AAN Thematic Dossiers

Thematic Dossier XV: Daesh in Afghanistan


IS fighter distributes propaganda material to inhabitants of Kot district.
IS fighter distributes propaganda material to inhabitants of Kot district. - - December 2016

The terrorist attack on the Iraqi Embassy in Kabul on 31 July 2017 – by a suicide car bomber and three gunmen – has once more directed attention to the activity of local groups that have declared their allegiance to the so-called Islamic State (IS, also known ISIS, ISIL or Daesh) and its local, Afghan-Pakistani ‘franchise’, the Islamic State Khorasan Province (ISKP). The group, which has recently suffered significant loss of territory and the killing of three consecutive amirs in coalition air strikes, and has failed to profit from the Taleban split in 2015, appears to increasingly uses urban terrorism as a means to show its continued presence. This dossier brings together all AAN’s dispatches and publications on ISKP, illustrating the group’s initial emergence and consolidation, how it is increasingly under siege and what this means for the group’s appeal and activities.

The Afghan-Pakistani ‘franchise’ of the Syria- and Iraq-centred Islamic State or Daesh, the Islamic State Khorasan Province (ISKP), has had a tough time from the very beginning. Daesh in Afghanistan first surfaced in 2014 in the form of splinter groups led by disenchanted Taleban commanders-turned-Salafists, who sought to claim the label and allegiance with the wider Islamic State. These groups were quickly decimated in five of the six provinces where they emerged and most of their leaders were killed – mainly by the Taleban who tried to prevent a home-grown rival insurgency group from gaining a foothold on what they considered their own battleground.

After several statements of allegiance had been ignored by IS Central in Raqqa (Syria), finally the leader of one of the groups, based in the eastern Afghan province of Nangarhar, won recognition as the head of IS’ ‘provincial’ chapter for Khorasan, an area that historically encompasses large parts of Persian-speaking Central Asia. This was also the group that survived the Taleban onslaught and the later attacks by Afghan and US troops, aided by the location of its bases in areas that have historically been beyond the control of the Afghan central government, its proximity to Pakistan’s tribal areas and the influx of splinter groups of Tehrik-e Taleban-e Pakistan (the last three late ISKP amirs were of Pakistani origin).

The ‘decapitation’ of ISKP has been underway for over two years now, as the US military stepped up its military campaign, mainly through air strikes, against the group in Nangarhar – most notably in April 2017 with the dropping of the massive, though largely ineffective, ‘Mother of All Bombs’. The group has also been facing internal differences, between the more radical Central Asian fighters and the locally better entrenched and more powerful Pakistani leaders.

However, in the face of all these pressures, ISKP has so far shown its resilience. Recruits continue to travel to Nangarhar, from various provinces of Afghanistan as well as from Pakistan, as the group’s appeal to the radicalised sectors of society does not seem to be fading. ISKP might be less adept at protecting its leaders, but it has proved to be a tough fighting force and has been able to present itself as a significant player when it comes to massive urban terrorist attacks (although not necessarily all attacks claimed by ISKP were indeed implemented by them).

In this latest AAN Thematic Dossier we group all of AAN’s dispatches and other publications about ISKP so far, under three headings: (1) ISKP’s emergence (2014-15); (2) ISKP’s consolidation in Nangrahar and its branching out into terrorist attacks elsewhere (2015-16); (3) ISKP under attack but hitting back (2017).

ISKP’s emergence (2014-15)

Messages in Chalk: ‘Islamic State’ haunting Afghanistan? 

Authors: Borhan Osman

Date: 17 November 2014

Messages in Chalk: ‘Islamic State’ haunting Afghanistan?

 

The Shadows of ‘Islamic State’ in Afghanistan: What threat does it hold?         

Authors: Borhan Osman

Date: 12 February 2015

The Shadows of ‘Islamic State’ in Afghanistan: What threat does it hold?

 

First wave of IS attacks? Claim and denial over the Jalalabad bombs      

Authors: Borhan Osman

Date: 22 April 2015

First wave of IS attacks? Claim and denial over the Jalalabad bombs

 

External AAN Publication: Daesh and Taleban in Afghanistan

Auhtors: Thomas Ruttig

Date: 17 November 2015

External AAN Publication: Daesh and Taleban in Afghanistan

 

ISKP’s consolidation in Nangrahar and branching out (2015-16)

The Islamic State in ‘Khorasan’: How it began and where it stands now in Nangarhar 

Authors: Borhan Osman

Date: 27 July 2016

The Islamic State in ‘Khorasan’: How it began and where it stands now in Nangarhar

 

The Attack on the American University in Kabul (2): Who did it and why?

Authors: Borhan Osman

Date: 5 September 2016

The Attack on the American University in Kabul (2): Who did it and why?

 

Descent into chaos: Why did Nangarhar turn into an IS hub?

Authors: Borhan Osman

Date: 27 September 2016

Descent into chaos: Why did Nangarhar turn into an IS hub?

 

With an Active Cell in Kabul, ISKP Tries to Bring Sectarianism to the Afghan War

Authors: Borhan Osman

Date: 19 October 2016

With an Active Cell in Kabul, ISKP Tries to Bring Sectarianism to the Afghan War

 

Carnage in Ghor: Was Islamic State the perpetrator or was it falsely accused? Authors: Borhan Osman

Date: 23 November 2016

Carnage in Ghor: Was Islamic State the perpetrator or was it falsely accused? 

 

ISKP’s Battle for Minds: What are its main messages and who do they attract?

Authors: Borhan Osman

Date: 12 December 2016

ISKP’s Battle for Minds: What are its main messages and who do they attract?

 

ISKP under attack but hitting back (2017)

What to Watch? Key issues to follow in Afghanistan in 2017

Authors: AAN Team

Date: 27 January 2017

What to Watch? Key issues to follow in Afghanistan in 2017

 

Mother of All Bombs’ Dropped on ISKP: Assessing the aftermath

Authors: Borhan Osman, Kate Clark, Martine van Bijlert

Date: 15 April 2017

‘Mother of All Bombs’ Dropped on ISKP: Assessing the aftermath

 

The Battle for Mamand: ISKP under strain, but not yet defeated

Authors: Borhan Osman

Date: 23 May 2017

The Battle for Mamand: ISKP under strain, but not yet defeated 

 

A Black Week in Kabul: Terror and protests

Authors: Martine van Bijlert, Thomas Ruttig

Date: 4 June 2017

A Black Week in Kabul: Terror and protests

 

A Black Week in Kabul (2): Who are the most likely perpetrators?

Authors: Borhan Osman

Date: 7 June 2017

A Black Week in Kabul (2): Who are the most likely perpetrators?

 

Another ISKP leader “dead”: Where is the group headed after losing so many amirs?

Authors: Borhan Osman

Date: 23 July 2017

Another ISKP leader “dead”: Where is the group headed after losing so many amirs?

 

 

 

 

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