In recent years, the Islamic State Khorasan (ISIS-K) has emerged as a significant threat in Afghanistan. Since the Taliban’s takeover of the country, ISIS-K has been escalating its attacks, particularly targeting high-profile locations, symbols, and Shia Muslim minorities. However, there is also evidence to suggest that ISIS-K has turned its attention towards China and Pakistan, posing a new challenge in the region.
ISIS-K has intensified its attacks in Afghanistan, capitalizing on the vulnerabilities resulting from the Taliban’s reestablishment of control. The group has targeted urban areas, carrying out attacks on civilians, high-profile targets, and even the Taliban itself. Employing strategies such as sectarianism and attacking crowded public spaces, ISIS-K aims to create instability and sow fear among the populace.
ISIS-K have different reasons to target China’s interests in Afghanistan. Despite the Taliban’s assurances of security for Chinese nationals, militant attacks continue to pose a significant risk. China’s economic presence in Afghanistan, although limited, makes it a potential target for ISIS-K’s attacks. The targeting of Chinese nationals and facilities by terrorist organizations poses security risks to Chinese investments in Afghanistan and Pakistan. These risks have the potential to deter further Chinese economic engagement in the region. The safety and protection of Chinese personnel and infrastructure become paramount for sustaining economic activities. The targeting of Chinese projects, such as the CPEC, can disrupt the implementation and progress of critical infrastructural initiatives. Attacks and security threats may lead to delays, increased costs, and decreased investor confidence, negatively impacting economic development and regional connectivity.
The permissive environment in Afghanistan has facilitated cooperation between ISIS-K and groups like the Turkestan Islamic Party (TIP). There are reports of potential cooperation between ISIS-K and TIP in issuing propaganda, exchanging personnel, planning joint attacks, and purchasing weapons. This collaboration raises security concerns for China, as ISIS-K increasingly targets Chinese citizens and expresses interest in liberating Uyghurs.
ISIS militants have issued threats to target the embassies of China and Iran in Afghanistan. These threats aim to disrupt the relationship between the Taliban and regional member states, potentially isolating the Taliban from its diplomatic allies. The United Nations has highlighted these threats in a report on ISIS activities in Afghanistan.
Given its geographical proximity to Afghanistan, Pakistan also faces security challenges arising from ISIS-K’s presence. The transnational nature of ISIS-K poses a threat to the stability of both countries. The rise of ISIS-K in Afghanistan has the potential to spill over into Pakistan, leading to security concerns for the region.
The Taliban, despite asserting full control, have faced challenges in dealing with the growing threat posed by ISIS-K. While they have conducted raids against ISIS-K, attacks on civilians, especially the Hazara community, persist. The international community has called for investigations into attacks on minority communities, highlighting potential crimes against humanity. Additionally, the United States and other countries are monitoring the situation closely and assessing their counter-terrorism strategies in the region.
The rise of ISIS-K and its targeting of China and Pakistan in Afghanistan have implications for regional diplomatic dynamics. China’s engagement with the Taliban aims to mitigate security risks and safeguard its interests. The response of regional actors to the threat posed by ISIS-K and their cooperation in countering the group’s activities will shape the political landscape in the region. The security challenges arising from ISIS-K’s presence in Afghanistan can impact Pakistan-China relations. While Pakistan sees the Taliban’s victory as beneficial for its interests, the potential for instability and security threats along the border with Afghanistan raises concerns for China. Close coordination and cooperation between Pakistan and China will be crucial in addressing the common security challenges posed by ISIS-K and maintaining stability in the region.
ISIS-K’s targeting of China and Pakistan in Afghanistan has significant implications for both the economy and politics of the region. The security risks posed to Chinese investments, particularly the disruption of infrastructural projects such as the CPEC, can hinder economic development and regional connectivity. Additionally, the targeting of Chinese nationals raises concerns about their safety and may impact further economic engagement. The political landscape in the region, including regional diplomatic dynamics and Pakistan-China relations, will be influenced by the response to ISIS-K’s threat. Collaborative efforts to counter the group’s activities and ensure the security and stability of the region are crucial for safeguarding the interests of China, Pakistan, and other regional actors.