Alwaght- The head of the ISIS’s Afghanistan affiliate has been arrested along with 19 other terrorists in the south of the country, Afghan officials said Saturday.
Abdullah Orakzai, who goes by Aslam Farooqi, was detained by forces from the National Directorate of Security, the country’s main intelligence agency said in a statement, adding that he was captured along with fellow leaders including Qari Zahid and Seyfullah in a complicated operation by the country’s special forces.
Security officials revealed that in the initial investigation, the then terrorist leader admitted that his group, known as ISIS-Khorasan Province (ISIS-KP), has massive contacts with “some regional countries’ intelligence agencies.”
The statement said that he is from a village in the Orakzai District in Kohat Division of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province in Pakistan. The man before his appointment was a military leader in Peshawar, Pakistan. He then moved to Afghanistan as part of the mission to serve the ISIS.
Afghanistan security agency says that Farooqi has “close relations with Lashkar-e-Taiba and Haqqani Network, both extremist groups active in Pakistan and Afghanistan.” The links helped the expansion of ISIS-KP in Afghanistan, the Afghanistan security officials added.
The other two prominent terrorist leaders are Qari Zahid and Seyfullah. Zahid, also known as Moaz, is a top-ranking ISIS leader in Afghanistan. Seyfullah is responsible for the recruitment of members for the terrorist group in the country.
The killing of ISIS leaders in Afghanistan
Farooqi is the fifth leader of ISIS terrorist group who was detained or killed in Afghanistan.
In September 2019, Nangarhar province’s officials said that Abu Saad Erhabi, the commander of the ISIS' Afghanistan branch, was killed in the Khogiani District of the province. He was the fourth leader of the ISIS Afghanistan branch to be killed in the country.
Its first leader, Hafez Saeed Khan, was killed in August 2016. The second leader was killed in May 2017 in Nangarhar. The third leader was killed in July 2017 in Kunar province.
Reports say that Farooqi is an architect of the attack on a Sikh temple in the country. On March 25, gunmen stormed a Sikh temple in Kabul’s old town, killing over two dozen and injuring some 80 people. A few hours after the attack, ISIS claimed responsibility.
ISIS says that Khorasan Province (Khorasan Wilaya in ISIS terminology) covers eastern Iran, the whole Pakistan and Afghanistan, and parts of Central Asia.
The ISIS-KP announced existence in 2015 and is currently active in Nangarhar in the east and Jowzjan in the north of the country. Still, it occasionally carries out attacks in the capital Kabul and also areas not much under its influence.
The rise of ISIS in Afghanistan started from Achin District of Nangarhar province. In the first crime, the group blasted a bomb killing several members of what they claimed to be the Taliban fighters in the district. The group surpassed the Taliban its show of atrocity and violence. It launched deadly attacks on Shiite mosques in Afghanistan, indicating that its goes the same way its parent group went in Iraq and Syria.
Figures say now the group has 1,000 fighters in Afghanistan, mainly in Khogiani, Achin, Pachir Wa Agam, and Haska Mena districts of Nangarhar.
Difference between ISIS and ISIS-KP
Some experts argue that the terrorist group now active in Afghanistan is different from ISIS in Iraq and Syria mainly because the group was founded by Pakistan and even some Arab countries’ intelligence agencies and sent to Afghanistan to gain ground.
Motiullah Khoroti, an Afghan journalist, says that Pakistan has always tried to establish a political system in neighboring Afghanistan obedient to Islamabad demands. “Afghanistan uses strategic spots to act against Afghanistan. The country pursues its general Afghanistan policies and only changes its projects,” Khoroti said.
According to the Afghan journalist, Islamabad had always followed its policies in Afghanistan using the Taliban. But now it has an alternative to the Taliban. “Pakistan’s intervention in Afghanistan has not ended. In other words, it chases its strategic goals in the country using a new group like ISIS,” he further said.
Khoroti believes that Islamabad on the one hand want to affirmatively respond to the US call to bring ISIS to the negotiating table to talk with the Kabul government and seal a deal with it like Hizb-e-Islami, led by Gulbuddin Hekmatyar who signed a deal with the central government in 2017 and returned to Kabul after 21 years. On the other hand, it continues its interventionist policies in Pakistan through ISIS, beside the links to the terrorist group from inside the Afghan government.
Why is ISIS more dangerous in Afghanistan?
ISIS's existence by itself cannot pose much danger to Afghanistan. But there are some factors that can severely aggravate the ISIS risks. One factor is the grounds for various social divisions. There is no doubt that currently deep latent gaps exist between the people and the central government. These gaps cause disputes among politicians and distribute the power of the government.
Like al-Qaeda, ISIS is roughly an international terrorist organization, following a doctrine the aim of which is establishing Islamic caliphate and toppling the governments in as many countries as possible. Currently, the most vulnerable countries close to the ISIS war geography are in Central Asia. Afghanistan takes a central state and a transit spot in the middle. Since its foundation, the Taliban has been operating in Afghanistan and Pakistan. It is now countering ISIS and many countries believe the Taliban can make a suitable defense shield against the ISIS.
Economic, social, and cultural poverty contributes to the ISIS push for the recruitment of Afghan fighters. This poverty has always provided a platform for recruitment by various militant groups in Afghanistan in decades and it will do in the future. Moreover, there are many foreign fighters who in the past decades fought in Afghanistan wars and new deployment to the war-devastated country would be an easy experience for them.
This factors and more facilitate ISIS's rise in Afghanistan. The past few years’ expansion and attacks in the country bear witness to this fact. On the side of the government, the measures taken to deter the terrorist group are inadequate, poor, and worrisome. Actually, the government of Afghanistan has so far shown it has no clear and competent strategy to neutralize and eradicate the terrorist group before it grows to become a big threat in the country.