Since the departure of the Americans, the regional branch of the Islamic State organization has continued its work to destabilize Afghanistan, trying to improve the humanitarian crisis, ethnic tension and internal division of the Taliban.
The Taliban can boast of defeating the Islamic State organization in Khorasan, the Afghan branch of IS, the jihadist group has not stopped recalling for a year its power of trouble, increasing the number of deadly attacks that have -primarily directed against the civilian population or religious leaders. .
The latest dates back to Thursday, August 11 of the killing of Rahimullah Haqqani, a senior Taliban cleric, known for his fiery speeches against the Islamic State organization in Khorasan. He recently came out in favor of schooling young Afghan girls.
A few days ago, the terrorist group claimed responsibility for a bomb attack in a Shiite neighborhood in Kabul that killed eight people and wounded 18. The attack targeted the Hazara community, a minority that represents between 10 and 20% of the 40 million Afghans, long persecuted in the Sunni-majority country.
Although armed violence has generally decreased since the fall of the previous government, bloody attacks attributed or claimed by IS-K have often shocked the country, undermining the Taliban’s promise to the population and the international community. a quick return to order in. Afghanistan.
“Greater freedom of movement”
According to the tally of UNAMA, the United Nations Mission in Afghanistan, attacks targeting ethnic and religious minority communities have left more than 700 dead and 1,400 injured in the country between mid-August 2021 and mid June 2022. .
In this long litany of jihadist attacks, the suicide attack at Kabul airport on August 26, 2021 remains the deadliest. That day, amid the chaos caused by the Taliban’s lightning offensive in the capital, a suicide bomber managed to blow himself up near a doorway and then gunfire killed 185 people. man. , including 13 American soldiers.
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Established since 2015 in Afghanistan, mainly in the provinces of Nangarhar and Kunar, near the Pakistani border, the organization of the Islamic State in Khorasan was founded by Afghan and Pakistani Taliban cadres who pledged allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the former head of the organization. .
But the Afghan branch of IS is quickly suffering the effects of a dual manhunt led against its fighters by the former Afghan government backed by the United States and the Taliban themselves.
Within a year, the jihadist group experienced a resurgence of activity, especially in the northeast and east of the country and represented the main security challenge for the new masters of Kabul. “We cannot say that there has been a strengthening of the OEI-K, but the group has enjoyed greater freedom of action since the Americans left,” said France 24 journalist Wassim Nasr. specialist in the jihadist movement. “If the Taliban succeeded in resisting ISIS in insurrectionary mode, the fight against urban terrorism is another thing and we see that they have many difficulties in this area”.
Inciting ethnic divisions
With approximately 2,000 men before the departure of the Americans, according to the UN, it is now impossible to assess the strength of the OEI-K, whose “hard core is made up of desocialized and poorly educated which are young people from rural areas”, according to Myriam Benraad, professor of international relations at Schiller International University and author of “Terrorism: the pains of vengeance” (Ed. Cavalier bleu).
To win new followers, the terrorist group exploits ethnic divisions in its propaganda and targets communities that may feel alienated by the Taliban’s rise to power – such as the Tajiks, the second largest which is the country’s ethnic group, which makes up almost a quarter of the population. .
“The Pashtuns who are in power in Kabul and should be under the protection of the Taliban, Daesh has shown itself as a force that can be used by the Tajiks, assures Didier Chaudet, associate researcher at the French Institute for Studies on Central Asia ( IFEAC) .
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The jihadist group also seeks to expand its ranks by recruiting foreign fighters from Central Asia, but also the most radical members of the Haqqani family and tribal network, which is closely linked to Al -Qaeda but part of the Taliban.
In general, IS-K is trying to exploit the internal divisions within the Taliban, which are divided between radical ideologues who are against any compromise with the West and the pragmatists who are ready to make concessions in order to build the international credibility of their government. “There are a number of Taliban who are dissatisfied that the movement rejects the logic of global jihad and who are very tempted by the narrative of the Islamic State,” said Myriam Benraad.
“We lack the hindsight to know when these disillusioned Taliban began to bail out the ranks of the OEI”, nuance Wassim Nasr. “Especially because the Taliban remain mostly true to themselves. The only thing they compromise on is the protection of the Shiites. It is at this point that the OEI continues to continue its propaganda. ‘”.
The dream of a new caliphate
Despite its powerful insurgent power and ability to carry out spectacular violent actions, the OEI-K is far from reestablishing a territorial base in Afghanistan. “OEI-K operates in a terrorist mode but has never succeeded in reconstituting a territory, which is a real sign”, explained Wassim Nasr.
“They do not control the eastern provinces enough to be able to establish governance there, as we have seen in Iraq or Syria. In addition, the mass killings of civilians make them less popular with the population. Afghan , “confirmed Myriam Benraad.
However, the OEI-K in Afghanistan found fertile ground for its development in the coming years: a country divided by ethnic tensions, an unprecedented humanitarian crisis and a compromised security situation.
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“If the pressure of economic and social problems causes the collapse of the power of the Taliban, then the most radical forces may join the Islamic State in Khorasan. the goals of the organization”, assured Didier Chaudet. “The main security threat for Afghanistan, its neighbors and the international community is not the Taliban or Al-Qaeda but the Islamic State organization in Khorasan”.
To prevent the establishment of a terrorist sanctuary on their doorstep, regional powers are closely monitoring the development of the situation and have sought to maintain proper relations with the Taliban since their return to the helm. In October 2021, Moscow will host a major international conference – almost ten countries will participate, including China, Iran and Pakistan – an initiative intended to integrate the Taliban into the game diplomatically, which is similar to the discussions in Doha with the United States.
In the eyes of the international community, the Taliban appears to be a small evil to prevent the hegemonic will of the OEI-K. “This is a negotiating card for the Taliban”, analyzed Myriam Benraad. “However, there are many doubts about the real ties that unite the jihadist groups with the most radical Taliban borders in favor of the global jihad”, as recalled in the presence of Ayman Al-Zawahiri, the leader of Al-Qaeda, in the heart of the capital of Afghanistan, was killed at the end of July in an American drone strike.