DAESH’s Strategy for Afghanistan

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Due to terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, the United States of America (USA) decided to invade Afghanistan in the name of the fight against terrorism and this occupation lasted for 20 years. During the US withdrawal, the Taliban declared to the world that they are the victorious side of the 20-year war by dominating Afghanistan. In the process in question, the intelligence agency of the deposed regime of Afghanistan announced that 21 terrorist organizations were active in the country. One of the terrorist organizations operating in the country is the so-called Emirate of Khorasan (ISKP) of the State of Iraq and Sham (DAESH).

Within the scope of the caliphate ideology DAESH declares the old Khorasan geography as the so-called Khorasan Emirate and the organization has considered the war and instability situation of Afghanistan as an opportunity. In this regard, they tried to strengthen its position in the field. Initially, ISKP tried to incorporated into Taliban commanders, fighters of Al-Qaeda, Uzbekistan Islamic Movement and East Turkestan Islamic Movement. As it known, the founding leader of the Taliban, Mullah Mohammed Omar, died in 2013 and an death announcement of him was shared publicly in 2015. This notice has led to certain divisions within the Taliban and some commanders of this movement joined ISKP such as Abdulrauf Hadim, one of the famous commanders of the Taliban, declared his loyalty to DAESH.

Although some of the commanders of the Taliban joined the ISKP, the leaders of the Taliban never paid allegiance to DAESH. DAESH follows an aggressive and revisionist policy by dividing the world into two Darul Islam and Darul Kufr, rejecting the understanding of the nation-state. For this reason, regional states, especially Russia, China and Iran, have described ISKP’s presence in Afghanistan as a threat to their territorial integrity and national security.

The aforementioned states have started to get closer to the Taliban for border security purposes. Because, unlike DAESH, the target of the Taliban is to establish an “Islamic State” in Afghanistan, whose borders are internationally recognized. Therefore, during the occupation period, the security forces of the overthrown regime of Afghanistan in the cities and the Taliban in the countryside prevented ISKP from getting stronger. Therefore, ISKP could not have a significant impact and found no concrete response from the Afghan people, apart from the attacks on the mosques of the Shiites and the killing of innocent people. Therefore, it was seen that many DAESH members surrendered. However, ISKP saw an opportunity as the Taliban released the criminals in prisons within the scope of the general amnesty declared after dominating Afghanistan in August 2021.

In this context, during the period when the USA completed its withdrawal from Afghanistan, DAESH carried out a suicide attack near Kabul Airport and killed 13 American soldiers and 170 Afghans. Afterwards, they carried out terrorist acts that attacked Shiite mosques in Afghanistan’s Kunduz and Kandahar provinces, causing hundreds of people to die. In addition, DAESH murdered a traffic police officer in Afghanistan’s Kunduz province and carried out attacks against Taliban soldiers in other provinces.

In the early winter months of 2022, it was seen that DAESH stopped its attacks and focused on recruiting personnel. In this context, ISKP, rather than religious arguments used situations such as unemployment and deficit as a propaganda tool. Because in Afghanistan, where the humanitarian crisis has been getting deeper day by day, it is not surprising that people join DEASH in order to receive salaries of hundreds of dollars. Therefore, one of the prerequisites for being successful in the fight against DAESH is to ensure the end of the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan.

With the spring months of 2022, it is seen that DAESH has increased its attacks again. In this context, ISKP attacked Shiite mosques in Kabul and Mazar-i-Sharif and clashed with Taliban soldiers in various cities. In addition, DAESH also claimed that they attacked Uzbekistan in a statement they published.

It should be noted that DAESH is a terrorist organization that has been defeated in Syria and Iraq. For this reason, they are trying to make this country the center of the organization by taking advantage of the power vacuum in Afghanistan. Because Afghanistan is the heart of the ancient Khorasan geography. Therefore, the organization believes that they can reach Iran, Central Asian republics, Russia and China through Afghanistan.

In line with this aim, ISKP develops new strategies and tactics. In this context, ISKP’s main strategy is to open up for discussion the issues that the Taliban proudly voiced and described as success in the eyes of the international community. As it is known, the Taliban stated that after dominating Afghanistan, security was ensured throughout the country. Likewise, within the framework of the Doha Agreement, the Taliban declared that they would not allow the use of Afghanistan’s territory by terrorist organizations. In this context, the message given by ISKP through its attacks is that the Taliban show weakness in ensuring the security of the country.

In addition, ISKP is trying to gather the radical groups in Afghanistan under its own roof and wants to reach the opponents of the relevant countries by attacking the regional states. This is one of the main reasons why DAESH claims to have launched an attack on Uzbekistan. At the same time, this propaganda aims to convey the message that the Taliban administration cannot prevent the use of Afghanistan territory by terrorist organizations. Thus, DAESH is trying to prevent regional states from developing cooperation with the Taliban. Because one of the reasons why Central Asian republics establish de facto relations with the Taliban is the concerns of these states regarding border security.

The most striking target of ISKP is to disrupt the relationship between the Taliban and the Shiites through its attacks against the Shiites, thus starting a sectarian war in Afghanistan. Because the Hazaras are the leading groups that have not joined the Taliban in the last 20 years. In this sense, the Hazaras are the most distant identity group from the Taliban. Therefore, ISKP pushes the Hazaras to fend for themselves through its attacks on Shiites, and by describing itself as the protector of Sunnis, it activates the dynamics of the sectarian war. Moreover, the attacks may lead Shiites to adopt the perception that the Taliban cannot protect them. As a matter of fact, parallel to the developments experienced, the Iranian influence on the Hazaras is increasing and the Tehran administration is perceived as protective. This indicates that a possible sectarian war may turn into a regional proxy war. At this point, it would not be surprising if Iran took advantage of the Fatimiyyun Brigade, which was used in the Syrian Civil War and consisted of Afghan Shiites.

Looking at ISKP’s attacks, it is understood that one of the aims of the terrorist organization is to prevent the operation of Afghanistan’s mines and to undermine Afghanistan-based economic projects. It can be said that China is willing to invest in Afghanistan’s mines. Turkmenistan is also trying to sell natural gas to South Asian states via Afghanistan within the scope of the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) Natural Gas Pipeline Project. Uzbekistan also plans to reach the world via South Asia, the Middle East and international maritime routes through the railways project that includes Afghanistan. If these projects are realized, Afghans will be provided with job opportunities and billions of dollars will enter the Afghan treasury. ISKP, on the other hand, thinks that an insecure and unstable Afghanistan would be in its own interest. For this reason, it tries to destabilize the country through terrorist attacks it organizes.

Finally, it can be said that ISKP is considering earning income through drug trade by maintaining control in Afghanistan. Because Afghanistan is the country that produces the most drugs in the World. As it will be remembered, the Taliban banned the cultivation and trade of drugs in Afghanistan with a decision they took. However, drugs are an important source of financing for terrorist organizations. Therefore, ISKP plans to continue its activities on the basis of the income it will generate by forcing the people in various regions to produce drugs.

As a result, ISKP’s actions are a serious threat to Afghanistan, the states of the region and even to the whole World. Because this threat has the possibility of turning Afghanistan and its immediate surroundings into a geography where proxy wars are experienced. Elimination of this possibility requires cooperation processes to be carried out between the states of the region and projects that will end the economic and humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan. In fact, it is seen that this approach is at the basis of the de-facto relations between the Taliban and the neighboring states of Afghanistan.

Ahmad Khan Dawlatyar, 2013 yılında Kunduz Üniversitesi Hukuk ve Siyaset Bilimi Bölümü’nden mezun olmuştur. Yüksek lisans derecesini Ankara Üniversitesi Sosyal Bilimler Enstitüsü Siyaset Bilimi Anabilim Dalı’nda “Türkiye Cumhuriyeti ve Afganistan İslam Cumhuriyeti Anayasalarında Güçler Ayrılığı İlkesi Üzerine Karşılaştırmalı Bir Analiz” başlıklı teziyle 2019 yılında almıştır. Çeşitli bilimsel etkinliklere katılan Dawlatyar, Afganistan sorunuyla ilgili bildiriler ve makaleler sunmuştur. Bu kapsamda “Afganistan Sorununun Dini ve İdeolojik Nedenleri” başlıklı sunumu yayınlanmıştır. Halihazırda Ankara Üniversitesi Sosyal Bilimler Enstitüsü Uluslararası İlişkiler Anabilim Dalı’nda doktora eğitimine devam etmektedir. ANKASAM bünyesinde yürütülen çalışmalara katkıda bulunan Ahmad Khan Dawlatyar’ın başlıca çalışma alanları Afganistan ve Pakistan’dır. Dawlatyar, anadil seviyesinde Farsça, Özbekçe, Türkçe ve Peştunca dillerine hakimdir. Ayrıca orta düzeyde İngilizce bilmektedir.