Monday, September 20, 2021

Afghanistan News: Kabul Terrorised After Deadly Bomb Blast But Who Are ISIS-K?

ISIS-K claims responsibility for the act. President Biden announces revenge against the involved terror group, in an almost similar way as President Bush in 2001.


Highlights:

  • More than 95 Afghan civilians reported to be killed in the multiple blasts around airport in Kabul.
  • More than a dozen U.S. troops killed, President Biden responds with announcement of revenge.
  • Twin suicide bombs on the airport crowded with people trying to flee nation, soon followed by third blast. Sources report more than three suicide bomb blasts in the region.
  • Evacuation efforts of U.S. and other nations suffer a setback due to terror explosion in the nation.

Afghanistan news, Kabul: The fears of the world came true as the news of horrifying suicide bomb blast attack at and near the Hamid Karzai airport in Kabul killed more than 100 Afghan people, including more than a dozen American soldiers on Thursday.

Just a few hours after the twin blast at the crowded gates of Kabul airport, AFP news reported another third blast. Unnamed sources have reported that there have been multiple blasts consecutively at the airport full of people attempting to flee the country.

The terror attack not only rocked the evacuation efforts of the United States and other nations but also raised serious questions about the state of Afghanistan in the near future and the security of the world as a consequence, as this incident proved beyond doubt the extent to which terror groups are rooted in the country.

According to Afghanistan Health officials and a Taliban spokesperson, at least 90 Afghan civilians were killed in the twin bomb blasts. The dead included women and children who had gathered at the airport gate to try and leave the country. A number of Taliban guards were also among the dead. The U.S. has said at least 13 of its soldiers were also killed in the terror attack(1).

The Taliban has, however, pitted the blame on the U.S., saying that the terror attack had taken place in an area “controlled by US forces”.

A little-known terror group, the Islamic State, known as Islamic State Khorasan (ISIS-K), has claimed responsibility for the attack. Interestingly ISIS-K is opposed to both the U.S. and the Taliban. It is also touted to be amongst the most extreme and violent of all the jihadist militant groups currently holed up in Afghanistan.

News is coming from Washington about America’s vow to retaliate and “hunt down” the terrorists involved in the Kabul airport attack in Afghanistan. In a televised address, U.S. President Joe Biden said: “We will hunt you down and make you pay.”

So what does the news of the Kabul airport attack mean for the Taliban, Afghanistan, and the role of America and indeed the NATO in Afghanistan going forward? 

Who is the ISIS-K?

Islamic State Khorasan or ISIS-K comes from an old term that identifies a region that now lies in North-Eastern Iran, Southern Turkmenistan, and Northern Afghanistan. This terrorist group first emerged in Eastern Afghanistan in late 2014 and was quick to develop a reputation of being an extremely brutal terrorist organization.

Believed to be an offshoot of the original ISIS, this terror group was reportedly founded by extreme hard-line elements within the Pakistani Taliban who fled into Afghanistan after a crackdown by Pakistan security forces(2).

Conversely, there are experts who claim that ISIS-K was set up in Jan 2015 at the height of ISIS’s power in Iraq and Syria prior to it declaring the caliphate. The terror organization is reported to recruit terrorists from mong jihadists in both Afghan and Pakistani– particularly disgruntled members of the Afghan Taliban who believe their group is not extreme enough(3). The group also reportedly has Pakistanis from other militant groups and Uzbek terrorists, apart from Afghans.

Security experts define ISIS-K to be the most extreme and violent of all the jihadist militant groups currently operating from and in Afghanistan. According to reports quoting U.S. intelligence officials, members of the ISIS-K includes some veteran jihadists from Syria and other foreign terrorist fighters as well.

ISIS-K was reportedly rooted in the provinces of Nangahar and Kunar in Afghanistan and has formed sleeper cells in Kabul, believed to be behind the Kabul airport attack of Thursday (Aug 26). The group has also carried out extreme violent terrorist attacks in other parts of Afghanistan as well since 2016.

The latest intelligence report from the U.S. suggests that the terrorist group stepped up its recruitment in Afghanistan following the instability in the country since the news of the collapse of the Western-backed government earlier in August.

ISIS-K is behind some of the most violent terror attacks of recent times including killing girls students, attacking hospitals, and even a maternity ward where the terrorists shot dead pregnant women and nurses(3).

ISIS-K and the Taliban Feud

ISIS-K and the Taliban are not related directly but via a third terror group called the Haqqani network(3) which is a close ally of the Talibani forces in Afghanistan.

It is argued that the ISIS-K and the Taliban are sworn enemies as they have differences. The ISIS-K accuse the Taliban of abandoning Jihad and the battlefield and for choosing a negotiated peace settlement with the U.S. in Doha, Qatar, last year. In fact, after the Kabul airport attack, the Taliban spokesperson directly blamed the ISIS-K for the terror act.

The Taliban considers this group to now be a major security challenge for the forthcoming Taliban government(3).

According to regional security experts, the close relationship between ISIS-K and the Haqqani network was found in a number of major terror attacks between 2019 and 2021 in which the network worked closely with the ISIS-K, along with other Pakistan-based terror groups.

It is worth mentioning at this stage that the Haqqani networks are now in charge of security in Kabul with its leader Khalil Haqqani at the helm, who incidentally carries a reward of $5million on his head.

The ISIS-K is a part of the wider global ISIS network that aims to conduct terror attacks on Western, international and humanitarian targets wherever they can reach them(3).

President Biden swores revenge

“Know this….we will not forgive. We will not forget. We will hunt you down and make you pay” – said Biden in a televised address speaking about the terror attack at the Kabul airport on Thursday(4)

ALSO READ: Biden’s speech, like the U.S. mission in Afghanistan, was a disaster.

Shortly after the horrific news from Afghanistan reached Washington, Biden swore to target the assets, leadership, and facilities of ISIS-K.

“We will respond with force and precision, at our time, at the place we choose, and at the moment of our choosing,” he said.

“We will respond with force and precision at our time, at the place we choose and the moment of our choosing,” Biden said. “Here’s what you need to know: These ISIS terrorists will not win” (5).

The tone and words of Biden are eerily similar to what George Bush had said when America invaded Afghanistan in 2001 after the 9/11 attacks in search of Osama bin Laden.

Just a day after the 9/11 terror attacks on the Twin Towers, Bush told reports: “Make no mistake, the United States will hunt down and punish those responsible for these cowardly attacks”(7)

“And in every cave, in every dark corner of that country, we will hunt down the killers and bring them to justice,” Bush had said Parkside Hall in California on April 30, 2002 (6)

While the terror attacks at the Kabul airport on Thursday (August 26) is no comparison to that of the 9/11 attacks on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon building, the similarity in tone and words between Biden and Bush raises questions about the possible future action of the U.S. President Biden has asked the U.S. military to provide him with options to “strike back” at the terrorists who were behind the Kabul airport bomb blasts.

Hence, military action in Afghanistan has emerged as a real possibility. Will it be as Bush had done it – with boots on the ground, or will it be air-borne in nature? Will the U.S. use its bases still operational in the nations adjoining Afghanistan to launch attacks on specific targets inside Afghanistan, and will the Taliban comply with it – are some of the other questions.

After this news, questions are also afloat about the future of Afghanistan and the ability of the Taliban to fulfill its promise of not allowing Afghan soil as a terror haven. More importantly, how will the Taliban be able to provide security to its own fighters and the ordinary Afghans from the threat of future terror attacks by ISIS-K and other terrorist groups based in the country.

This also assumes importance since the security of the country is currently at the hands of the Haqqani network, which in turn is believed to be a close collaborator of ISIS-K.

The future of Afghanistan once again appears bleak as the Americans and other Western countries and their security forces evacuate the country.

Debdutta Ghosh
Debdutta Ghosh is a Journalist who has been associated with leading media firms of India like Asian Age, Indian Express and Hindustan Times as well as television channels such as Zee News/Business and ABP News as a reporter for more than 20 years. With a Post-Graduation Diploma in Mass Communication & a Bachelor Degree in Science, his expertise as content expert lies in the areas of Business News Analysis, PR, and Marketing Communication.

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