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Diminished from its zenith, ISIS could position itself as sole rejectionist group in Afghanistan

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New Delhi, Aug 27: Sticking to his decision of an August 31 pullout from Afghanistan, US President, Joe Biden Asiad that everyday we are on the ground is another day we know that the ISIS-Khorasan is seeking to target the airport and attack both US and allied forces and innocent civilians.

Representational Image

On Thursday the ISISK claimed responsibility for the suicide bombing at the Kabul Airport in which over 70 people including 13 US soldiers were killed. The ISIS which had over 4,000 terrorists in its fold in 2016 today is down to 1,500 as per estimates. While the group may have been beaten down over the past couple of years due to military strikes, Thursday's bombings only showed that the group is still lethal.

While the outfit continued to suffer losses and many of its chiefs were killed over the past year, it has staged some very blatant attacks in Afghanistan. In November the group carried out an attack at the Kabul University in which 22 people were killed. In the same month, the ISKP launched a mortar attack in a residential area in Kabul in which 8 people were killed. In May 2020, the ISKP killed 16 people at a maternity ward in Kabul which was run by the Doctors Without Borders Charity.

Last December, the outfit launched a rocket attack at the airport in Kabul. The outfit also carried out a car bomb attack outside a girl's school in Kabul. 165 including 68 students were killed in the attack. The ISKP was also involved in the Kabul Gurudwara attack in which 25 people were killed.

The Taliban and the ISKP too have been at logger heads and have waged many battles for territory. The Taliban has come out victorious and has on several occasions told the ISKP that any battle fought in Afghanistan should be under it.

While the Taliban has taken over Afghanistan, the worry where the ISKP is concerned would be about projecting itself as a rejectionist group in Afghanistan. A UN report said the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant-Khorasan (ISIL-K) remains diminished from its zenith, following successive military setbacks that began in Jowzjan in summer 2018.

However, since June 2020, it has had an ambitious new leader, Shahab al-Muhajir , and it remains active and dangerous, particularly if it is able, by positioning itself as the sole pure rejectionist group in Afghanistan, to recruit disaffected Taliban and other militants to swell its ranks.

Member States have varying assessments of the extent of ISIL-K and al-Muhajir's links with the Haqqani Network. Meanwhile, the Al-Sadiq office is co-located with ISIL-K in Afghanistan, pursuing a regional agenda in Central and South Asia on behalf of the ISIL core, the report also said.

The fact that the ISKP has drawn in disgruntled terrorists from other groups was seen in the appointment of its first chief in Afghanistan. The first leader of the ISKP was Hafiz Saeed Khan, a Pakistan national who was part of the Tehreek-e-Taliban. Following his appointment, he brought in several from the TTP into the ISKP.

Abdul Rauf Kadim, a former commander of the Taliban was appointed as the Khan's deputy. Over the next couple of months several more from the TTK and the Lashkar-e-Islam joined the ISKP. It was growing into a potent force in Afghanistan and there were defections into the ISKP from the Haqqani Network, Lashkar-e-Tayiba, Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan and Jamaat-ud-Dawa.

These developments are pointers that the ISKP will continue to position itself as a rejectionist group in Afghanistan and will pose a security risk in the near future as well.

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