WASHINGTON: The group known as Islamic State-Khorasan, or IS-K, “is based in Afghanistan, conducts operations in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and is composed primarily of former members of Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan, the Afghan Taliban, and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan”, according to the latest US report on terrorism released this week.

The US State Department’s annual report estimates that IS-K still has about 1,000 fighters who operate from Afghanistan. The report describes the group’s areas of operation as Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Central Asia.

Prime Minister Imran Khan said in his address at the OIC meeting in Islamabad on Sunday that IS-K was using its Afghan cell for launching attacks into Pakistan.

Former Afghan president Hamid Karzai, however, countered his argument by alleging that the group was using Pakistani soil for launching attacks into Afghanistan.

The US report, however, upheld Pakistan’s position, clearly stating that IS-K “is based in Afghanistan”, although it recruits militants from Pakistan’s tribal areas. According to the State Department’s report, IS-K receives some funding from its parent organisation, the militant Islamic State group (IS). Additional funds come from “illicit criminal commerce, taxes and extortion”, the report added.

The IS-K’s leadership pledged allegiance to the deceased IS leader Abu Bakr al Baghdadi. This was accepted in 2015.

The US report pointed out that the group had carried out suicide bombings, small arms attacks, and kidnappings in Afghanistan against civilians and Afghan forces. The group has also claimed responsibility for attacks on civilians and government officials in Pakistan.

No differentiation

Details of IS-K’s activities in the US report show that the group does not differentiate between Pakistan and Afghanistan while launching terrorist attacks.

It regularly targeted civilians, armed forces personnel and even schools and places of worship in both countries.

In 2016, IS-K attacked a Pakistani consulate in Afghanistan, killing seven Afghan security personnel; bombed a peaceful protest in Kabul, killing an estimated 80 people; claimed a shooting and suicide bombing at a hospital in Quetta, killing 94; and bombed a shrine in Balochistan, killing over 50 people.

In 2017, the militant outfit attacked the Iraqi embassy in Kabul, killing two people; bombed a mosque in western Afghanistan, killing 29 people; claimed responsibility for a double suicide bombing at a Shia neighborhood in Kabul, leaving more than 20 dead; attacked a Sufi shrine in Sindh, killing 88 people; and attacked an election rally in Balochistan that killed 149 people.

In 2019, IS-K claimed responsibility for an attack at the ministry of communications in Kabul, killing seven people. The group also claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing at a wedding hall in Kabul that year, killing 80 people.

Later that year, IS-K bombed a mosque in Nangarhar and killed 70 people.

In 2019, the IS faction suffered a series of major defeats and lost much of its territory in Nangarhar in the face of attacks by both the Defeat-IS Coalition and Taliban forces.

Published in Dawn, December 23rd, 2021

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