Who are ISIS-K and where are they based?

ISIS-K/IS-K are a regional affiliate of the notorious Islamic State terrorist group

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Who are ISIS-K?

ISIS-K are a regional affiliate of the notorious Islamic State (IS) terrorist group, they are one of the most violent of all the militant jihadist groups in Afghanistan.

Set up in early 2015 before IS’s caliphate was routed by coalition forces, many fighters joined the organisation from the Taliban because pre-existing organisations were not deemed savage or extreme enough.

The historical region of ‘Khorasan’ covers part of modern-day Pakistan and Afghanistan, hence the ‘K’ designation, commonly referred to in the media as ISIS-K or IS-K. They formed their own Pakistan section in mid-2019.

Where are ISIS-K based?

They are based close to people and drug smuggling routes in and out of Pakistan, in the east near Nangarhar province. Whilst most of their activity has taken place in this area and Kabul – most recently a suicide bombing at the airport – they have carried out actions in several other provinces.

Whilst the Taliban have interests mainly internally to Afghanistan, IS-K are part of the global Islamic State terror network that seeks to target Western elements including humanitarian targets.

They stand accused of targeting hospitals and schools, politicians in Afghanistan, NATO forces and international organisations.

How many people are members of ISIS-K?

Clashes with the Taliban, US and Afghan forces have somewhat weakened their numbers, but the organisation is believed to have numbered around 2,500 people at their height.

Are ISIS-K friends with the Taliban?

IS-K are not directly connected with the Taliban but they are connected via a third party, the Haqqani network. The leader of this network now has responsibility for security in Kabul, Khalil Haqqani, he has a bounty of nearly £4m on his head.

IS-K think the Taliban have abandoned Jihad in favour of a ‘negotiated peace’ the Taliban have been accused of achieving via discussions in Qatar, not on the battlefield. IS-K present a major challenge for the Taliban which may lead to the unusual sight of increased operation between the United States and the Taliban