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Explained: ISIS - K, the culprits behind Afghanistan Blasts

by Akanksha Thakur

Smoke rises after the blast outside the airport: Business Standard

Governments across the Globe had warned their citizens of potential threats at and around the Kabul International Airport. This proved to be true when two high-intensity blasts occurred on Thursday evening (18:00 local time, Kabul) at Abbey Gate and Baron Hotel in the Airport's vicinity. These were then followed by multiple blasts over the night at different locations.

The Pentagon, on Thursday, confirmed that the culprit behind these deadly blasts was ISIS-K, with no evidence of Taliban’s involvement.

An Afghan soldier surveys a former ISIS-K jail in Nangarhar province, eastern Afghanistan

What is ISIS-K?

ISIS-K stands for ISIS - Khorasan. It is a faction of the central ISIS, situated presently in the Khorasan Province which historically encompasses areas of Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Modern Day Iran. It was founded in 2015 in order to create the Islamic State’s stronghold in the Central Asian region. It originated in Pakistan when Pakistani national Hafiz Saeed Khan, along with many Tehreek-e-Taliban fighters was chosen to spearhead IS-K province as its first emir, a report by the Center for Strategic and International Studies. According to the CSIS report, ISIS-K is “has been responsible for nearly 100 attacks against civilians in Afghanistan and Pakistan, as well as roughly 250 clashes with the U.S., Afghan, and Pakistani security forces since January 2017.” The recent Kabul Blasts have been ISIS-K’s first-ever direct attack on the U.S. Forces.

What does ISIS-K want?

Just like its parent organisation, ISIS-K aims to establish Islamic Caliphate and impose Sharia Law. However, analysts believe it to be crueler and more extremist when it comes to atrocities conducted by the terrorist faction. Earlier in May 2021, ISIS-K claimed to bomb a Kabul School targeting the Hazra Community of the Shia sect which killed around 100 children.

The Islamic State faction in Afghanistan has rejected the Taliban's takeover of Kabul. They believe that the Taliban’s vision is not as hardline as it should be to establish an Islamic Law in the country. ISIS-K and the Taliban are notorious for clashing with each other in the past. Most of their conflicts have taken place in Eastern Afghanistan. According to another CSIS report, ISIS-K was at its peak in 2016 with 3,000-4,000 militants, which significantly came down to 600-800 in 2018. Despite this fact, the militant group aims to plan terrorist attacks of heavy intensity on Central Asian soil.

Their role in recent blasts

Thursday blasts conducted by ISIS-K killed around 170 people including 13 US Soldiers. The Pentagon stated that there was only one suicide bombing amongst multiple blasts which happened. The Islamic State (IS) has claimed responsibility for the attack outside the Kabul airport. It also released a picture of a suicide bomber that struck the crowded gates of Kabul airport. The Pentagon further said there lies “credible threats” for the evacuation programmes in the future.

Retaliation by the US Forces and the future ahead

The US Forces in the wee hours of the morning conducted an Air Strike on the militant group, pulling down one of its leaders. The Strike was conducted in eastern Afghanistan. The US believes that the leader who was killed in the strike was a master-planner behind the Kabul bombings. According to US reports, the Kabul attacks have been one of the deadliest attacks on American Soldiers in Afghanistan since 2011.

Analysts await a gloomy future of more clashes between ISIS-K and the Taliban as their interests do not align in a tandem. The US forces under President Biden’s leadership have already vowed to avenge the killings of American Soldiers. The same was manifested in the form of Air Strike, however, there could be more specific crackdowns anticipated by the US.

About the Author

Akanksha Thakur is a Master’s graduate in German Studies from Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. She is passionate about Geopolitical analysis and International development.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Ytharth.

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