 16 Nov, https://www.usip.org/sites/default/files/SR395-The-Rise-and-Stall-of-the-Islamic-State-in-Afghanistan.pdf; Osman, Borhan. "The Islamic State in 'Khorasan': How it began and where it stands now in Nangarhar." Afghanistan Analysts Network, 27 July, 2016, <https://www.afghanistan-analysts.org/the-islamic-state-in-khorasan-how-i....

[vi] Osman, Borhan. "The Islamic State in 'Khorasan': How it began and where it stands now in Nangarhar." Afghanistan Analysts Network, 27 July, 2016, <https://www.afghanistan-analysts.org/the-islamic-state-in-khorasan-how-i...

 

Strategy

Ideology, Aims, Political Activities, Targets, and Tactics

    Ideology and Goals
  • Ideology and Goals
  • Political Activities
  • Targets and Tactics

Ideology and Goals

Similarly to Al-Qaeda, IS-KP identifies with Jihadi-Salafism, a distinct ideological movement in Sunni Islam. The group’s ideology is predicated on an extremist interpretation of Islamic scripture and anti-Shiite sectarian views.[i] The group draws on an especially strict brand of Salafism in particular, called Wahhabism.[ii] The Islamic State adheres to “the Prophetic methodology”, a term it has coined in its press, billboards and propaganda, meaning that the group follows the prophecy and example of Muhammad.[iii] IS’ grand strategic aim is to rule all historically Muslim lands in a caliphate that ultimately defeats the West. As an external affiliate, IS-KP supports this objective by facilitating the group’s military expansion outside of Iraq and Syria and legitimizing its claimed status as a trans-regional organization. IS-KP also aims to directly challenge Al-Qaeda and the Taliban as the leader of the global jihadist movement. IS-KP’s main goal, however, is to establish and maintain Khorasan as a Wilayat (province) of the global IS caliphate.[iv]



[i] Bunzel, Cole. “From Paper State to Caliphate: The Ideology of the Islamic State.” Brookings, Brookings Institute, 28 July 2016, www.brookings.edu/research/from-paper-state-to-caliphate-the-ideology-of-the-islamic-state

[ii] Hassan, Hassan. “The Sectarianism of the Islamic State: Ideological Roots and Political Context.” Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 13 June 2016, carnegieendowment.org/2016/06/13/sectarianism-of-islamic-state-ideological-roots-and-political-context-pub-63746.

[iii] Wood, Graeme. “What ISIS Really Wants.” The Atlantic, Atlantic Media Company, Mar. 2015, www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2015/03/what-isis-really-wants/384980/.

[iv] Gambhir, Harleen. “ISIS in Afghanistan.” Institute for the Study of War, ISW, 3 Dec. 2015, www.understandingwar.org/sites/default/files/ISIS%20in%20Afghanistan_2.pdf.

 

 

Political Activities

Although IS-KP does not directly participate in politics, its existence reflects IS’s overarching political goals. Through IS-KP, IS seeks to establish “Khorasan Province,” a region in Afghanistan in which IS has full territorial and political control.[i]


[i] Khan, Muhammad Nawaz. “South Asia’s 4 Competing Jihads. The Diplomat, 10 Nov. 2017, https://thediplomat.com/2017/11/south-asias-4-competing-jihads/.

 

Targets and Tactics

In order to attract more recruits and reinforce its brand in Afghanistan, IS-KP incorporates many of the same brutal tactics employed by IS.[i] Like IS, which often uses suicide bombers to clear a path for other militants, IS-KP has conducted several attacks with combined suicide bombers and shooters. For example, in July 2017, IS-KP conducted an “inghimasi” attack against the Iraqi embassy in Kabul. Inghimasis refer to well-trained commandos who are prepared both to fight conventionally and to carry out suicide missions. In this specific attack, one of the two militants detonated his suicide vest, while the other open fired on the embassy.[ii]

IS-KP’s primary militant adversary is the Taliban, with which it frequently engages in battles for territorial control over Afghanistan.[iii] The hostility between the two groups stems both from ideological differences and competition for resources. IS accused the Taliban of drawing its legitimacy from a narrow ethnic and nationalistic base, rather than a universal Islamic creed.[iv] Meanwhile the Taliban continued to suffer as large numbers of its militants defected from the Taliban to join IS-KP.[v]

IS-KP is also a staunch enemy of United States and Afghanistan. Although IS-KP and the Afghan government initially refrained from challenging one another, once IS-KP had secured power in Nangarhar, it changed its policy of tolerance toward the Afghan government to one of open aggression.[vi] This shift followed the Afghan government’s decision in July 2015 to begin halting the spread of IS-KP. The government’s new strategy coincided with the series of lethal U.S. airstrikes against three top IS-KP leaders in July 2015, for which the Afghan government claimed to have provided intelligence support. The Afghan government subsequently announced its official plan to unite with the United States in combatting IS-KP, and unveiled a new unit tasked with fighting the group. In addition to blaming the Afghan government for this increased targeting, IS-KP condemned the Afghan government for its persecution of Pakistani militants, its cooperation with the Pakistan Army and ISI, and its support of local, Taliban-backed uprisings against IS-KP. However, despite IS-KP’s declared hostility against the Afghan government, most of its resources were directed at combatting the Taliban. Throughout late 2015 and into 2016, the two groups battled for control over territory in Nangarhar, each time brutally executing and banishing the fighters and sympathizers of the losing group. Certain districts, such as Chaparhar, changed hands multiple times, as the Taliban and IS-KP took turns executing elaborate counterattacks.[vii]

Although U.S. and Afghan special forces have inflicted serious damage on the group, IS-KP has proven resilient. In 2016, IS-KP killed over 800 people in more than 100 attacks.[viii] Since spring of 2017, IS-KP has launched several major assaults in Kabul, Heart, and Jalalabad. U.S. experts estimate that IS-KP will continue to recruit militants, disseminate propaganda, and launch attacks on urban centers when possible.[ix]

IS-KP also promotes sectarian violence, and targets civilians who do not adhere to its strict interpretation of Islam and jihadist ideology. In extreme instances, IS has allegedly executed its own fighters. For example, on November 23, 2017, Afghan officials reported that IS-KP beheaded more than a dozen of its own fighters in Achin.[x]



[i] McNally, Lauren, Alex Amiral, Marvin Weinbaum, and Antoun Issa. “The Islamic State in Afghanistan: Examining Its Threat to Stability.” Middle East Institute Policy Focus Series 2016-11, May 2016, http://www.mei.edu/sites/default/files/publications/PF12_McNallyAmiral_ISISAfghan_web.pdf.

[ii] Joscelyn, Thomas. “Islamic State’s Khorasan ‘province’ assaults Iraqi embassy in Kabul,” FDD’s Long War Journal, 31 July, 2017. https://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2017/07/islamic-states-khorasan-province-assaults-iraqi-embassy-in-kabul.php.

[iii] Osman, Borhan. "The Islamic State in 'Khorasan': How it began and where it stands now in Nangarhar." Afghanistan Analysts Network, 27 July, 2016, https://www.afghanistan-analysts.org/the-islamic-state-in-khorasan-how-it-began-and-where-it-stands-now-in-nangarhar/; Johnson, Casey Garret. “The Rise and Stall of the Islamic State in Afghanistan.” United States Institute of Peace: Special Report 395, 16 Nov, https://www.usip.org/sites/default/files/SR395-The-Rise-and-Stall-of-the-Islamic-State-in-Afghanistan.pdf.

[iv] Pillalamarri, Akhilesh. “Revealed: Why ISIS Hates the Taliban.” The Diplomat, 29 Jan. 2016, https://thediplomat.com/2016/01/revealed-why-isis-hates-the-taliban/.

[v] Dawood, Azami. “Why Taliban special forces are fighting Islamic State.” BBC News, 18 Dec. 2015, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-35123748.

[vi] Osman, Borhan. "The Islamic State in 'Khorasan': How it began and where it stands now in Nangarhar." Afghanistan Analysts Network, 27 July, 2016, <https://www.afghanistan-analysts.org/the-islamic-state-in-khorasan-how-i....

[vii] Osman, Borhan. "The Islamic State in 'Khorasan': How it began and where it stands now in Nangarhar." Afghanistan Analysts Network, 27 July, 2016, <https://www.afghanistan-analysts.org/the-islamic-state-in-khorasan-

[viii] Wright, Robin. “The Ignominious End of the ISIS Caliphate.” The New Yorker, 17, Oct. 2017. https://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/the-ignominious-end-of-the-isis-caliphate.

[ix] Osman, Borhan. “The Battle for Mamand: ISKP under strain, but not yet defeated.” Afghan Analysts Network, 23 May, 2017, https://www.afghanistan-analysts.org/the-battle-for-mamand-iskp-under-st....

[x] ISIS Beheads 15 of Its Own Fighters in Afghanistan.” Newsweek, 23 Nov. 2017, http://www.newsweek.com/isis-beheads-15-its-own-fighters-afghanistan-720749.

 

Major Attacks

First Attacks, Largest Attacks, Notable Attacks

Major Attacks

Disclaimer: These are some selected major attacks in the militant organization's history. It is not a comprehensive listing, but captures some of the most famous attacks or turning points during the campaign.

April 18, 2015: IS-KP conducted a suicide bombing outside a bank in Jalalabad, Afghanistan. (33 killed, 100+ wounded).[i]

May 13, 2015: 6 gunmen allegedly associated with IS-KP attacked a bus in Karachi, Pakistan. Although IS claimed the attack, Jundullah (a group allegiant to IS) and the TTP also claimed responsibility. If IS-KP’s claim is accurate, this attack would be its first in Pakistan (45 killed, 13 wounded).[ii]

July 23, 2016: IS-KP conducted a dual suicide bombing in Kabul, Afghanistan, on a group of demonstrators from Afghanistan’s Shiite Hazara minority. The bombing was one of the deadliest attacks in Afghanistan since the invasion of the United States in 2001 (80+ killed, 230+ wounded).[iii]

August 8, 2016: IS-KP conducted a suicide bombing at a civil hospital in Quetta, Pakistan. The attack took place after a number of lawyers and journalists had gathered at the hospital to mourn the death of the president of the Balochistan Bar Association in a separate shooting incident earlier that day. Although the attack is attributed to IS-KP, Jamaat-ul-Ahrar (JA) also claimed responsibility (93 killed, 120 wounded).[iv]

October 24, 2016: Three IS-KP militants attacked 700 unarmed, sleeping cadets at a police training center in Quetta, Pakistan. At least 260 cadets were rescued by Special Services Group commandos in a counter-offensive against the attackers. Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) also claimed responsibility for the attack. (61 killed, 165 injured).[v]

November 12, 2016: IS-KP conducted a suicide bombing on civilians gathered for a religious ceremony at a Sufi shrine in Balochistan, Pakistan (52+ killed, 100+ wounded).[vi]

February 16, 2017: IS-KP conducted a suicide bombing at a Sufi shrine in Sehwan, Pakistan, where hundreds of devotees had gathered to perform a religious ritual. The attack appeared to be concentrated on the portion of the shrine reserved for women (100 killed, 250 wounded).[vii]

March 8, 2017: IS-KP militants dressed as doctors stormed the largest military hospital in Kabul, Afghanistan. The militants, armed with guns and grenades, opened fire on staff and patients after detonating explosives at the hospital gate. After several hours of fighting, Afghan commandos killed all four IS-KP attackers. (49 killed, 90 wounded).[viii]

August 1, 2017: Two IS-KP suicide bombers attacked a Shiite Mosque in Herat, Afghanistan. The militants shot at worshipers inside the mosque. (29 killed, 64 injured).[ix]

December 28, 2017: An identified IS-KP militant attacked a Shiite cultural center in Kabul, Afghanistan. Many casualties included students attending a conference in the vicinity. Two other car bombs were detonated in the same zone. (41 killed, 84 wounded).[x]

March 21, 2018: A suicide bombing later claimed by IS-KP detonated near a Shiite shrine in Kabul, Afghanistan during Persian New Year celebrations. (33 killed, 65 wounded).[xi]

April 22, 2018: An IS-KP militant attacked a voter registration center in Kabul, Afghanistan using a suicide bomb. The casualties were all identified as civilian, most of whom had been waiting to apply for state-issued IDs in order to register to vote in the upcoming elections. (57 killed, 119 injured).[xii]



[i] Popalzai, Masoud, and Saleem Mehsud. “ISIS militant bomber on motorbike kills 33 at bank in Afghanistan.” CNN, 19 Apr. 2015, http://edition.cnn.com/2015/04/18/asia/afghanistan-violence/index.html.

[ii] “Pakistan gunmen kill 45 on Karachi Ismaili Shia bus.” BBC News, 13 May, 2015, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-32717321.

[iii] Harooni, Mirwais. “Islamic State claims responsibility for Kabul attack, 80 dead.” Reuters, 23 July, 2016, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-afghanistan-protests/islamic-state-claims-responsibility-for-kabul-attack-80-dead-idUSKCN1030GB?il=0.

[iv] Dua, Ruchi. “93 killed, over 120 injured in bomb attack at hospital in Pakistan’s Quetta. India Today, 8 Aug, 2016. http://indiatoday.intoday.in/story/quetta-bomb-explosion-civil-hospital-balochistan/1/734741.html; Shas, Syed Ali. “70 dead as blast hits Quetta Civil Hospital after lawyer’s killing. Dawn, 8 Aug. 2016, https://www.dawn.com/news/1276183/70-dead-as-blast-hits-quetta-civil-hos....

[v] Zafar, Mohammad. “61 killed, at least 165 injured as militants storm police training centre in Quetta. The Express Tribune, 24, Oct. 2016, https://tribune.com.pk/story/1208735/militants-attack-police-training-centre-quetta/; Shah, Syed Ali. “61 killed in twin suicide attacks as terrorists storm police training college in Quettta.” Dawn, 24 Oct. 2016, https://www.dawn.com/news/1291999/60-killed-in-twin-suicide-attacks-as-terrorists-storm-police-training-college-in-quetta.

[vi] Shas, Syed Ali, Sophia Saifi, and Susanna Capelouto, “52 killed at religious shrine in Pakistan by ISIS suicide bomber.” CNN, 12 Nov. 2016, http://edition.cnn.com/2016/11/12/world/sufi-attack-pakistan-isis/.

[vii] Latief, Samiya. “Pakistan: 100 killed in bombing at Shahbaz Qalandar shrine; US, UN condemn attack.” India Today, 16 Feb. 2017, < http://indiatoday.intoday.in/story/12-dead-50-injured-in-suicide-attack-....

[viii] “Afghanistan: IS gunmen dressed as medics kill 30 at Kabul military hospital. BBC News, 8 Mar. 2017, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-39202525; “Death toll from Kabul hospital attack rises to 49.” Reuters, 9 Mar. 2017, https://www.reuters.com/article/us-afghanistan-blast/death-toll-from-kabul-hospital-attack-rises-to-49-idUSKBN16G0RO.

[ix] Dwyer, Colin. “Suicide Attack On Shiite Mosque Leaves At Least 29 Dead In Afghanistan.” NPR, NPR, 1 Aug. 2017, www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2017/08/01/540962593/suicide-attack-on-shiite-mosque-leaves-at-least-29-dead-in-afghanistan; “Herat Mosque Blast Kills Dozens in Afghanistan.” BBC News, BBC, 1 Aug. 2017, www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-40797016.

[x] Ibrahimi, Abdul Aziz. “Suicide Bombers Kill Dozens at Shi'ite Center in Afghan Capital.” Reuters, Thomson Reuters, 28 Dec. 2017, www.reuters.com/article/us-afghanistan-blast/blast-at-afghan-news-agency-office-in-kabul-casualties-feared-idUSKBN1EM0F5.

[xi] Press, Associated. “ISIS Suicide Bomber Kills 33 in Kabul as Afghans Celebrate New Year.” Fox News, FOX News Network, 21 Mar. 2018, www.foxnews.com/world/2018/03/21/suicide-bomber-kills-26-as-afghans-celebrate-new-year.html.

[xii] “Afghanistan: Kabul Voter Centre Suicide Attack Kills 57.” BBC News, BBC, 22 Apr. 2018, www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-43855884.

 

Interactions

Foreign Designations and Listings, Community Relations, Relations with Other Groups, State Sponsors and External Influences

    Designated/Listed
  • Designated/Listed
  • Community Relations
  • Relationships with Other Groups
  • State Sponsors and External Influences

Designated/Listed

January 14, 2016: The U.S. Secretary of State designated IS-KP as a foreign terrorist organization in accordance with section 219 of the Immigration and Nationality Act.[i]

November 2, 2017: The Australian Government designated IS-KP as a terrorist organization under its Criminal Code Division 102.[ii]

June 21, 2018: The Indian Home Ministry designated IS-KP as a terrorist organization under the anti-terror law and the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act of 1967.[iii]



[i] “Foreign Terrorist Organizations.” U.S. Department of State, n.d., https://www.state.gov/j/ct/rls/other/des/123085.htm.

[ii] “Islamic State Khorasan Province. Australian National Security, n.d., https://www.nationalsecurity.gov.au/Listedterroristorganisations/Pages/Islamic-State-Khorasan-Province.aspx.

[iii] Correspondent, Special. “Centre Bans Affiliates of Al-Qaeda, Islamic State.” The Hindu, The Hindu, 21 June 2018, www.thehindu.com/news/national/india-bans-offshoots-of-al-qaeda-islamic-....

 

Community Relations

During the initial months of IS-KP’s rule in Mamand, specifically from mid-May to early July 2015, villagers viewed the group as a benign and positive alternative to the Taliban. Unlike the Taliban, which forcibly took from the local population, IS-KP provided its own food and shelter, and did not impose a tax. It also initially allowed both male and female schools to remain open.[i] Furthermore, IS-KP commanders claimed that the group had no quarrel with the Afghan government, and was instead focused on opposing the Taliban and its link to the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).[ii]

As IS-KP grew in strength throughout 2015, it attempted to expand and consolidate its control through a variety of cruel tactics, including summary justice, forced displacement, and executions of clerics and elders.[iii] By early autumn of 2015, IS-KP had lost much of its popularity among the Nangarhari locals. Although the leniency of IS-KP’s early rule was initially promising, citizens became disenchanted with the group as it began to engage in violent guerilla tactics and enforce Shariah law with brutal punishments. Examples of IS-KP’s brutal governance included school and clinic closures, public executions, killings of tribal elders, kidnappings for ransom, destruction of Sufi shrines, and cigarette bans.[iv] One of IS-KP’s most unpopular policies was its ban on poppy cultivation, which was an extremely important source of income for many families in Nangarhar. Finally, rumors also began to circulate that local families would be forced to provide IS-KP militants with brides without dowry payments or consideration for tribe and family lineage. Ultimately, the threats IS-KP posed to the physical, economic, and social wellbeing of the citizens of Nangarhar incited public support for the return of the Taliban.[v]

In 2016, the Afghan government attempted to harness local opposition to IS-KP by partnering with local militias to halt further IS-KP advances.[vi] However, IS-KP regularly exaggerates the collateral damage inflicted by U.S. and Afghan military attacks, in an attempt to turn locals against the Afghan government.[vii]



[i] Johnson, Casey Garret. “The Rise and Stall of the Islamic State in Afghanistan.” United States Institute of Peace: Special Report 395, 16 Nov, https://www.usip.org/sites/default/files/SR395-The-Rise-and-Stall-of-the-Islamic-State-in-Afghanistan.pdf.

[ii] Osman, Borhan. "The Islamic State in 'Khorasan': How it began and where it stands now in Nangarhar." Afghanistan Analysts Network, 27 July, 2016, <https://www.afghanistan-analysts.org/the-islamic-state-in-khorasan-how-i....

[iii] Johnson, Casey Garret. “The Rise and Stall of the Islamic State in Afghanistan.” United States Institute of Peace: Special Report 395, 16 Nov, https://www.usip.org/sites/default/files/SR395-The-Rise-and-Stall-of-the-Islamic-State-in-Afghanistan.pdf.

[iv] McNally, Lauren, Alex Amiral, Marvin Weinbaum, and Antoun Issa. “The Islamic State in Afghanistan: Examining Its Threat to Stability.” Middle East Institute Policy Focus Series 2016-11, May 2016, http://www.mei.edu/sites/default/files/publications/PF12_McNallyAmiral_ISISAfghan_web.pdf; Johnson, Casey Garret. “The Rise and Stall of the Islamic State in Afghanistan.” United States Institute of Peace: Special Report 395, 16 Nov, https://www.usip.org/sites/default/files/SR395-The-Rise-and-Stall-of-the-Islamic-State-in-Afghanistan.pdf.

[v] Johnson, Casey Garret. “The Rise and Stall of the Islamic State in Afghanistan.” United States Institute of Peace: Special Report 395, 16 Nov, https://www.usip.org/sites/default/files/SR395-The-Rise-and-Stall-of-the-Islamic-State-in-Afghanistan.pdf.

[vi] Osman, Borhan. "The Islamic State in 'Khorasan': How it began and where it stands now in Nangarhar." Afghanistan Analysts Network, 27 July, 2016, <https://www.afghanistan-analysts.org/the-islamic-state-in-khorasan-how-i....

[vii] Osman, Borhan. “The Battle for Mamand: ISKP under strain, but not yet defeated.” Afghan Analysts Network, 23 May, 2017, https://www.afghanistan-analysts.org/the-battle-for-mamand-iskp-under-st....

 

Relationships with Other Groups

In the early days of its formation, IS-KP recruited militants that had been pushed into Afghanistan by the Pakistani military. Many of these militants were directly linked to groups such as the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), and other Central Asian Groups.[i]

In order to secure its position in Afghanistan, IS-KP had to challenge the two militant groups that posed the greatest threat to its dominance—the Taliban and Al Qaeda. Instead of co-opting other groups, as it had done in Egypt and Nigeria, in Afghanistan and Pakistan, IS attempted to discredit its rivals. In December 2014, IS denounced Al Qaeda and the Taliban for prioritizing tribal law over Shariah law, and for failing to violently target Shiite communities. Notably, IS condemned former Taliban leader Mullah Omar for preaching a distorted version of the true Islam.[ii] In April 2015, IS-KP and the Taliban declared “jihad” against one another in Afghanistan. The hostility between the two groups began with IS’ accusations that the Taliban of drew its legitimacy from a narrow ethnic and nationalistic base, rather than a universal Islamic creed.[iii] It also criticized the Taliban for its alleged connections to the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). In June 2015, the Taliban chastised IS for creating divisions among militants that were harmful to the Afghan jihad.[iv] IS responded a week later, commanding the Taliban to pledge allegiance to IS. In addition to this ideological battle, IS-KP and the Taliban are in constant competition for territory and recruits in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Through large-scale defections, IS-KP has represented the greatest challenge by another militant group to the Taliban’s dominance in the region.[v] When the Taliban officially confirmed the death of Mullah Omar in July 2015, IS-KP absorbed a significant number of Taliban defectors as recruits. This news also spurred the IMU to pledge its forces to the IS.[vi] IS-KP continues to engage the Taliban in bloody clashes over territory. Since 2015, IS-KP and the Taliban have fought for control over Chaprarhar. Most recently, on April 2, 2017, IS-KP captured nearly half of Chaprarhar in a coordinated offensive against the Taliban.[vii]

One of IS-KP’s closest allies is Laskhar-e-Islam (LeI). Although LeI has not officially merged with IS-KP, the two groups act in such close coordination that many locals in Nangarhar view LeI as a wing of IS-KP.[viii] By partnering with IS-KP, LeI has improved its ability to influence the cross-border land conflicts in which it is engaged, and to gain control of strategic smuggling routes. In return, this relationship has allowed IS-KP to broaden its support base and increase its operational capacity.[ix]

There are several groups in Afghanistan and Pakistan that bolster the IS-KP network. These groups have publically pledged allegiance to al-Baghdadi but have yet to be formally acknowledged by IS leadership.[x] Ansar-ul-Khilafat Wal-Jihad (AKWJ) is the first Pakistan-based militant organization to have publically pledged allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. AKWJ, formally known as Tehrik-e-Khilafat-o-Jihad, first pledged allegiance to IS in July 2014, and then again in September 2017. In January 2015, AKWJ pledged allegiance specifically to IS-KP leader, Hafiz Saeed Khan. The group has allegedly conducted a number of small-scale attacks in Hyderabad and Karachi, targeting state officials and Shiites. AKWJ claims to conduct these attacks in the interest of helping the caliphate and avenging the killings of mujahedeen in Karachi and Khyber Agency.[xi] Another group that actively supports IS is the Pakistani Jundullah. The Pakistani Jundullah, a splinter group of the TTP, allegedly pledged allegiance to IS in 2014. The group has conducted limited attacks against Shiite shrines and medical workers in Quetta.[xii] Finally, representatives of Lal Masjid (Red Mosque), a mosque widely associated with jihadism, openly support the expansion of the IS caliphate.

There are also several militant groups that have not publically pledged allegiance to IS, but are supportive of IS and its agenda in Afghanistan and Pakistan. For example, although Jamaat-ul-Ahrar (JA) remains outwardly loyal to the TTP, the group praises IS and mirrors its messaging.[xiii]

In 2015, there was unconfirmed speculation that IS encouraged all anti-Shiite militant groups in Pakistan to support the caliphate, and proposed that elements of Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ) and Ahl-e-Sunnat Wai Jamat (ASWJ) collaborate in Pakistan.[xiv]



[i] McNally, Lauren, Alex Amiral, Marvin Weinbaum, and Antoun Issa. “The Islamic State in Afghanistan: Examining Its Threat to Stability.” Middle East Institute Policy Focus Series 2016-11, May 2016, http://www.mei.edu/sites/default/files/publications/PF12_McNallyAmiral_ISISAfghan_web.pdf.

[ii] McNally, Lauren, Alex Amiral, Marvin Weinbaum, and Antoun Issa. “The Islamic State in Afghanistan: Examining Its Threat to Stability.” Middle East Institute Policy Focus Series 2016-11, May 2016, http://www.mei.edu/sites/default/files/publications/PF12_McNallyAmiral_I....

[iii] Pillalamarri, Akhilesh. “Revealed: Why ISIS Hates the Taliban.” The Diplomat, 29 Jan. 2016, https://thediplomat.com/2016/01/revealed-why-isis-hates-the-taliban/.

[iv] Taliban chastise Islamic State for dividing jihadist ranks in Afghanistan and beyond.” FDD’s Long War Journal, 16 June, 2015, https://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2015/06/taliban-chastise-islamic....

[v] Dawood, Azami. “Why Taliban special forces are fighting Islamic State.” BBC News, 18 Dec. 2015, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-35123748.

[vi] McNally, Lauren, Alex Amiral, Marvin Weinbaum, and Antoun Issa. “The Islamic State in Afghanistan: Examining Its Threat to Stability.” Middle East Institute Policy Focus Series 2016-11, May 2016, http://www.mei.edu/sites/default/files/publications/PF12_McNallyAmiral_I....

[vii] Osman, Borhan. “The Battle for Mamand: ISKP under strain, but not yet defeated.” Afghan Analysts Network, 23 May, 2017, https://www.afghanistan-analysts.org/the-battle-for-mamand-iskp-under-st....

[viii] Osman, Borhan. “The Islamic State in ‘Khorasan’: How it began and where it stands now in Nangarhar.” Afghanistan Analysts Network, 27 July, 2016, https://www.afghanistan-analysts.org/the-islamic-state-in-khorasan-how-i....

[ix] Johnson, Casey Garret. “The Rise and Stall of the Islamic State in Afghanistan.” United States Institute of Peace: Special Report 395, 16 Nov, https://www.usip.org/sites/default/files/SR395-The-Rise-and-Stall-of-the-Islamic-State-in-Afghanistan.pdf.

[x] Rassler, Don. “Situating the Emergence of the Islamic State of Khorasan.” Combatting Terrorism Center at West Point, 18 Mar. 2015. https://ctc.usma.edu/posts/situating-the-emergence-of-the-islamic-state-of-khorasan.

[xi] Rassler, Don. “Situating the Emergence of the Islamic State of Khorasan.” Combatting Terrorism Center at West Point, 18 Mar. 2015. https://ctc.usma.edu/posts/situating-the-emergence-of-the-islamic-state-of-khorasan.

[xii] Rassler, Don. “Situating the Emergence of the Islamic State of Khorasan.” Combatting Terrorism Center at West Point, 18 Mar. 2015. https://ctc.usma.edu/posts/situating-the-emergence-of-the-islamic-state-of-khorasan.

[xiii] Rassler, Don. “Situating the Emergence of the Islamic State of Khorasan.” Combatting Terrorism Center at West Point, 18 Mar. 2015. https://ctc.usma.edu/posts/situating-the-emergence-of-the-islamic-state-of-khorasan.

[xiv] Shah, Tayyab Ali. “Pakistan’s Challenges in Orkazai Agency.” Combatting Terrorism Center at West Point, 3 July, 2010, https://ctc.usma.edu/posts/pakistan%E2%80%99s-challenges-in-orakzai-agency.

 

State Sponsors and External Influences

According to U.S. Army General Campbell, senior IS-KP leadership does communicate with core IS leadership in Iraq and Syria. However, despite pledging allegiance to ISIS, American and Afghan military officials now have little evidence that the group maintains regular contact or receives directions from IS.[i] U.S. military analysts report that IS does not directly orchestrate operations in Afghanistan.[ii]



[i] Mashal, Mujib. “In Tangled Afghan War, a Thin Line of Defense Against ISIS.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 25 Dec. 2017, www.nytimes.com/2017/12/25/world/asia/eastern-afghanistan-isis.html.

[ii] McNally, Lauren, Alex Amiral, Marvin Weinbaum, and Antoun Issa. “The Islamic State in Afghanistan: Examining Its Threat to Stability.” Middle East Institute Policy Focus Series 2016-11, May 2016, http://www.mei.edu/sites/default/files/publications/PF12_McNallyAmiral_ISISAfghan_web.pdf.

 

Maps

The project develops a series of interactive diagrams that "map" relationships among groups and show how those relationships change over time. The user can change map settings to display different features (e.g., leadership changes), adjust the time scale, and trace individual groups.

Evolving Militant Interactions

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