In 2015, Islamic State (Daesh) announced establishing of Islamic State Khorasan Province (ISKP). Initially, it drew fights & commanders from Tehreekh e Taliban (TTP) splinters residing mostly in Afghanistan, including Hafiz Saeed Khan head of ISKP and Former TTP spokesperson Shahid Ullah Shahid.
The ideological and security dynamics of Afghanistan were different, despite a good start it soon started facing the heat. For the expansion of operations, ISKP needed support from outside the dominant circles, as the majority in AF-Pak were already working under the umbrella of IEA (Afghan Taliban) in Afghanistan and Tehreekh e Taliban Pakistan (TTP) in Pakistan respectively. ISKP managed to recruit some former Lashkar e Jhanqvi (LEJ) & Lashkar e Taiba (LET) from Pakistan, but it failed to gather large support thus shifted its focus towards India.
In just two years by 2017, ISKP managed to recruit fighters from Kashmir & India. With the establishment of Ansarul Khilafah in Jammu and Kashmir later rebranded in Kashmir Wilāyah Kashmir. In 2019 IS announced the establishment of Wilāyah Hind or Islamic State Hind Province (ISHP) which included Kashmir, Bangladesh, Maldives, Sri Lanka, and Wilāyah Pakistan that was ISPP (Pakistan Province)
So, there were three branches of IS in the region ISKP (Khorasan Province), ISPP (Pakistan Province) and ISHP (Hind Province). The latter two carried out multiple attacks in their respective territories but most of the operations remained limited to Afghanistan.
Afghan Taliban operations against ISKP across Afghanistan and particularly in Nangarhar and Kunar forced ISKP to rely upon the other two branches, ISHP carried out a couple of low-intensity attacks in Kashmir, but most Indian fighters shifted to Afghanistan. This also meant that the command of all their branches lies with the ISKP, which offered little support to the two other branches in their operations.
As per UN report, there is a strong presence of IS in India. It recruited around 180-200 fighters from India particularly from Karela and Karnataka India.
Even though these Indian national fighters were engaged in ISKP major operations since 2017 I just want to give two latest examples for reference.
– On March 25th, 2020 Abu Khalid al-Hindi (Mohammed Sajid) From Kerala carried out a suicide attack on Sikh Gurdwara in Kabul.
– On 3rd August 2020, an ISKP attack on central prison in Jalalabad. Out of total of 11 attackers, 3 were Indian nationals.
Similarly, just last month (July 2021) ISPP announced that a major area of Pakistan including KPK & Ex-Fata (known as the Tribal area) has been reassigned to ISKP, leaving a little area of operations for ISPP, as it can only carry out attacks in parts of Baluchistan. Moreover, ISHP also failed to carry out any major attack in India.
But this shift from other regions to Afghanistan indicates the Afghan Taliban success against ISKP not militarily but ideological as ISKP is struggling with local recruitment and is relying on foreign fighters especially from India.
In fact, even the current ISKP emir Dr. Shahab al-Muhajir is also non-Afghan is an Arab probably an Iraqi. The current strength of ISKP is unknown but as per my assessment, it’s something between 800-1500.
But the Kabul attack would be a major boost for ISKP as well as for the central ISIS, which is struggling for a comeback under the new Chief.
ISKP is currently relying on sleepers’ cells in Urban for major attacks but If ISKP manages to regain any footholds in Eastern Afghanistan, which is not likely possible now. This would provide ISIS central a good opportunity for a resurgence by shifting the focus from Middle East to Afghanistan.
Author: Talha Ahmad (Editor in Chief PSF)
About Author: Talha Ahmad is a Freelance Journalist. He is an independent Geo-Political Analyst, commentator, and keen observer of International Relations. Talha Ahmad’s opinions have been featured in different News-websites like Daily times, Pakistan Today, Global Village Space, Morning Mail. He can be reached on Twitter @talhahamad967.