ISIS-K, a branch of the Kabul terrorist organization Islamic State, is developing into one of the world's deadliest terrorist threats. The US has also blamed the same organization for the suicide attacks outside Kabul airport that shock the world on Thursday night. 

Despite the 20 long year fight against terrorism initiated by the US and NATO, the Islamic State-Khorasan not only managed to save its existence but is still capable of carrying out devastating attacks. With the withdrawal of American and other foreign troops from Afghanistan and the return of the Taliban to power, the organization could find the right environment to flourish. However, both the organizations are arch enemies of each other.

ISIS-K or the Islamic State Khorasan Province (ISKP) has taken accountability for the suicide attacks that hit the Kabul airport, which killed several Afghans trying to escape Afghanistan and at least 13 US soldiers. 

Reports suggest that ISIS-K is a regional affiliate of ISIS or Islamic State that has been active in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The US and its allies had previously been aware of its danger and anticipated that ISIS-K would target the Kabul airport and asked its citizens and Afghan civilians to vacate the airport area and take shelter in some safe place. 

What is Islamic State Khorasan?

ISIS-K is an ally of the Islamic State in Central Asia, to be more accurate with the name - Islamic State Khorasan Province. In 2014, Islamic State fighters spread throughout Syria and Iraq, followed by the establishment of ISIS-K in 2015. In this organization, 'Khorasan' is actually a province of Afghanistan that covers most of Afghanistan, Iran and Central Asia. It is also known as ISK or ISIS-K.
It is the most radical and violent of all the jihadist militant groups operating in Afghanistan.

ISIS-K recruits from both Afghan and Pakistani jihadists, particularly those Afghan Taliban members who are leaving the organisation believing it not to be extreme enough. 
Who are the ISIS-K fighters?

The terrorist organization started by taking in several hundred Pakistani Taliban fighters. After continuous ruthless military operations, the group was expelled from Pakistan and took refuge near the Afghanistan border. The strength of the organization was increased by people with extremist ideologies. It also included discontented 

Taliban fighters were unhappy with the Taliban's liberal and peaceful attitude against the West.

Over the years, as the Taliban opened up talks with the West, Afghan Taliban fighters who were against the peace talks joined the Khorasan group, and its fighters grew in numbers. Jehadists from the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, from the only Sunni province of Iran, the Turkistan Islamic Party, which includes Uighurs from the northeast of China also got associated with the ISIS-K. 

How extreme are the ISIS-K fighters?

The IS-K group has been accused of some of the gravest cruelties in recent years, from targeting girls schools, hospitals and even a maternity ward where reportedly their fighters shot dead pregnant women and nurses. 
Unlike the Taliban, whose interest is mainly confined to Afghanistan, IS-K is the global IS network that endeavours to carry terrorist attacks on the Western, international and humanitarian targets wherever they can reach them.
IS-K aims at spreading jihad against the non-Muslim world. It has also targeted many people including Shia Muslims. 
The group has also had several clashes with Afghan, Pakistani and US-led coalition forces since January 2017. The US believes the group is a chronic threat to US interests in South and Central Asia.

Where are they located?

IS-K is based in Nangarhar, an eastern province of Afghanistan. The area is close to drug and people-smuggling paths in and out of Pakistan.
The group presently has about 3,000 fighters, however, sustained major fatalities in clashes with both the US and Afghan security forces and also with the Taliban. 
Is there any relationship between the Taliban and IS-K?

Though both the groups are extremist Sunni terrorists, there is no love for each other between them. They have differences in religious beliefs and strategies. 

The ideological clashes have caused terrible fights between the two groups, with the Taliban emerging successful after 2019 when IS-Khorasan could not secure the territory as its parent faction did in the Middle East.

The IS have called the Taliban traitors, another sign of animosity between the two jihadists groups. 

What dangers lie ahead? 

How dangerous this organization is can be gauged from a report by the Combating Terrorism Center of West Point, which states that when the US troops were stationed in Afghanistan, aircraft and armed drones were present and the army was ready to carry out any operation. Even when it was ready, Islamic State was able to continue its attack. 

With the withdrawal of troops, America's ground attack capability in Afghanistan will see an end. At the same time, its intelligence would also be weakened in the nation, which could have detected the capability and plan of attack of the Islamic State. Further, this won't be possible if the armies vacate. 

Biden officials say the Islamic State group is one of the many terror threats it is dealing with globally. The US fears that its troop withdrawal from Afghanistan after 20 years could make the country a breeding nest for many such extremist groups. 

America is also afraid of raising its head back even to its 'greatest enemy' Al-Qaeda.

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