New ISIS chief in Afghanistan- A profile

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Kabul, Jan 29: There is a need for a unifying and implementing force for the successful implementation of the Sharia Law is what Mullah Saeed Orakzai alias Hafiz Khan, the newly appointed chief of the ISIS in Afghanistan had said way back in the year 2007.

The appointment of the former Taliban commander as the chief of the ISIS in Afghanistan comes on expected lines and many in the security agencies would say that this was something that was waiting to happen.


With Pakistan, moving its so called "Good Taliban" back into Afghanistan and making an attempt to stake a claim in that country, the ISIS decided that it would not be left behind. While the chief has been appointed for Afghanistan, the danger ahead is immense. They will not stop at Afghanistan alone, but will spread into Bangladesh, Pakistan and India as well under the banner of the Al Khorasan.

Who is Hafiz Khan?

The 42 year old Orakzai was one of the fiercest warriors of the Tehrik-e-Taliban. Born in the Orakzai tribal area on the Af-PK border, his journey into the world of terror commenced, following the American operation in Afghanistan post 9/11.

He termed the Americans as invaders and went to Kabul to fight against them. So fierce were his thoughts and fighting skills that he caught the attention of Baitullah Mehsood who later went on to head the Tehrik-e-Taliban.

Khan felt strongly about the implementation of the Sharia law and felt that there needs to be a unifying force in order to ensure its implentation. He went on to be appointed as the chief of the Orakzai region of the Tehrik-e-Taliban in the year 2009.

The split from the TT:

As long as Baitullah Mehsud was alive, Khan remained in favour of the outfit. The killing of Mehsud led to a succession war within the outfit, which resulted in a two way split. A majority were in favour of Hakimullah Mehsud taking over from Baitullah, but Khan insisted that another commander, Wali-ur-Rehman be made the chief.

Although there was a split, the unit never broke away completely until the death of Hakimullah in 2013. Khan expected that he would be made the head of the outfit, but was chosen over the current chief Mullah Fazlullah.

A year later he broke away from the TT. Much to the disliking of Fazllulah, Khan went on to declare open support to Abu Bakr Al-Bhagdadi who had by then declared the Caliphate. Khan saw great potential in the ISIS and felt that this would be the united force to implement the Sharia law.

The birth of the Al-Khorasan:

There are several versions to the group called the Al-Khorasan. It is not a separate group, but a contingent of fighters in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region. Khorasan is a province under the ancient Islamic caliphate, which had parts of it in Afghanistan.

Earlier the Al-Khorasan was believed to have Al-Qaeda fighters. However, today with the appointment of Khan as its chief, it becomes clear that it is a completely ISIS faction that is going to wage the Afghan battle.

When Khan quit the TT, he took along with him six other crucial players. They were all made commanders in the Al-Khorasan. They are capable of building a strong force and this has left several agencies worried.

A mess in Afghanistan:

The birth of the Al-Khorasan, the Al-Qaeda in the Sub-Continent, Tehrik Taliban and the Afghan Taliban will be key players in the region. While in the long run the Afghan Taliban and the Al-Qaeda will battle it together, it is yet to be seen if the Tehrik-e-Taliban and the Al-Khorasan would come together.

Pakistan's ISI would back the Al-Qaeda Afghan Taliban combination as these groups have been relatively subservient to them. In fact there are specific inputs that suggest that Mullah Omar the chief of the Afghan Taliban is kept in a safe house by the ISI in Balochistan.

The other factor that should be worrisome is that the Pakistan establishment has not acted against the Haqqani Network. Although there is a claim that they have been banned, in reality nothing to that effect has taken place. In fact when operation Zarb-e-Arb commenced, the Paksitan army ensured all Haqqani Network operatives were shifted to safe houses.

What the ISIS can do?

The appointment of Khan to head the ISIS operations in Afghanistan is not good news. The ISIS when compared to all other terror groups has a reach and influence that several others would not have ever imagined. They have become a brand and many radicals feel the ISIS is a way of life. This would worry the Indian agencies a great deal.

The ISIS battle in Afghanistan would be supported by many. An entry in Afghanistan would ideally mean gaining control over Bangladesh, Paksitan and India. The fight ahead for the Indians will be a tough one especially in the wake of India trying to ensure peace and stability in the region, especially in Afghanistan.

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