Written by Kailey Nordgran
ISIS affiliates flourish in regions plagued by weak governance, porous borders, and inept security force (Intel Brief, 2019). Affiliates are geographically dispersed and vary in capability; some are akin to terrorist groups, while others behave like insurgent groups (Intel Brief, 2019).
Since the 2011 overthrow of dictator Moammar Gadhafi, in Libya, the Islamic State took root amid the political turmoil in the North African nation. About three years later in 2014, three provinces pledged allegiance to ISIS. These provinces include Tripoli Province in the west, Barqa Province in the east, and Fezzan Province in the south. (Leigh, French, Juan). In August 2014, a group of Bangladeshi nationals pledged allegiance to ISIS and two years later claimed the responsibility for an assault on the Holey Artisan Bakery in Dhaka (“State Department…”, 2018).
In November 2014, Egypt’s most powerful independent militant group in the Sinai Province pledged its allegiance to ISIS, and since their allegiance, their attacks have grown in strength and sophistication (Leigh, French, Juan). The Maute Group, in the Philippines, declared allegiance to ISIS in 2014 and is an integral part of ISIS-Philippines. Roughly two years later in June of 2016, this ISIS group published a video of militants pledging allegiance to ISIS (“State Department…”, 2018). In late 2014, several prominent jihadi leaders in Russia declared their allegiance to the Islamic State (Leigh, French, Juan).
The Islamic State officially announced the formation of its Afghan affiliate in January 2015 (Thomas, 2018). In Afghanistan, ISIS has a presence in the country’s east, particularly in the Nangarhar province, which borders the region of Pakistan (Thomas, 2018). In March 2015, the San’a Province, in Yemen, was the first major Islamic State affiliate with numbers in the hundreds (Leigh, French, Juan). In the same month, Boko Haram, in Northeastern Nigeria, pledged its allegiance to the Islamic State after courting ISIS for months (Leigh, French, Juan).
In April 2015, a branch of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, IMU, declared its unconditional allegiance to the Islamic State. (Mehl, 2017). The IMU provides the Islamic State with increased operating areas in northern Afghanistan, an added offensive capability against strategic target in South or Central Asia and provides the Islamic State with a platform to launch attacks in Central Asia. (Mehl, 2017).
Due to several attacks performed in May 2015, fears have been in both Saudi Arabia and Kuwait that ISIS is making headway in recruiting Saudis and Kuwaitis (Leigh, French, Juan). ISIS-Somalia was formed in October 2015 after the SDGT Abdiqadr Mumin—then a senior leader of al-Shabaab—and about twenty of his followers, pledged allegiance to ISIS (“State Department…”, 2018).
In August 2016, ISIS-West Africa
split into two fractions and appointed Abu Musab al-Barnawi as their leader.
These groups have carried out numerous attacks in Nigeria and the Lake Chad region
(“State Department…”, 2018). Since then, the Islamic State terrorist group is
gaining and expanding its territory in northeast Nigeria and surrounding
countries (Sreenivasan, 2019). In December 2016, ISIS-Egypt bombed Cairo’s
Coptic Christian Cathedral, killing 28 people, and five months late announced
that it was a distinct entity from the ISIS-Sinai Province (“State Department…”,
ISIS Affiliate’s Numbers
- Tripoli Province, Barqa Province, Fezzan Province
- Numbers: About 5,000 members
- San’a Province
- Numbers: In the hundreds
- Northern Sinai Peninsula,
- Sinai Province
- Numbers: in the thousands
- Khorasan Province
- Concentrated in the eastern Afghan province of Nangarhar, also present in parts of Helmand province
- Numbers: several thousand fighters
- Boko Haram (Islamic State
West Africa Province)
- Northeastern Nigeria, with cross-border attacks on Cameroon Niger and Chad
- Numbers: in the thousands (about 3,500)
- Saudi Arabia
- Najd Province
- Numbers: likely in the hundreds
- Caucasus Province, North Caucasus region in Russia
- Numbers: unclear
- ISIS still has ‘tens of thousands’ of fighters in Syria and Iraq.
- Numbers: 500-1000
- Numbers: 750
Intel Brief. “The Islamic State Will Live on Through Its Affiliates.” The Cipher Brief. February 19, 2019. Accessed March 09, 2019. https://www.thecipherbrief.com/column_article/the-islamic-state-will-live-on-through-its-affiliates
Leigh, Karen, Jason French, and Jovi Juan. “Islamic State and Its Affiliates.” The Wall Street Journal. Accessed March 05, 2019. http://graphics.wsj.com/islamic-state-and-its-affiliates/
Mehl, Damon. “The Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan Opens a Door to the Islamic State—Combating Terrorism Center at West Point.” Combating Terrorism Center at West Point. November 15, 2017. Accessed March 07, 2019. https://ctc.usma.edu/the-islamic-movement-of-uzbekistan-opens-a-door-to-the-islamic-state/
Sreenivasan, Hari, and Drew Hinshaw. “ISIS Affiliate Expands Territory in West Africa.” PBS. February 17, 2019. Accessed March 06, 2019. https://www.pbs.org/newshour/show/isis-affiliate-expands-territory-in-west-africa
“State Department Terrorist Designations of ISIS Affiliates and Senior Leaders.” U.S. Department of State. February 27, 2018. Accessed March 05, 2019. https://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2018/02/278883.htm
Thomas, Clayton. Al Qaeda and Islamic State Affiliates in Afghanistan. PDF. Congressional Research Service. August 23, 2018. Accessed March 07, 2019. https://fas.org/sgp/crs/row/IF10604.pdf