ISIS in Afghanistan photo


March, 2014 “In March 2014, nine members of al-Qa`ida, who were active with the group in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region, defected to [ISIS]. The defections took place months before the Islamic State formally announced its Caliphate and at [received little attention initially] despite one of them being the brother of famed jihadi ideologue Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi…[B]ut in hindsight they were an early sign of broader developments affecting Afghanistan’s and Pakistan’s militant landscapes.”

Don Rassler,

CTC Sentinel

9/26 Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan’s (IMU) emir, Usman Ghazi, issued a statement announcing that the IMU was now siding with the Islamic State (but stopped short of an formal declaration of allegiance).

Damon Mehl, CTC Sentinel

“Dawn” of Pakistan

11/19 Abdul Rahim Muslim Dost, “who was detained at Guantanamo for three years, has sworn allegiance to Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al Baghdadi,” and…[has been] “named the head of the Islamic State’s presence in the ‘Khorasan,’ an area that covers much of Central and South Asia, including Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran.”  Reporting by Thomas Joscelyn (an extensive discussion of Dost’s background is included in this piece).

Weekly Standard
1/10 Hafiz Khan Saeed, former Taliban commander in Orakazi, Pakistan, appointed leader of Islamic State in Khorasan (ISK). With other ex-Taliban commanders, Saeed appears in video pledging allegience to al-Bagdadi.  NB:  Rassler identifies several “expanded networks” of fighters who coalesce around Saeed’s initial cell Id., Don Rassler, CTC Sentinel
Early January “[Mulla Raouf] Khadem set up an IS cell in his native Kajaki district of Helmand province in early January and recruited up to a few hundred fighters from Kajaki and adjacent districts such as Musa Qala, Nawzad and Baghran, as well as the tribal areas of Pakistan.”

Borhan Osman, Afghanistan Analysts Network
1/15 ISIS declares a wilayat in the Khorasan (Afghanistan-Pakistan Region)–%20A%20Wargame%20FINAL.pdf

ISW “ISIS’ Global Strategy”
1/17 Mullah Raouf Khadim is reportedly leading IS fighters “in Afghanistan’s southern province of Helmand.”  Reporting by Thomas Joscelyn, citing earlier articles in WSJ and AP.  Khadim’s Guantanamo and previous Taliban background profiled;  current Taliban efforts to thwart ISIS expansion discussed. Long War Journal


1/26 In a video address, IS spokesman states, “…we bring the mujahidin the good news of the Islamic State’s expansion to Khurasan.  Indeed, the mujahidin from amongths the soldiers of the Khilafah have fulfilled the conditions…for the declaration of Wilayat Khurasan.”  The address calls for all “muwahhidin in Khurasan to join the Khilafah “and abandon disunity and factionalism,” and calls for obedience dto “the Wali, Hafidh Said Khan [former Taliban Commander], and his deputy [Mullah Abdul Rauf Kaddim].

Trans. Pieter van Ostaeyen.
2/9 Mullah Abdul Rauf Kaddim, presumed commander of ISIS, killed in Helmand province “during a Military operation”

“…killed in a U.S. drone strike in southern Afghanistan shortly after IS announced ISK’s formation.”

“The missile attack killed Mullah Abdul Rauf Khadim along with his son-in-law and three others in their car as they drove through Kajaki district in the volatile southern province of Helmand, Afghan officials said.”

[Khadem’s] killing may increase the ill-will between the nascent IS cell in Afghanistan and Taleban, who are probably relieved at his death more than anyone else and could be suspected by IS members as having cooperated somehow with his killers.

Read more:

Afghan War News

Don Rassler,

CTC Sentinel


Borhan Osman, Afghanistan Analysts Network

3/15 Long War Journal map depicts ISIS positions and activities in Afghanistan as of March, 2015

3/19 Don Rassler describes the current situation of ISK (“Islamic State of Khorasan”) in Afghanistan as of March, 2015:

“ISK…claims a presence in Afghanistan—even if small and somewhat developmental…a ‘toehold’ for the group in the country.”  Leadership consists of a handful…” not all with operational experience and some who never fit in with or were purged from the Taliban.  Rassler notes “there is limited information about ISK’s presence in other parts of Afghanistan,” but does provide some additional sketchy details.

Don Rassler,

CTC Sentinel

3/30 Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, in a statement issued from northern Afghanistan, “says it is pledging allegiance” to ISIS.  “Sadulla Urgenji” states IMU no longer recognizes Taliban leader Mullah Omar, and instead “recogniz[es] the authority of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi,” leader of ISIS

Radio Free Europe/ Radio Liberty


4/18 Suicide bomber kills 35 in Jalalabad, an attack attributed to Islamic State by Afghan President Ashraf Ghani.

“The attack in Jalalabad, the capital of eastern Nangarhar province, targeted a crowd of soldiers and civilians gathered outside the bank to receive their monthly salaries. The blast killed at least 35 people and wounded 125, said Ahmad Zia Abdulzai, a spokesman for the provincial governor.”

Military Times
5/23 U.S. General John Campbell states that IS is recruiting in Afghanistan but “not yet operational.”

The Guardian
7/2 The Afghan National Directorate of Security (NDS) forms a Special Force to combat Islamic State of Daesh in Afghanistan.

Khaama Press
7/7 Direct peace talks between Taliban and Afghan government in Murree, Pakistan

ISW:  “Akhtar Mansour reportedly bypassed… Taliban political office in Doha…in his decision to send representatives to Murree.”

ISW Backgrounder, “The Death of Mullah Omar and the Rise of ISIS in Afghanistan.” Authors:  Hannah Byrne, John Krzyzaniak, Qasim Khan

August  17, 2015 (hereinafter, “ISW 8/17”)

ISW 8/17
7/19 Afghan President Ghani, meeting with U.S. generals Dempsey and Campbell, proposes to make Afghanistan a “regional counter-terrorism hub” for Central Asia and the Middle East. ISW 8/17
7/20 General John Campbell asserts that ISIS has become “operationally emergent in Afghanistan.” ISW 8/17
7/29 Afghan government announces death of former Taliban leader Mullah Omar in a statement issued by Afghan president Ashraf Ghani.

7/30 Taliban confirm death of Mullah Omar

7/30 Taliban Shura (i.e., an Islamic consultative council)  meets near Quetta, Pakistan and selects Akhtar Mansour “as new leader of the Taliban and Emir al-Mu’minin.”



7/30 Same shura appoints Sirajuddin Haqqani and Maulavi Haibatullah Akhumzada, members of Hakkani Network (HQN),  as Mansour’s deputies. ISW 8/17
7/31 Shura grants Sirajuddin Haqqani title of “operational commander.”  ISW:  “Sirajuddin is…hardline.”  The Haqqani Network  “operates closely with Pakistan’s Inter-Service Intelligence (ISI)” and attacks government and civilians itself, “but branding them under the Taliban imprimatur.” ISW 8/17
7/31 Reports emerge that Jalaluddin Haqqani died over a year ago.  ISW:  “…indicating that the Haqqani network is also preparing to absorb overt leadership changes…concurrent with leadership shifts within the Taliban.” ISW 8/17
8/2 “audio statement attributed to Mansour” reiterates jihad and condemns reports of peace talks with Taliban as “enemy propaganda” ISW 8/17
8/3 Governer of Kunduz provnce reports fighters loyal to Mansour “arrested 60 rogue fighers who subsequently escaped to join the ISIS movement in Afghanistan.” ISW 8/17
8/3 Jihadist group Baitullah Mehsud Caravan, based in Waziristan, pledges allegiance to ISIS. ISW 8/17
8/5 ISIS Wilayat Khorasan released audio attacking “puppet” Afghan government.

ISW:  “Thie is the first time ISIS has directly threatened ANSF.”

ISW 8/17
8/5 ISW:  ISIS argues in its English-language magazine “Dabiq” that “pledges to Mullah Omar had been invalidated once…al-Baghdadi became the ‘caliph.’” ISW 8/17
8/5 Unity shura of 200 Taliban convenes to resolve leadership dispute created by “the contested shura council decision on July 30.” ISW 8/17
8/6 Pakistan cleric Maulana Sami Darul Haq, known as “Father of the Taliban,” offers to mediate shura. ISW 8/17
8/6 Video released by IMU “shows IMU leader [Usman Ghazi] and his followers” taking oath of allegiance to al-Bagdadi.”  “Ghazi goes on to say…that IMU fighters should henceforth be described as IS fighters from the Khorasan region.”

The video: [credit to RFERL website]:

Sharphizan:  “The video…appears to show scenes from Afghanistan…”

RFERL, reporting by Merhat Sharphizan
8/7 Taliban launches attacks on Kabul “in the deadliest assault on the capital since 2011.”  ISW:  These and related attacks are all “signature HQN attacks.”

ISW:  “The intensity of the attacks and the selectivity of the targets” intend to signal that the jihad against the government and NATO will continue

ISW 8/17
8/10 “Fighters for the Islamic State have revealed a new, brutal method of executing their enemies in a video from an unknown location in Afghanistan. In the video, Isis militants are seen burying several explosives before leading a group of men towards the bombs.”

Taliban spokesmen condemn the video and disclaim responsibility.

International Business


Al Arabiya News

8/11 “Russian and India Report” speculates that the rise of ISIS in Afghanistan may be one driver of the negotiations push between the Afghan government and Taliban.  Reporting by Nikolai Pakhomov

Russia and India Report
8/13 A spokesman for Resolute Support states that ISIS is “gaining a foothold” in Afghanistan and conducting limited military operations, primarily against the Taliban.  “Daesh” are “operationally emergent,” Brig. Gen. Wilson Shoffner said, elaborating that “ “we do not see them having the ability to coordinate operations in more than one part of the country at a time.”

Military Times
8/17 ISW:  “Since the [8/5] meeting convened, Akhtar Mansour has garnered both religious and political support that could tip the balance in his favor” [citing pledges of allegiance to Mansour by Maula Sami Darul Haq and “the new head of the Taliban’s political office in Quatar, Sher Abbas Stankzai, as well as by the leader of al-Qaeda, Ayman al-Zawahiri.

ISW:  “These statements may have been individual expressions of loyalty, but they could also be orchestrated by Pakistan’s ISI in support of its favored candidate.”

ISW 8/17
8/28 Taliban claims that forces under ISIS brand in Afghanistan are mainly from Pakistan, “with a few young Afghans,” and only operate in “one or two districts of Nangarhar.”

Khaama Press


ISW:  “ISIS’ Wilayat Khorasan…attacked a UNICEF convoy, Afghan security forces and Afghan Taliban in eastern Afghanistan…” ISW


9/26 ISIS is “making inroads” and recruiting followers in 25 of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces, according to a U.N. report.

Al Arabiya


ISW:  “Wilayat Khorasan launched coordinated attacks on multiple Afghan secudrity positions in Nangarhar, eastern Afghanistan, following the Afghan government’s attempt to expel  ISIS from the area.” ISW


9/28 Taliban assault and occupation of Kunduz in northern Afghanistan Reporting by Feroz Sultani and Folad Hamdard

9/30 ISW Regional Activity report states “ISIS has established robust ground campaigns in…Afghanistan.”  Author:  Harleen Gambhir ISW


10/13 ISIS “has made major inroads in turf battles against Taliban commanders, particularly in places in Nangahar Province like the Maamand Valley.”  Reporting by Mujib Mashal.


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