IS in Afghanistan: The beginning of a new Game?

Since the last few months, the news has been propagating about the IS presence in Afghanistan. But, the ISIS presence proved when Taliban Military council’s member, Abdul Rauf Khadim joined the newly emerged group. The development was an alarm for Taliban. In that time, a minor clash happened between Taliban and Khadim in Kajaki district of Helmand province, but shortly after the incident both sides opted for talks. The talks were going on smoothly but when the U.S. drones targeted Khadim, before letting him recruit for his group the relations between Taliban and ISIS becomes severed. 

Khadim’s killing angered the main IS group in the middle-east. It looks that some people have told IS that Taliban were unsatisfied with Khadim’s new stance, therefore they were involved in his killing.

Since then, another group emerged in eastern Afghanistan calling itself IS and declared war against Taliban. They have participated against Taliban in the war in some districts of Nangrahar and Taliban have retreated from some districts of the mentioned province. Some photos have been posted in the social media alleging IS behind the executed members of Taliban in Nangrahar.

The Ambiguities Regarding IS in Afghanistan

Most of the close people to the Taliban are saying that the group calling itself IS fighting against Taliban in eastern Afghanistan are not real IS fighters. They say the group fights against Taliban is based on Kabul-Islamabad recent controversial intelligence MoU, Pakistan has equipped those members of Tahreek Taliban Pakistan which has announced their allegiance to IS and the former Afghan Mujahidin with its own Militia fighters to fight against Taliban. 

There are some reports which reveal that persons of Hizbe Islami Hekmatyar are also among the so called IS. It is even said that a person of Hekmatyar by the name of Bakhtyar who had been a detainee of Guantanamo Bay leads IS in Bati-Kot of Nangrahar.

But officially the main IS group in Syria and Iraq has not expressed anything regarding presence of their members in Afghanistan. Only Abdul Rahim Muslimdost, who claims to be member of IS, has accused Taliban of being “Puppets” of ISI. He also confesses his group’s fight against Taliban.

The so called IS in eastern Afghanistan is very organized. They have openly set their military camps equipped with medical clinics and kitchens. They try to have good behavior with local people. They have told the local people that they have nothing to do with the government workers and even army members who come to their homes without uniform, and their fight is just against Taliban.

IS in Afghanistan: killing the Taliban

When the so called IS group attacked the strongholds of Taliban in Nangarhar province they succeeded to push back Taliban fighters from different districts. The video clips showing execution of dozens of Taliban fighters by IS group have been published in social media.

But the mission of the newly emerged group is not confined to Afghanistan; they rather target the high profile commanders of Taliban inside Pakistan too. Taliban’s shadow governor of Nangarhar province, Maulawi Mir Ahmad Gul Hashimi has been murdered in Peshawar, Pakistan, by IS group.

Taliban called Hashmi’s assassination a big loss for the group. Taliban wrote in their official site that the “enemies of Islam” will not reach to their vicious goals by murdering such personalities, and will not be able to weaken the already consolidated front of Islamic Emirate.

From Taliban with Love: A Letter to Abu-Bakr Al-Baghdadi

It can be said that the Taliban have never been under pressure in the last thirteen years as they are now. Though the group has made efforts to put the newly emerging problems under the shadow of their successful diplomatic initiatives, and on the other hand show these problems as being impotent. But, the pressures from its military commanders had forced Taliban to clarify its stance regarding the so called IS in Afghanistan. Like any other important work which requires the approval of the leadership of Taliban, the approval of this letter has also took time to get the approval of Mullah Mohammad Omar and the signature of Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansoor. The date of its signature is 16th June of 2015.

In one part of the letter, some Jihadi personalities like Shaheed Abdullah Azzam, Osama Bin Laden, and Abu Massab Al-Zarqawi have been mentioned and called them as the students of the Jihadi school of Afghanistan. Mentioning of these people in the letter to Baghdadi is to show him that even your guiders and leaders had been the students in our Jihadi School and we are ahead of you in this area.

In this letter, Taliban have pointed out that the great achievements of Afghan Jihad against the Soviet Union had been lost due to differences among Mujahidin factions. It has been written in the letter that they (Taliban) with the injunctions of Quran and lessons of the former Jihad do not consider any plurality in the interest of Jihad or Muslims. They have prevented all the conspiracies with the virtue of single leadership. Therefore, the Islamic Emirate confines the Jihadi activities in Afghanistan under the Leadership of Emirate.

It has also been said in the letter that Mullah Mohammad Omar had been elected by 1500 religious scholars (the Ullema) and had been approved by the great Jurists like Al-Sheikh Hamoud Bin Aqala Al-Shuaibi and famous Jihadi leader like Osama Bin Laden.

It has also been mentioned in the letter that during the last years the enemies have made efforts to divide the united Taliban front, but had not been succeeded. In such critical situation your friends should not carry out activities to smash the united front of Jihad and pave the way for success of the enemies’ conspiracies. It has been insisted in the letter that the paralleled jihad groups are not in the interest of Jihad and Mujahidin.

It has been asked from Baghdadi not to be influenced by the advices of people doing so for their vested interests, and not to judge the Afghan issues from far away.


The letter from Taliban to IS can be considered as an ultimatum that they are not ready to allow any paralleled group that even fights against the U.S. security forces in Afghanistan. Any group that is interested in Jihad should carry out the duty under the flag of the Emirate. There is no need for any other group in the presence of Emirate. The letter, in short, warns IS about its interference in Afghanistan.

The indication of Mullah Mohammad Omar’s selection as Amir Al-Momineen by a 1500 qualified Clergies  and Mujahidin is proof for them the legitimate leadership of Mullah Mohammad Omar over that of Baghdadi. It indicates that from Taliban Perspective, Baghdadi is a self-proclaimed Caliph whose selection is not acceptable for all the Muslims.

Taliban’s ultimatum can have two outcomes: Baghdadi would either approve those who fight in Afghanistan under the banner of IS, in this case it would be declaration of war against Taliban, because he does not accept his followers do Jihad under someone else leadership which would eliminate his legitimacy as Muslims’ Caliph. In this case Taliban will find opportunity of support from the regional countries who are concerned regarding IS’s influence in the region, and their fight will be accelerated against the IS.

The second possibility is that Baghdadi would not accept those who are fighting in Afghanistan as his followers. In this case it will be clarified that the group is production of the regional intelligence agencies and would not have further opportunity of recruitment in Afghanistan.

We can say that the letter from Taliban’s leadership to Baghdadi, in spite of being late, is a very clever initiative of Taliban which would clarify IS presence in Afghanistan.

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