ISIS-K is recruiting jihadis from across Asia as it launches a ferocious guerrilla war against the Taliban, experts warn.
In Kabul, an attack by ISIS-K bombers last month killed at most 180 people.
Further terror assaults over the weekend killed at least seven people including a child.
But what is the death cult’s ultimate goal in Afghanistan and why are some hardliners in the Taliban believed to be “switching sides”?
Experts say that ISIS-K – or Islamic State Khorasan Province – see the Taliban as “moderates” who allow girls to be educated and even hold talks with non-Muslim western countries.
Dr Rakib Ehsan, research fellow at the Henry Jackson Society, says the group is recruiting jihadis from across south and Central Asia who are “disillusioned” with the new regime in Afghanistan.
Central Recorder Online was informed by him that ISIS-K is a different animal than the Taliban.
They want to create a global islamic caliphate. The Taliban’s sole focus is on Afghanistan’s implementation.
ISIS-K believes that Taliban is a reformist organization which betrays Islam. They are now wooing up disillusioned members who believe the same.
“The Islamic State is focused on the destruction of western civilisation.”
ISIS-K has approximately 2,200 members in Afghanistan, with the majority of them living in Nangahar in the east of the mountainous country.
Dr Ehsan says they are mostly made up of ex-members of the Afghan Taliban, Pakistani Taliban and Islamic Movement of Uzkistan (IMU).
Expert was unsure if ISIS-K would be able to defeat the Taliban’s 75,000 strong force and take over Afghanistan.
He stated that it was highly unlikely that ISISK would win.
“I think the Taliban would destroy them. If you look at how easily they defeated the US-trained Afghan National Security Forces – they have a lot of very experienced generals.”
However, the Taliban’s new “moderate” approach is also created unrest within its own ranks.
There have been factions formed between supporters and Sirajuddin Haiqani, interior minister Sirajuddin Haqqani and Deputy PM Mullah Ghani, who met with the US. The latter was responsible for many of the most horrific terrorist attacks in recent decades.
Rahmatullah, a former Afghani spy chief says many Taliban extremists disapprove of the new reforms implemented under Baradar. This includes allowing women to work and school.
He told The Times these fanatics within the Taliban could switch sides and join ISIS-K.
The ex-spy chief said: “Many regional militant groups — Uzbeks, Tajiks, Uyghurs and Turkmen in Afghanistan and central Asia — do not see a point in following the Taliban any more and will seek to join ISKP.
“Even the Taliban fighters who are more extreme, especially in the east, do not accept the Taliban’s authority and will very likely switch to ISKP.”
The Taliban has dismissed the threat of ISIS-K claiming that the vastly-outnumbered terror group is widely “hated” by the Afghan population.
Spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said: “Daesh [Islamic State] is not a threat, because the thought of Daesh is a hated thought among the people.
“No one supports them. Second, our combat against Daesh was effective in the past and we know how to neutralise their techniques.”
Experts fear that the Taliban could be a target for some people if they are not protected by the new regime, as bomb attacks have become more common.
Franz Marty, of the Swiss Institute for Global Affairs, said: “It’s impacting people’s perceptions.
“If the Taliban can’t make good on their promise on securing the country, that could turn the tide of public sentiment against them in the east.”
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