Menna Abdel Razek
Despite the consecutive strikes of what is known as the ISIS Khorasan organization and its loss of about 10,000 fighters and 500 of its leaders between 2015 and 2018, and finally the arrest of its leader Islam Al-Faruqi and 19 of his companions, but the organization is trying to rely on the renewal of its human capital by smuggling fighters with experience that enables them to launch new attacks.
Despite the siege imposed on ISIS, it managed to launch attacks between February and March 2020, as four suicide bombers launched an attack on the Sikh temple in the Afghan capital, Kabul, killing and wounding 33 of the Hindu minority.
ISIS Khurasan relied on a wide network of alliances with its supporters, as well as the local one, according to a research titled “Broken but Not Defeated” published in March 2020 by the American Counter-Terrorism Center.
The report indicated that the organization recruited fighters from other organizations, and was assisted by various previous affiliations for its members in addition to its rivalry with the Afghan Taliban, and Lashkar-e-Taiba
It also enabled the main areas of ISIS strongholds in the provinces of Nazyan in the southeast, in the provinces of Nangarhar and De Bala in Afghanistan, which enjoy a strategic location on the border, to open cooperation between them and members of the Khyber, Koram and Orakzai tribes.
Also, these areas in Nangarhar Province are considered the original stronghold of some of the Taliban’s powerful leaders who defected from the terrorist movement in Afghanistan and submitted their obedience and loyalty to ISIS in 2014, which made them with wide influence over the residents of the region and were able to persuade them to join and then supply ISIS with money.
This comes especially from the Orakzai and Bagour tribes who settled in the Asheen area after taking over the homes of its indigenous people, and the mountainous nature of the region helped them, as it separates the areas of the organization’s concentration and tribal areas.
Strongholds of organization
Although Afghan President Ashraf Ghani announced that 600 ISIS fighters surrendered in late 2019, it is too early to say that he was completely defeated, as the actual strength of him is still unknown.
Osama al-Hetimi, a researcher in Islamic movements ’affairs, says that there are three main determinants of ISIS in the first stage related to the reality of the ISIS organization in Iraq and Syria and the killing of the organization’s leader, Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, last October, which prompted the organizers to try compensating those defeats by achieving interim victories in other regions.
This comes in an attempt to gain the confidence of the elements of the organization and an attempt to take their diaspora, and then Afghanistan was the best goal to achieve this because it is one of the soft countries on the security level.
The second determinant according to Al-Hetimi is the organization’s keenness to demonstrate its ability to maneuver with the United States of America, especially the feeling of revenge for the killing of “Al-Baghdadi”.
Therefore, the choice of the operational escalation in Afghanistan came to thwart the negotiations taking place between Washington and the Taliban movement, as well as the success of these negotiations will be reflected negatively on ISIS.
The third determinant is that ISIS leaders realize that Al Qaeda in Afghanistan is the most competitive for them, which means that striking them will have a positive impact on their organizational reality inside and outside Afghanistan after Al Qaeda appears unable to counter ISIS targets.