The advance to Khorasan: ISIS and its conquest of South Asia

The Islamic State comes into the news every now and then, mostly for some brutal act it commits on people in the territory they now control. The campaign against the ISIS while not very aggressive, seems to be bearing fruit with Iraqi and Kurdish forces managing to regain territory from ISIS. We see a similar number of reports where the ISIS has taken new ground, which is rather sobering.

What is more sobering, however, is the news that the ISIS is branching out in a lot of other places than the current areas they hold. Afghanistan, Pakistan and Libya seem to have new problems with ISIS. A statement released by the spokesperson for ISIS had declared the ISIS expansion into Khorasan (an area consisting of Afghanistan, Iran and parts of Central Asia)

Now this is something very believable and cannot be rubbished. After all, ISIS has now started filling the void left by Al Qaeda and is starting to be a big inspiration for disgruntled jihadi groups and people for being able to take action. After all, it was ISIS that managed to evict states from territory and occupy it, acting as a proper military.

It is said that it is former or active Taliban members who are considering creating and joining local wings of ISIS. There have been reports that ISIS is actively recruiting people and this is quite worrying. For now, it remains lone wolf terrorism, but it seems like within time, they may be able to organize themselves into full-fledged groups with the ability to challenge the authority of the state. While the Taliban reigns supreme in these areas, ISIS will try and compete for influence, which it seems to have given that it is able to attract a large number of people to come and fight for them.

If ISIS decides to act on its own and try to establish its foothold in Afghanistan, it is going to have to compete with the Taliban and the Taliban will resist it. This will create a Syria-like scenario in Afghanistan where multiple groups are vying for influence. However, if the ISIS and Taliban decide to enter into a partnership, then things are going to be much more worse. However, this seems unlikely because ISIS seems to always want to work it alone without the collaboration with other groups as we see in places like Syria where they are constantly fighting with other groups. The fact that they are at odds with Al-Qaeda is also another problem which will undermine their influence everywhere.

This has created a new trend of new counter-militias such as the “Marg” which has committed itself to keeping groups like the ISIS out of Afghanistan.

But the larger problem is that of the ISIS branching out at all. If it is trying to create foundations in other places, it is a worrying trend. Most international effort is concentrated on fighting the ISIS on Islamic State-held areas but what is not being discussed at all is the growing encroachment of ISIS in other areas of the world.

This issue may not be taken seriously because it is regarded that the ISIS is losing out in the areas they hold and that in due time they would be destroyed completely, which means they will no longer have that kind of influence like they used to. This would give us some relief and suggest that maybe we shouldn’t be worrying so much about the off-shoots once the head is cut-off.

But on the other side of the coin, if the ISIS decides to shift base into new areas such as Afghanistan after realizing that maybe Iraq and Syria are lost causes, then we might have a bigger problem in our hands. What we could be seeing is a new era of the Mujahideen in Afghanistan in this case. The conditions are quite ripe for it as well. Pakistan next door acts as a wonderful conduit for infiltration into Afghanistan. You could land in Peshawar or Quetta, pick up a cheap copy of your favorite assault rifle from Darra Adam Khel in FATA, cross into Afghanistan and fight in the name of “Daesh”.

It would require a massive reorienting of efforts and international action for you to fight the problem if it moved to Afghanistan. Therefore, this needs to be nipped in the bud. Any international action right now needs to start considering the offshoots and other branches in its strategy to defeat the ISIS. In fact, any discussion about the situation of Afghanistan needs to be linked with the possible emergence of ISIS and the fight against Al-Qaeda or Taliban and its possible emergence after the Americans withdraw.


Ashwath Komath
An article by:
Ashwath Komath

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