Socialist Worker

What is IS-K and what is its relationship with the Taliban?

Issue No. 2770

IS-K fighters at a training camp in Afghanistan

IS-K fighters at a training camp in Afghanistan (Pic: Flickr/ Prachatai)


The horrific attack on Kabul airport last week was claimed by a local branch of Islamic State called IS-K.

The IS network is a deeply sectarian formation that targets Shia Muslims, as well as other religious minorities and women. But it is best known for its attacks on Western forces and those who work with them.

Its IS-K group—Islamic State Khorasan Province—aims to form an Islamic state across Pakistan, Afghanistan, central Asia, Iran, Russia and parts of India.

Though small, the group recruits in both Afghanistan and Pakistan. It is now attracting some defecting members of the Taliban who are angry at their leaders’ negotiations with the US.

Like its parent group, IS-K has grown out of the bitterness and fragmentation of the region in the wake of Western military occupations.

In societies shattered by years of war, and where millions have fled their homes, IS-K provides an outlet for anger at imperialism. It also provides the stability of a “community” and the prospect of a job as a fighter with the group.

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But it also channels anger against those who are in no way to blame for the West’s atrocities committed in Afghanistan and beyond.

And, as the Taliban moves to form a post-occupation government, IS-K increasingly sees it as an enemy too.

IS-K is widely thought to be linked to the Haqqani network, an offshoot of the Taliban that has overseen Kabul’s security for the past two weeks.

In the 1980s, the network was one of the most favoured US-funded guerrilla groups fighting against the Russian invasion of Afghanistan.

Now, it’s possible that its adherents will be on both sides of a clash that could spread across the country.

In talks with the US prior to its pull out, the Taliban agreed that al-Qaeda and other Islamist fighters would not be allowed to use Afghanistan as a base for attacks on the West.

Taliban leaders are anxious to present a moderate face to the world to gain recognition from other states and governments. It wants access to investment that could help it rebuild the country.

But the more the Taliban pursues this aim, the more IS-K will target it. And that means fighting between the two forces could easily become a fracture line in the future.


Tories want a scapegoat for evacuation failures

The Tories are looking to work out who, if any of them, will take the blame for the chaos in Kabul.

Downing Street and the military are accusing the Foreign Office of negligence in preparations for the evacuation

They are briefing that the effect of foreign secretary Dominic Raab remaining on holiday at the start of the crisis meant up to 1,000 people who would have been evacuated were not.

A conveniently anonymous minister said, “The PM wanted third countries involved and Raab did nothing.

“Boris is exasperated that the Foreign Office has not done what he told them.

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“They also took their people out and that cost us several days. I suspect we could have taken out 800 to 1,000 more people if they had not done that.”

A senior official in the Pakistani government joined in.

They said Raab had shown no interest in talking to them. They claimed that he did not make a single phone call to the Afghan or Pakistani foreign ministers in the six months before the crisis. “He just didn’t care,” the official said. “He thought Afghanistan was yesterday’s war.”

The Foreign Office said Raab had spoken twice to the Pakistani foreign minister, Shah Mahmood Qureshi, on 22 and 27 August. But they could not point to earlier conversations.

The government is letting journalists know that Johnson is “furious” with Raab.

If he goes he will likely be replaced by the odious Michael Gove, last seen raving in an Aberdeen nightclub.


Pointless animal rescue comes before Afghan people

A man and his pets were safely evacuated with the help of the British government.

Paul “Pen” Farthing, founder of the Nowzad animal charity, sent a message to Peter Quentin, a special adviser to defence secretary Ben Wallace.

He demanded he arrange for Farthing and his animals to leave Kabul.

“So here’s the deal buddy. You either get me that fucking Isaf [Afghan military] number and you get me permission to get on to that fucking airfield, or tomorrow morning I’m going to turn on you and the whole fucking country, and everybody else who’s invested in this rescue, is going to know it’s you, you, blocking this fucking move. All right?”

After the prime minister’s office upped the pressure, Farthing left Kabul with his pets on a chartered plane.

He was “assisted through the system at Kabul airport”, according to the Ministry of Defence. The Afghan staff working for his charity, who helped bring the pets to the airport in a convoy of cattle trucks, didn’t get on the plane.

Farthing had said he would not leave the country without them—but he did. At least the pets got out.

Though it is possible a number will now be put down.


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