Afghanistan Analysts Network – English

Recommended Reads

The Peculiar Presence of the Islamic State in Kunar

AAN 2 min

The Diplomat, 14 May 2019

A fascinating on-the-ground reportage from Kunar by Franz Marty about IS presence in this eastern province – a good antidote to  latest alarmist pieces about IS planning to attack the US and Russian allegations about 5,000 Daesh fighters in northern Afghanistan. According to this report, Daesh took over two villages there. Marty writes:

Almost all available sources – refugees as well as government officials – indicated that the attacking Islamic State fighters were predominantly locals. Beyond that, information is scarce and the little that is available could not be independently verified. (…) Allegations regarding some foreign fighters among the Islamic State group in Chapa Dara lacked any detail and, therefore, cannot be assessed.

(…) there is anecdotal evidence that at least some alleged Islamic State fighters in Kunar have simply adopted a vague, locally-colored version of the Islamic State. In some cases this apparently happened for opportunistic reasons, usually fallouts with other insurgent groups that they were previously affiliated with. Defections were arguably also supported by the fact that many Kunaris (contrary to most other Afghans) are Salafists, which – due to ideological similarities – makes them more susceptible to switching to the Islamic State.

Further complicating the above is that some alleged Islamic State commanders in Kunar have a more-than-checkered history, with various sources at times contradicting each other as to which faction they have belonged to. 

{…) assertions made by local officials and in other reports that the Islamic State fighters in Chapa Dara have operational links to the group’s main Afghan strongholds in the neighboring province of Nangarhar could neither be verified nor disproved, as they were not accompanied by the avowedly existing evidence. (…)

All this raises the question of whether, or to what extent, such alleged Islamic State fighters in Kunar can be seen as full-fledged members of the Islamic State, or might rather be rogue opportunists who use the purported caliphate’s notoriety to raise their profiles and whose activities are in turn sometimes claimed by Amaqto inflate the group’s reach. Or whether some of them are incorrectly referred to as Islamic State fighters, solely because of their extreme Salafist views, as has apparently happened at least in one case in another province in Afghanistan.