August 26, 2021
Who is ISIS-K, the ISIS affiliate which has claimed responsibility for the complex bombing attack on US servicemen and Afghan civilians at the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan? Reports indicate two bombs were detonated on Thursday, 26th of August 2021. One was detonated at the Abbey Gate of the Kabul airport and another at or near the Baron Hotel, a short distance from Abbey Gate. These explosions claimed the lives of multiple US Marines and soldiers. A large number of Afghan civilians were also wounded along with US servicemen and Taliban guards. So, who is responsible for this attack?
Who is ISIS-K?
ISIS-K (also known as Wilayat Khorasan) is the Islamic State or IS (formerly ISIS) “affiliate” in Pakistan and Afghanistan. It was designated as a Foreign Terrorist Organization by the US Department of State in January 2016. Their intent is to secure Afghanistan as part of the ISIS caliphate across the Khorasan Province to include part of Central Asia, China, Iran and India. It is possibly ISIS’s most lethal regional affiliate and has an expansionist military strategy.
Where has ISIS-K been Active?
ISIS-K has been mostly active in Afghanistan’s Khorasan Province in the Eastern part of the country.
Who is the Leader of ISIS-K?
The current commander of ISIS-K is Shahab al-Muhajir. Previously he was a mid-level leader with the Taliban-linked Haqqani network.
How Large is ISIS-K?
ISIS-K is believed to have approximately 1,500 to 2,000 fighters according to a June 2020 UN report. They have a decentralized command structure and operate in small independent cells.
Has ISIS-K Attacked Civilians?
Yes, the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies has reported almost 100 attacks by ISIS-K on civilians, both in Afghanistan and Pakistan during 2017 and 2018. In 2020 ISIS-K claimed responsibility for an attack on the Kabul University. It was also accused of the 12th May 2020 attack on the Dasht-e-Barchi hospital’s maternity ward in Kabul. This attack killed 24 people including 16 mothers, 2 children and a Midwife. It has also claimed responsibility for an attack on the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul. Several members of ISIS-K were also arrested for plotting to murder Ross Wilson the US Chargé d’Affaires to the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan.
Have US Forces Engaged ISIS-K in Combat?
Yes, both US and NATO forces have launched strikes against ISIS-K in Afghanistan. According to the Center for Strategic and International Studies since January 2017, the US and NATO carried out more than 300 airstrikes against ISIS-K. The first ISIS-K commander, Hafiz Saeed Khan and his Deputy Abdul Rauf Aliza were killed by US airstrikes. Khan was reportedly killed in 2015 and Aliza in 2016. There have been 250 reported clashes between ISIS-K forces and US, Pakistani and Afghan troops.
Is ISIS-K Allied with the Taliban
No, ISIS-K and the Taliban differ on their beliefs and core goals. ISIS-K regularly attacks the Taliban and considers them insufficiently devout to Islam. Reports indicate Taliban militants executed Abu Omar Khorasani, the imprisoned former chief of Islamic State in South Asia, shortly after taking Kabul. Members of the Taliban were killed and wounded by the 26th August 2021 attack on the Kabul airport.
About the Author:
David M. Fortier has been covering firearms, ammunition and optics since 1998. He is a recipient of the Carl Zeiss Outdoor Writer of the Year award and his writing has been recognized by the Civil Rights organization JPFO. In 2007 he covered the war in Iraq as an embedded journalist.