The Taliban-run Interior Ministry of Afghanistan claimed in a media statement that the Islamic State Khorasan Province (IS-K), a militant Islamist group and Taliban’s most formidable foe, is plotting attacks on Afghanistan from Pakistani soil. The Taliban warned of the group’s potential targets and advised the public to remain vigilant.
The Taliban statement claimed the IS-K leadership held a meeting in the Tirah region of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa where they ordered a new round of attacks in Afghanistan. The Taliban warned that the militants could target busy public places like banks, markets, government offices, and police stations.
Journalist Abdul Syed has said this is the second time Pakistan has faced such grave accusations from the Afghan Taliban. The Taliban Defense Ministry had previously claimed in a similar statement that IS-K has a substantial presence in Pakistan.
Who are the IS-K?
The IS-K is the regional affiliate of the Islamic State Group (IS) that once controlled a large swathe of land in Syria and Iraq. The IS-K was set up in January 2015 at the height of IS’s power before its self-declared caliphate was defeated and dismantled by the US-led coalition.
The IS-K recruits Afghan and Pakistani jihadists, especially defecting members of the Afghan Taliban who don’t see their organization extreme enough.
The IS-K has been blamed for some of the worst atrocities in Afghanistan in recent years, like bombing hospitals and girls’ schools, and targeting a maternity ward where they shot dead nurses and pregnant women. The list of IS-K targets is rather long; it includes the Afghani security forces, Afghan politicians and ministries, the Taliban, religious minorities, including Shia Muslims and Sikhs, US and Nato forces, and international agencies, including aid organizations.
The IS-K, though peripherally linked to the Afghan Taliban via the Haqqani network, have major ideological differences with them. They blame the Taliban for abandoning jihad and the battlefield in favour of negotiated peace settlement with the US in “posh hotels” in Doha, Qatar. They consider Taliban “apostates”, making their killing lawful under their interpretation of Islamic law.
Since the Taliban swept into power in August 2021, the IS-K have proven themselves as the group’s most formidable foe. They have carried out multiple high-profile attacks, such as the Kabul Airport Bombing that killed over 183 people, including 13 members of the US military.