The Rising Menace Of ISKP: A Ticking Time Bomb For Regional Peace – OpEd


In recent years, the Islamic State Khorasan Province (ISKP) has emerged as one of the most formidable and disruptive terrorist organizations in the broader Middle East. Born from the more notorious Islamic State (IS), ISKP has carved out its own niche of terror, particularly in Afghanistan and the surrounding regions. The dangerous rise of ISKP in Afghanistan has intensified concerns of international community regarding surge in terrorist activities and threats to regional as well as global peace.

The origin of ISKP can be traced back to 2015, when it was established in the mountainous terrains of Afghanistan and Pakistan. Comprising primarily disaffected Taliban fighters and other jihadists, ISKP pledged allegiance to the Islamic State, thereby extending the latter’s ideology into South Asia. This move came at a time when IS was gaining international notoriety for its brutal tactics in Syria and Iraq. The allegiance of ISKP to other non-state actors have deteriorated the security situation of Afghanistan in general and region in particular. 

Since the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan in August 2021, ISKP has intensified its activities, positioning itself as the principal antagonist against the Taliban regime. The group has orchestrated numerous attacks, targeting not only Afghan security forces and Taliban fighters but also civilians, including minority communities such as the Hazaras. This has led to a devastating increase in civilian casualties and has exacerbated the humanitarian crisis in the region.

ISKP’s activities are not confined to Afghanistan. The group poses a significant threat to neighboring countries, including Pakistan, Iran and the Central Asian states in order to spread chaos in the region. Its ability to conduct cross-border operations and inspire lone-wolf attacks underlines a dangerous expansionist ideology that threatens to destabilize the region. For instance, ISKP has been implicated in various attacks in Pakistan, aiming to inflame sectarian tensions and undermine the state’s authority.

One of the most concerning aspects of ISKP’s rise is its ability to recruit and radicalize individuals. Utilizing sophisticated propaganda techniques, ISKP attracts not only local fighters but also jihadists from other parts of the world. The socio-economic instability in Afghanistan provides a fertile ground for recruitment, enabling ISKP to bolster its ranks with young men disillusioned by the lack of governance and opportunities.

The continuous conflict driven by ISKP complicates the prospects for peace in Afghanistan. With the Taliban struggling to govern effectively, the ongoing violence undermines any efforts towards political stability and economic recovery. This, in turn, affects the broader region, as instability in Afghanistan can lead to increased refugee flows and cross-border security issues.

The threat from ISKP necessitates regional cooperation; however, it also poses significant challenges. Countries in the region have historically had complex relations, characterized by mutual distrust and competing interests. The presence of ISKP could either foster cooperation against a common enemy or exacerbate existing tensions, particularly if states use militant groups as proxies in geopolitical games.

The activities of ISKP also have global implications. The group’s allegiance to the broader Islamic State ideology connects it to global jihadist movements, potentially leading to transnational terrorist attacks. This requires a coordinated international response, not only in terms of counter-terrorism measures but also in addressing the root causes of radicalization and terrorism.

The rise of ISKP represents a significant threat not only to Afghanistan but to the entire region. Its ability to conduct widespread terror, destabilize governments, and recruit new members poses a severe challenge to regional peace and security. Addressing this threat requires a multifaceted approach, involving local governance reforms, regional cooperation, and international support. Failure to effectively counter the menace of ISKP could lead to a prolonged period of instability and violence, with far-reaching consequences beyond the region. It is a ticking time bomb that demands immediate and sustained attention from the global community.

The Afghan territory has increasingly become a haven for terrorist groups aiming to launch attacks on Pakistan, fostering deep concerns regarding regional security and diplomatic relations between the two nations. Since the Taliban’s return to power, there has been a noticeable uptick in the activities of various militant factions, including TTP and ISKP, who exploit the porous border and the complex geopolitical landscape to stage attacks within Pakistan. This situation is exacerbated by the Taliban government’s struggle to exert comprehensive control and effectively counter these groups, raising suspicions about the potential use of such factions as strategic assets against Islamabad. The ongoing scenario not only strains the already fragile Pakistan-Afghanistan relations but also poses significant challenges for Pakistan’s internal security, necessitating a robust and coordinated counter-terrorism response to safeguard its national interests.

It is imperative that Afghan government takes decisive action against terrorist elements operating from its soil against Pakistan. The presence of groups like TTP ISKP on Afghan territory not only destabilizes Afghanistan but also poses a direct threat to regional security, particularly to Pakistan. The international community, especially neighboring countries, expects Afghan government to adhere to its commitments under international law to prevent its territory from being used as a launching pad for terrorist activities. Effective governance in this area is crucial for establishing peace and fostering trust among regional partners. Furthermore, for Afghanistan to gain wider recognition and support, it must demonstrate its ability to control non-state actors and ensure that its territory is not used for malign activities. 

Asad Ali

Asad Ali is an Islamabad based expert of South Asian Affairs

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