Former Security Forces Join ISKP, but Taliban Ignores the Threats

The Wall Street Journal recently reported that some highly-trained intelligence service and elite military units affiliated with the former Afghan government had turned to the Islamic State of Khurasan Province (ISKP) to escape poverty and the Taliban. The militants reportedly assist the group in intelligence gathering and war tactics. However, the Taliban denies the allegations, saying that the ISKP known in Afghanistan is different from Syria and Iraq. Thus, according to Taliban officials, the ISKP does not pose a threat to the country’s national security.

According to the report, the Khorasan branch of ISIS is recruiting former members of the country’s security and intelligence forces who are facing economic difficulties. The media has obtained evidence that an Afghan National Army officer who was a former commander of the weapons and ammunition depot in Gardez, in the center of Paktia province, has joined the ISKP. The media also claimed that he was killed in a clash with Taliban forces last week. A former military official also told the Wall Street Journal that he knew several other soldiers who were all members of the former government’s intelligence and military and had now joined ISKP. The Wall Street Journal quoted the men as having joined the group after their homes were searched by the Taliban.

Meanwhile, a resident of Kabul’s Qarabagh district told the Wall Street Journal that his cousin was a member of former Afghanistan’s special forces unit, adding that he had been disappeared in September this year. He confirmed that his cousin is now a member of the ISKP. The resident of Kabul added that four other members of the national army, with whom he already knew, had enrolled in the ISIS group in recent weeks.

Earlier, some political figures had said that the current situation may lead people to join ISIS. Mohammad Mohaqiq, the leader of the Islamic People’s Unity Party of Afghanistan, said about a week ago that Taliban pressure from within and efforts by neighbors and regional powers to isolate the “National Resistance Front” had put the people between choosing “the Taliban and the ISKP”. The Wall Street Journal also quoted former national security director Rahmatullah Nabil as saying, “In some areas, the ISKP has become very attractive to former members of the Afghan security and defense forces who have remained in Afghanistan. If there was a resistance, they would have joined it.”

However, after the fall of the previous government, Ahmad Massoud formed the “National Resistance Front” in Panjshir. The front continued to resist in the valley of Panjshir for some time but was eventually defeated by Taliban forces. After capturing Panjshir, the Taliban declared the end of the war and thus, took control of Afghanistan. There are now reports that the National Resistance Front, led by Ahmad Massoud, is being rebuilt and that Massoud is traveling to countries in the region for help.

However, the recruitment of former soldiers by the ISKP has raised some concerns for citizens; Because the important point in recruiting ex-combatants is that they have vital expertise in gathering intelligence and tactics of war, and this may give the group an upper hand. The Wall Street Journal also analyzed that this potentially strengthens the group’s ability.

Meanwhile, officials in the Taliban-led government denied that former soldiers have joined the ISKP and do not consider the group a threat. Bilal Karimi, a Taliban spokesman, told Hasht-e Subh that this group is invisible in Afghanistan and has no physical existence. Karimi points out that the ISKP is not a threat in Afghanistan; Because, according to him, this group has neither a military base nor power.

Karimi assured that wherever the ISKP group moves, it will be suppressed. He added that Taliban forces had acted promptly to dismantle the ISKP-affiliates. But he warns that if the group tends to establish a base for itself in Afghanistan, Taliban forces will hunt down the group fighters and destroy them. The Taliban-led government denies the existence of ISIS in Afghanistan, which has carried out at least three major attacks on civilians in Kabul, Kandahar, and Kunduz since August 15. More than 200 people were killed and more than 300 were injured in the attacks. The victims of these attacks were mainly Hazaras.

Karimi, on the other hand, denies that the former soldiers joined the ISKP, insisting that this information is incorrect.

Reports of former troops turning to the ISKP have been circulating as they were to be recruited by the Taliban in the new army. Zabihullah Mujahid had said at the beginning of the Taliban’s takeover of Kabul that all the military cadres of the previous government would be recruited within the new regime. This promise has not been fulfilled so far. Bilal Karimi, however, says that all the military cadres in the country who have a good track record will be recruited in the new government. However, he states that this requires a transparent mechanism, stressing that only those soldiers who adhere to national and religious values will be recruited into the army.

It should be noted that the Khorasan branch of ISIS is also trying to expand its influence in some provinces. Reports from some districts in the north and south of the country indicate that the group has already raised its black flag.

[box type=”info” align=”alignleft” class=”” width=””]Abdul Ahmad Hussaini, Hasht-e Subh Persian[/box]