IS-K: Undermining the Taliban and Central Asian Security

IS-K Afghanistan fighters.


Islamic state Khorasan or IS-K are undermining the Taliban in Afghanistan.  Their actions also threaten to undermine security in the Central Asian region countries that share a border with Afghanistan. Since the Taliban ceased power in August 2021 IS-K has increased its attacks in the country.

IS-K are opposed to Taliban tactics and have accused the organisation of abandoning jihad in favour of peace deals negotiated in posh Middle Eastern hotels. The writing appeared to be on the wall Following the Kabul Airport attack that occurred in August 2021 on the eve of the US withdrawal IS-K intentions in Afghanistan have been clear. Adding to the domestic pressure of attacks IS-K has begun carrying out cross-border attacks in an effort to undermine the Taliban internationally. 

Key Judgment 1

It is highly likely that IS-K will continue its surge of attacks in Afghanistan over the next 12 months to destabilise the Taliban regime.

  • One of the first notable attacks carried out by IS-K in Afghanistan was on the eve of the US withdrawal. (source)
  • Since the beginning of 2022 IS-K has stepped up the frequency of its deadly attacks in Afghanistan. For instance, these attacks have largely focussed on smaller towns with a recent focus on attacks against the minority Shia Hazara. (source)
  • Furthermore, IS-K on the 5th of July 2022, attacked a bus of Taliban al-Farooq corps in Herat. (source)
  • Following the scandal in India, in which prominent members of the BJP insulted the Prophet Muhammed, IS-K attacked the gurdwara in Kabul killing at least two people. (source)
  • IS-K attacks aim to destabilise the Taliban’s attempts at bringing security to Afghanistan.
  • Most importantly, IS-K diametrically oppose the Taliban’s ideals of nationhood through state-building. (source

Key Judgment 2

It is likely that IS-K will continue the launch cross-border attacks from Afghanistan over the next 12 months to undermine the Taliban’s promise of security to its neighbours.

  • IS-K carried out a devastating attack is Peshawar, Pakistan, in March 2022 killing 60. (source)
  • On 7th May 2022 IS-K claim to have fired rockets into Tajikistan. (source) Tajikistan is actively being targeted by IS-K for both recruitment and an increase in violence. (source)
  • Tajikistan is actively seeking to counter these threats from regional partners. Such as Russia. (source)
  • IS-K have also claimed rocket attacks against Uzbekistan. They claimed to have launched rocket attacks over the border on the 22nd of April 2022. However, this was denied by the Taliban and Uzbekistan. (source)
  • IS-K attacks have bought into question regional security. Above all, regional security would benefit from increasing cooperation with the Taliban under the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation. (source)

Key Judgment 3

It is highly likely that the worsening economic and humanitarian crises will increase IS-K recruitment and support in Afghanistan.

  • As seen in the Sahel. This is an idealistic time for IS-K to recruit new members. As a result, the humanitarian and economic crisis will drive people into the arms of IS-K who will be able to offer a means of survival. IS-K are offering between US$300- US$1000 to new fighters (source)
  • Consequently, Qatar has urged the West to engage with the Taliban to lessen the impact of this crisis. Which if left unchecked will drive more people to groups like IS-K. (source)
  • Most recently IS-K has seen an increase in former military and intelligence officials joining its ranks because they are growing increasingly frustrated with the Taliban’s failings. (source)

Intelligence cut off 09/07/22

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