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Afghanistan, Pakistan: Difficult Mission for ISIS | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Taliban fighters pose with weapons in an undisclosed location in Afghanistan’s Nangarhar province. Reuters

Islamabad-The U.S. airstrike that killed ISIS’ leader in Afghanistan and Pakistan with a drone has dealt a major blow to the terrorist organization that seeks to expand in the two countries controlled by Taliban.

ISIS has lured hundreds and maybe thousands of militants in Afghanistan and Pakistan to gain their allegiance, and captured a small area in Nangarhar province, where its leader was killed on July 26, Washington has announced. However, security officials and analysts see that ISIS’ influence and expansion in these two countries is still weak.

A Pakistani police official, who has asked to remain anonymous, said that concerns over the presence of ISIS has increased in Afghanistan and Pakistan following the organization’s control of large areas in Iraq and Syria in 2014 and after the spread of its ideology worldwide. Over the past months, these concerns gained momentum after Khorasan Wilaya adopted two bloody bombings in Kabul and Quetta that killed more than 70 people each.

A U.N. report issued in July said that 1,601 civilian were killed and 3,565 others were wounded over the past six months, as part of Taliban’s continuous efforts aiming at toppling Kabul’s government since the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in 2001.

However, Pakistani officials and analysts raised doubts around ISIS’ adoption of Quetta’s bombing and have considered that the most credible claim of responsibility concerning the suicide attack was Taliban’s announcement.

Michael Kugelman, senior associate for South and Southeast Asia at the Woodrow Wilson Center, considered that ISIS is struggling to defend the Caliphate state, which witnesses regression in Syria and Iraq. Therefore, he added, the organization chose to adopt terrorist attacks that it didn’t carry out.

Two years ago, ISIS was widespread and attracted extremist members who sought to spread violence by destroying secular institutions and impose their extremist concept about Islam. Upon a conflict with Taliban, Jamaat-ul-Ahrar (“Assembly of the Free”) pledged allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in 2014. However, after few months, it rejoined Taliban and claimed responsibility for Quetta’s attack on August 8.

When it adopted the bombing of Quetta, ISIS issued statements in Arabic, English, and Urdu (language used in Pakistan) to ensure its diffusion among people. Moreover, Khorasan Wilaya enjoys special significance in ISIS thoughts because it is a historical region that has included areas from Iran, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, and according to a religious prediction, Muslims’ army will emerge from it to control the Middle East and Jerusalem.

Although ISIS succeeded in recruiting thousands of militants from across the world, the situation in Afghanistan and Pakistan is different because both countries comprise myriads of extremist factions. In other words, unlike in Europe, ISIS is not the only option in Afghanistan and Pakistan for members seeking to implement their extremist thoughts and join Jihadist groups.