US officials believe that the Afghan branch of ISIS is behind the attacks that were carried out Thursday outside Kabul airport that killed dozens.
The following is the most important information about this organization, which is known in Afghanistan as the “Khorasan Province”, IS-K or ISIS-K.
ISIS-K was named after an old name that was given to the region, and it first appeared in eastern Afghanistan in late 2014 and quickly became famous thanks to its horrific operations.
In a 2015 video, the then group’s leader, Hafiz Saeed Khan, and other top commanders pledged their allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, then-ISIS’s leader and declared the establishment of a new ISIS territory in Afghanistan.
Some experts in extremist movements say that ISIS-K was established by extremist elements of the “Pakistan Taliban” who fled to Afghanistan when the Pakistani security forces launched a campaign against them.
From the beginning, the extremist organization, commonly known as ISIS, entered into confrontations with the Taliban movement in Afghanistan to control key areas on the border with Pakistan linked to the smuggling of drugs and other goods.
At the same time, the organization also carried out a series of suicide bombings in Kabul and other cities against the government and foreign military targets, apparently in an attempt to consolidate its image as a more violent and extremist movement.
Its attacks ranged from gruesome executions of village dignitaries, killing of Red Cross employees, to suicide attacks among crowds, including carrying out a series of bloody suicide attacks against targets linked to the Hazara minority.
After the organization’s presence was initially limited to a certain number of areas on the border with Pakistan, it established a second major front in the northern provinces. The West Point Counterterrorism Center said ISIS-K includes Pakistanis from other extremist groups, Uzbek extremists, as well as Afghans.
In April 2017, a US cargo plane dropped a 20,000-pound bomb, known as the “mother of all bombs,” on a cave complex linked to ISIS-K in eastern Afghanistan. This was the largest conventional (non-nuclear) bomb in the US arsenal.
As of 2017, the US military estimated that it had killed 75% of the ISIS affiliate’s fighters, including some of its top leaders.
ISIS-K has fought both the Western-backed Afghan government and the Taliban, but the exact operational link with the main ISIS organization in Iraq and Syria remains uncertain.
US intelligence officials believe the movement is exploiting the turmoil that led to the collapse of the Western-backed government this month to expand its base and intensify recruitment among disaffected Taliban elements.
Among the group’s recent targets are Sufi mosques, electricity towers, fuel trucks and bus passengers from Hazaras in Kabul. In addition, US officials believe the group is responsible for an attack on a girls’ school primarily belonging to the Hazara minority.