ISIS in Afghanistan
Written by Kailey Nordgran
ISIS in Afghanistan and Pakistan
Since the Islamic State started operating in Afghanistan around 2014, their numbers have grown substantially. (Erickson, 2018) The first signs of the Islamic State’s presence in Pakistan, also appeared in late 2014 (Bhojani, 2017). The group is largely aided by “a steady supply of recruits” from disaffected members of the Pakistani Taliban and radicalized Afghans. (Erickson, 2018). ISIS strategically chose its’ location in the mountains close to Afghanistan’s border with Pakistan (Rasmussen, 2016) ISIS emerged in two separate locations in Afghanistan in 2014—the far eastern reaches of Nangarhar province, and Kajaki district of southern Helman province (Johnson, 2016). ISIS’s revenue comes from oil production and smuggling, taxes, ransoms from kidnappings, selling stolen artifacts, extortion and controlling crops (“ISIS Fast Facts”, 2019).
By the spring and summer of 2015, ISIS expanded in Nangarhar, gaining partial control of seven districts. (Johnson, 2016). A few months later, in the fall of 2015, the Islamic State grew more violent, announcing a ban on poppy cultivation and threatening aspects of the tribal social order; the limited public support in Nangarhar began to erode (Johnson, 2016). At the group’s height from August to December 2015, ISIS fighters numbered from 3,750 to 4,000, with almost all of these fighters active in eastern Nangarhar province (Johnson, 2016).
In early 2016, U.S. air strikes, the Taliban, and private Afghan militias stalled the ISIS advance into Pakistani and Afghan factions (Johnson, 2016). In the summer of 2016, the Islamic State was still present in a handful of Nangarhari districts and capable of launching spectacular attacks, including a suicide bombing in Kabul that killed more than 80 people (Johnson, 2016). On October 24, 2016, suicide bombers attack sleeping cadets at a police training academy in Pakistan, killing 61 and injuring 117 (“ISIS Fast Facts”, 2019). About one month later, on November 18, 2016, ISIS attacked a unit of elite Afghan bodyguards in central Kabul, killing at least six people (Rasmussen, 2016). With the growing attacks, scale of casualties, and recruitment since 2014, the number of ISIS fighters in Afghanistan is debated (Rasmussen, 2016).
As of March 2017, an offshoot of ISIS based near the Afghan-Pakistan border is expanding to near areas, recruiting fighters and widening the reach of attacks in the region (“ISIL expands…”, 2017). On April 13, 2017, the US military dropped its most powerful non-nuclear bomb on an ISIS compound in Afghanistan. (“ISIS Fast Facts”, 2019) In the same month in Pakistan, security forces stormed Noreen Leghari’s hideout, an ISIS fighter, recovering two suicide vests and hand grenades, ultimately showing the growing reach in Pakistan (Bhojani, 2017).
November 24, 2018, ISIS claimed a suicide attack inside a packed mosque on an
Afghan army base that killed at least 27 soldiers and injured 79 military
personnel. (“ISIS claims attack…”, 2018) On the same day in Pakistan, ISIS
claimed responsibility for a suicide attack that ripped through a marketplace
in Pakistan’s restive northwestern tribal region killing 33 people (Presse,
2018) As the Islamic State is being defeated across the Middle East, officials
are bracing themselves for ISIS to attempt establishing themselves in Central Asia
Bhojani, Fatima. “ISIS is on the decline in the Middle East, but its influence in Pakistan is rising.” The Washington Post. May 5, 2017. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2017/05/05/isis-is-on-the-decline-in-the-middle-east-but-its-influence-in-pakistan-is-rising/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.d6267af3321a
Erickson, Amanda. “How the Islamic State Got a Foothold in Afghanistan.” The Washington Post. March 21, 2018. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2018/03/21/how-the-islamic-state-got-a-foothold-in-afghanistan/?utm_term=.6083f61054b9
“ISIL expands in Afghan-Pakistan areas, widening attacks”. Al Jazeera. March 1, 2017. https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2017/03/isil-expands-afghan-pakistan-areas-widening-attacks-170302041341156.html
“ISIS Claims Attack on Afghan Army Base in Which at Least 27 Soldiers Died.” The Strait Times. November 24, 2018. https://www.straitstimes.com/asia/south-asia/isis-claims-attack-on-afghan-army-base-in-which-at-least-27-soldiers-died
“ISIS Fast Facts.” CCN. January 21, 2019. https://www.cnn.com/2014/08/08/world/isis-fast-facts/index.html
Johnson, Casey Garret. “The Rise and Stall of the Islamic State in Afghanistan”. United States Institute of Peace. November 2016. https://www.usip.org/sites/default/files/SR395-The-Rise-and-Stall-of-the-Islamic-State-in-Afghanistan.pdf
O’Connor, Tom. “Where Will ISIS Be in 2018? Iran Says Afghanistan and Pakistan Are Next as Islamic State Loses in Iraq and Syria.” News Week. December 12, 2017. https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2017/03/isil-expands-afghan-pakistan-areas-widening-attacks-170302041341156.html
Presse, Agence France. “ISIS claims deadly attack on tribal region in Pakistan.” Rappler. November 25, 2018. https://www.rappler.com/world/regions/south-central-asia/217472-isis-claims-deadly-attack-tribal-region-pakistan
Rasmussen, Sune Engel. “ISIS in Afghanistan: ‘Their peak is over, but they are not finished’”. The Guardian. November 18, 2016. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/nov/18/isis-in-afghanistan-their-peak-is-over-but-they-are-not-finished