By: Aayush Vora, SVKM’s Pravin Gandhi College of Law
Edited by The Editorial Board of SAIL.
ISIS-K is the offshoot of ISIS, which primarily operates in the region of Afghan-Pakistan. This group is directly affiliated with the ISIS of Abu-Bakr-al Baghdadi, the dreaded terrorist.
The K stands for ‘Khorasan’ – a term for the ancient caliphate, the meaning of the word Khorasan is ‘the land of the sun’ it covers the area of South and Central Asia, it dismisses present-day international borders and envisages modern-day states of Pakistan, Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, Iran, and India to be under its territorial ambit.
HISTORY AND FOUNDATION
After the 9/11 attacks, the then President of the United States, Geroge Bush waged a war against terrorism and invaded Afghanistan. It eventuated in the killing of the leader of al-Qaeda, Osama Bin Laden.
This led to the fragmentation of al-Qaeda and one of its factions moving to parts of Iraq and Syria. ISIS exploits technology for propagandizing. They record videos of beheading and circulate them on social media, they also uploaded videos on social media to appeal to the younger generation to take arms, enticing and radicalizing them.
ISIS-K was created in Pakistan by the disillusioned faction of Tehreik-i-Taliban Pakistan. Fearing persecution they moved to Afghanistan and pledged allegiance to ISIS, recruiting fighters from the Afghan Taliban much to the angst of the latter.
Consequently, a fight between the two broke out in the province of Nangarhar and that led to ISIS-K capturing Nangarhar and then they started attacking Afghan security forces. The organization got a major boost when the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan pledged allegiance to them, helping ISIS-K to increase their presence in other provinces like Helmand and Farah.
But, then the Afghan security services started attacking ISIS-K bases and taking advantage of this situation Taliban also started attacking them, which resulted in the Taliban recapturing the Nangarhar province and reducing the presence of ISIS-K to minimal.
TALIBAN AND ISIS-K CONFLICT
The conflict between the ISIS the Khorasan branch and the Taliban started when the fighters of ISIS-K killed a senior Taliban commander Abdul Ghani in 2015 and since then they have been engaged in violent clashes which mostly happen in eastern Afghanistan.
Both of these groups are jihadists but are different only in their interpretation of Islam, Taliban, driven by pragmatic geopolitical calculations seems to be satisfied with what they have now but ISIS wants to establish an Islamic Caliphate all over central and south Asia.
The conflict revolves around the interpretation of the Sharia law as ISIS-K labels the Taliban as a ‘bad guy’ and as a group of people who wrongly interpret Islam because their views are not stringent enough and also because they agreed to have a peace deal with the United States and by doing so they have betrayed the Jihadi Movement. This was the reason that when the majority of the terror organizations congratulated the Taliban on their takeover of Afghanistan, ISIS-K was the only organization, which announced that they will continue to fight against the Taliban.
ISIS-K – Taliban – Haqqani Network a threat to India and its National Security
When the Taliban took over Afghanistan the radical sympathizers of the Taliban across the globe got a morale boost. Similarly, a few people from India and Bangladesh have also traveled to Afghanistan and Syria for the cause of Jihad.
The growing footprint of ISIS in India is a matter of concern and a major security threat for the country. The government needs to stop this as ISIS majorly uses social media to influence people to join their cause and the major audience of social media is the Youth due to which many young educated students fall prey to them and government needs to find some solution for this.
In 2019, Bomb blasts were planned and executed in the Balochistan province of Pakistan and Kashmir of India after which the ISIS-K declared Pakistan and India province under the area of Khorasan.
With the view that the Taliban and ISIS-K are rivals, India cannot get complacent undermining the chances of them coming together. The Leader of the Haqqani network- Sirajuddin Haqqani, is the Interior Minister of the new Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, and he can act as a mediator between them and a joint partnership between all of them can create a huge security problem for India.
As soon as the Taliban took over Afghanistan they released terrorists who fought for ISIS-K and this can be taken as an indication of a settlement between them.
Recently, four Indian women had accompanied their husbands to join ISIS-K have now surrendered to the forces and are asking for their return to India but it is very unlikely that the Indian government will allow them to enter as they will be a threat to society.
Amongst the terrorists who were freed from the Afghan prisons, 14 were Indians from the state of Kerala. In the recent blast where 13 US soldiers were killed, the suicide bomber was a student from the Indian state of Kerala who had joined ISIS-K.
ISIS-K is an upcoming major threat in the South and Central Asian region. To combat this threat, allying with the Taliban may appear tantalizing to the international community. However, if this eventuates, the Taliban’s global recognition would be a fait accompli.
While ISIS-K needs to be dealt with alacrity, one must not forget that the Taliban itself is a terrorist outfit that has arrogated to itself the role of a legitimate state by brute force in derogation of all international and moral laws.
Furthermore, the sheer amount of resources already spent on fighting the Taliban will be sequestered the very moment the Taliban gets any scintilla of political legitimacy in the global community.
Even though the global community cannot allow the Taliban to use the threat from ISIS-K as diplomatic leverage, it is imperative that humanitarian aid is provided to the Afghan civil society, while diplomatically engaging with the Taliban and encouraging them to foment a democratic polity.