The background and current status of ISIS in Afghanistan

In a meeting headed by the Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, the Afghan Security Council approved the strategy of fight against ISIS in principle and ordered the Afghan security forces to suppress the group and put an end to its presence in the country. [1]

However it seems that the activities of the group has decreased in Afghanistan, but considering the recent decision of the Afghan President and the Afghan Security Council, the government seems to be serious regarding the fight against ISIS.

The question is how did ISIS emerge in Afghanistan? How did the fight against it go on? What is the current status of the group in Afghanistan? And how will be the future of the group in this country?


From Arab world toward Khorasan

After the leader of the Al-Qaida in Iraq Abu Masab Al-Zarqaui was killed, Abu Omar Al-Baghdadi was appointed as his successor. Later due to the differences that emerged between him and Al-Qaida, he distanced and separated from Al-Qaida.

In 2010, after the death of Abu Omar Al-Baghdadi, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi became his successor. In 2013, between Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and Jabhat al-Nusra in Syria serious differences emerged, and with the announcement of “Caliphate” by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in June 29, 2014, separation of the group from Al-Qaida was completed.

After the announcement of “Caliphate” by ISIS, some people in the tribal regions between Afghanistan and Pakistan welcomed it and some of them pledged allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi as Muslim Caliph. The most important of them were Abdul Rahim Muslemdost and the Pakistani Taliban’s spokesman Shahedullah Shahed.

Although at that time, ISIS was at its early stages in Afghanistan and talking about its presence in this country was early; but after a while at the beginning of 2015, the Afghan government confirmed the presence of ISIS fighters in Afghanistan and coincide with that, ISIS appointed Hafiz Saeed Khan as governor and Abdul Raouf Khadem[2] as deputy governor of “Khurasan”[3].

After official announcement of the governor and the deputy governor of Khurasan by ISIS, some Afghans and Pakistanis joined the group but the exact number of them is still unclear. But in Khurasan branch of ISIS, both Afghans and Pakistanis are present; thus in 2015 and 2016, they have had destructive activities in both countries.

The presence and activities of the group in Afghanistan proved to be bloody for Afghans. According to the Afghan Ministry of Defense, only in the last six months of 1394 the group has killed 600 Afghan civilians. [4]


ISIS confrontation with the Taliban

The Afghan Taliban were concerned about the emergence of ISIS and the appointment of Abdul Raouf Khadem as the deputy governor of Khurasan; because Abdul Raouf Khadem was the former deputy of the Taliban’s military commission who along with Mullah Abdul Qayum Zakir was fired from their duties by Mullah Akhtar Muhammad Mansour.

At the beginning, the Taliban were very cautious in dealing with ISIS and tried to avoid armed conflict with them; but when ISIS launched offenses against the Taliban in some districts of Nangarhar and killed some Taliban members; the Taliban in order to avoid fight with ISIS sent a letter to the ISIS leader and asked him to bring ISIS’s activities in Afghanistan under the umbrella of the Taliban. But ISIS’s response was harsh and negative, and after that the Taliban’s fight against ISIS began which still continues. [5]

In addition, the presence of Central Asian citizens in the ranks of ISIS in Afghanistan raised Russian concerns and rumors were heard about Russia’s support from the Taliban against ISIS. But the Taliban released a statement and rejected the Taliban-Russia relations and Russia’s assistance[6].


The Afghan government and the fight against ISIS

After the emergence of ISIS in eastern Afghanistan and killing some members of the Taliban by ISIS fighters, there were some analyses that in order to suppress the Taliban by ISIS, the Afghan government does not seriously fight against ISIS. Some Afghan Parliament members also called ISIS a foreign project.

Abdul Zahir Qadir the first deputy of Wolesi Jirga and some other members of the Jirga have successively accused foreign forces and some circles in the Afghan government particularly the Afghan Security Council of supporting ISIS. An Afghan Parliament member Hazrat Ali has claimed that the helicopters of the foreign forces have landed ISIS fighters in this province [7] and residents of Behsod district of this province had also said that military helicopters have landed masked ISIS fighters at the scopes of the Black mountain. Although the government announced investigations about these accusations but it is yet to offer an appropriate response to these accusations. Besides that there were some other parallel accusations but no compelling prove was provided to prove them and often they pointed out the migrants who due to the “Zarb-e-Azb” operations of Pakistani army have come to Afghanistan.

This was interpreted as if Russia has become suspicious about Afghan government’s efforts to fight against ISIS and there for in order to reduce threats to its national security has established direct contact with the Taliban.

Now although the group has weakened in Afghanistan, but for the first time the strategy to fight against ISIS was approved in principle by the Afghan National Security Council. The Afghan National Security Council has declared the group a threat to Afghanistan and countries in the region and according to Afghan security organs, from beginning of the fight against ISIS 600 of its fighters are killed in Afghanistan.


ISIS in Pakistan

The first ISIS commander in “Khurasan” was Hafiz Saeed Khan from Orakzai Agency from other side of Durand line. When ISIS started its activities in Afghanistan, some Pakistanis also came to Afghanistan in their ranks.

ISIS attacked Pakistani consulate in Jalalabad on January 13, 2016. The group was also involved in some explosions in Pakistan. In May 2015, armed individuals opened fire on a bus in Karachi leaving 43 dead and 13 injured and the “Khurasan” branch of ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack. The group was also involved in an attack on a Pakistani TV network. Despite these activities of ISIS in Pakistan, Pakistani government particularly Pakistan Ministry of Interior rejects the presence of ISIS in Pakistan. But clearly the “Khurasan” branch of ISIS after its presence in the region is more active in Afghanistan compared to Pakistan.


The future of ISIS in Afghanistan

ISIS first started its activities in eastern Afghanistan and first confronted the Taliban. Both the Afghan government and the Taliban began fight against ISIS and at the end of 1394 the group was sort of suppressed in Afghanistan. US drone strikes, Afghan government’s military operations, operations and enmity of the Taliban against ISIS caused the group to be suppressed and weakened in 1395 compared to 1393 and 1394.

Although, after the death of Mullah Mohammad Omar, ISIS had the opportunity to utilize the internal conflict of the Taliban and to attract the oppositions of Mullah Mansour or to unite with them, but the decisive character of Mullah Akhtar Mansour did not allow it to happen. Mullah Akhtar Mansour killed the most influential deputy of Mullah Rasoul, Mansour Dadullah in an armed conflict in Zabul and also gained the support of most of his oppositions and those who had not pledged allegiance to him. Losing this opportunity ISIS was further weakened and the extremist idea of ISIS also resulted in the hatred of many armed groups in Afghanistan.

Another reason behind the suppression and weakness of the ISIS’s “Khurasan” branch is that Russian airstrikes and anti-ISIS coalition severely hit the group in Iraq and Syria. Therefore the chance of attention and support for the “Khurasan” group was limited. Thus, now the group is fading away in Afghanistan.

The end

[1] Read more in here:

[2] Abdul Raout Khadem was killed in a drone strike in Helmand on February 9, 2015.

[3] The ancient land of Khurasan in the early days of Islam included all of Afghanistan and Tajikistan, parts of Iran, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, and parts of the other side of Durand.

[4] Afghan online press, »Daesh killed over 600 Afghans in six months: Defense Ministry« see it online:

[5] The weekly analysis of the CSRS, Issue number 122:

[6] Read the statement of the Taliban here:

[7] for further information click on this link:

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