Since civilians and the military began to withdraw from Afghanistan after the Taliban seized power just under two weeks ago, the name of another terrorist group has returned to the debate: the state Islamic (IS) Khorasan, sort of Afghan branch and Pakistani ISIS.
Western military sources have announced suspicion that the two explosions at Kabul airport on Thursday morning (26), still with uncertain details and authorship, may have been orchestrated by ISIS Khorasan.
Prior to the explosion, already fearing possible attacks during the evacuation of people from Kabul, United States President Joe Biden said there was an “acute and growing risk” of an attack in Kabul. airport by the group.
The rise of the Islamic State of Khorasan dates back to 2014, when the core of ISIS declared a caliphate, a type of Islamic political regime that ended more than a century ago in Iraq and Syria. Soon after, ex-Taliban combatants in Pakistan joined a group of Afghans to form a regional branch of the Islamic State, giving rise to the Khorasan cell.
The group was quickly recognized by ISIS’s central command, pledged allegiance to terrorist leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi – who died in 2019 – and settled in northeastern Afghan provinces such as Kunar, Nangarhar and Nuristan. United Nations monitoring indicates that they are also present in Kabul, the capital.
The latest estimates, as of mid-July 2020, indicate the group has up to 500 active fighters. During its seven years of existence, ISIS Khorasan has claimed responsibility for a long list of terrorist attacks in Afghanistan and Pakistan, such as an attack on Shia civilians that left 91 people dead at a wedding in 2019.
Authorities suspect the group was also responsible for opening fire at a maternity hospital in Kabul in May 2020, killing 25 people, including 16 mothers and newborns.
Not only because it was born of fighters who left the Taliban, but also because it differs in details of religion and strategy, ISIS Khorasan is considered a rival to the Taliban – although both adopt a radical version of Sharia, Islamic law. The differences have already sparked conflicts and disputes over the land.
The group opposed the landmark peace deal signed by the Taliban and the United States in February 2020, when pledges were made by both sides.