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ISIS in Afghanistan declares war on the Taliban

ISIS in Afghanistan declares war on the Taliban without actually mentioning them. ISIS in Afghanistan/Pakistan (known as Khurasan Province) released an audio message in Pashtun by the self styled Emir of ISIS, Khurasan Haviz Saeed Khan, urging all Jihadists in Afghanistan and Pakistan to join ISIS and give their allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

The message released on August 5th by Haviz Saeed Khan suggests that ISIS in Khurasan are moving in to exploit the recently announced death of Taliban’s leader Mullah Muhammad Omar and the subsequent divisions within the ranks of Taliban leadership.

The Taliban Shoura Council announced the death of Mullah Muhammad Omar, the commander of the Taliban in Afghanistan, at the end of July, and elected his deputy (since 2010) Mullah Akhtar Mansour as his successor.

There has been some debate as to whether Mullah Omar had been dead for some time, but in reality Mullah Mansour had been running day to day operations in the Taliban since his appointment in 2010. So there will be no real change in tactics.

Mullah Mansour is a Qandahari and there is a delicate balance of power between the Qanadahari Pashtuns (which also includes the home province of Mullah Omar, Orezgan), who make up the majority of the Taliban leadership and the Khousti/Paktiari Pashtuns who make up most of the rest of the leadership; a fact not lost on the eastern Pashtuns (Nengherharis, Laghmanis, and Kunaris).

Aimen Dean from 5 Dimension Consultants who used to be a member of Al Qaeda operating in the Afghan/Pakistan border region said, “The greatest challenge to the new leader is the emergence of ISIS within Afghanistan, especially among the eastern Pashtuns (mainly Nengherhar Province) who are feeling marginalized within the Taliban’s leadership structure. They have therefore found in ISIS, an attractive alternative with access to generous funding and the ability to assert their power in the eastern provinces. I believe the new Taliban commander will face a greater number of defections to ISIS, in these Provinces now that Mullah Omar is dead.

During Haviz Saeed Khan’s 23 minute message he spoke without referring to the Taliban by name and instead was calling upon his fellow “Jihadists” to join ISIS in Khurasan. Dean said, “Understanding the politics and nuances in the region I believe this was a tactic deliberately used to signal that in Kahn’s eyes, the Taliban along with its late leader, is finished, and that the structure that was once called the Taliban is no longer there.

He went on to add, “In my experience I firmly believe this is nothing short of a declaration of war on the Taliban’s current leadership, whom he referred to as agents of the Pakistani ISI.”

Dean sees ISIS Khurasan being bolstered by new recruits and considerable injection of cash from the ISIS leader Baghdadi. He believes they will then attempt to eliminate their Taliban opponents within the eastern provinces of Nengherhar, Laghman and Kunar before the end of this year and establish a solid base in that part of Afghanistan.

Dean concluded, “The Eastern provinces are tactically important as they control the strategic Khyber Pass. The provinces also border an already restless part of the tribal areas in Pakistan which are seeing an increase in ISIS followers. Therefore if the Taliban experience further dissent within their ranks, ISIS Khurasan fortunes will be in the ascendance”.

5 Dimension Consultants are specialists in regional geopolitics and have kindly provided content for this report.

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