IS in Afghanistan: How successful has the group been?

Image of an IS video showing the head of IS Khorasan branch Hafiz Saeed Khan (an ex Pakistani Taliban commander), who was killed in a US air strike in Afghanistan’s Nangarhar province in July 2016.IS’s Afghanistan chief Hafiz Saeed Khan was killed in a US air strike in July last year

Amid a rise in attacks in Afghanistan attributed to the so-called Islamic State (IS), the BBC’s Dawood Azami examines what kind of threat the militant group poses in the conflict-hit nation and the wider region.

How much territory has IS captured?

IS announced the establishment of its Khorasan branch – an old name for Afghanistan and surrounding areas – in January 2015. It was the first time that IS had officially spread outside the Arab world.

Within a few weeks, the group appeared in at least five Afghan provinces, including Helmand, Zabul, Farah, Logar and Nangarhar, trying to establish pockets of territory from which to expand.

It was the first major militant group to directly challenge the Afghan Taliban’s dominance over the local insurgency. Its first aim was to drive Afghan Taliban fighters out of the area and it also hoped to evict Taliban ally al-Qaeda from the Afghanistan-Pakistan region, or absorb its fighters.

Yet despite efforts to energise battle-weary militants, IS struggled to build a wide political base and the indigenous support it expected in Afghanistan. Instead, it made enemies of almost everyone, including the Afghan Taliban.

Afghan mourners carry the coffin of one of the six Afghan employees of the Red Cross in Mazar-i-Sharif on February 9, 2017

Afghan security forces patrol during ongoing clashes between security forces and Islamic State (IS) militants in Kot District in eastern Nangarhar province on July 26, 2016.

Suspected Islamic State (IS) and Taliban militants are brought before media during a press conference in Jalalabad on December 6, 2016.

Pakistani people light candles for the victims of a suicide bomb attack that targeted the shrine of Sufi Muslim saint Lal Shahbaz Qalandar, in Karachi, Pakistan, 17 February 201

 

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