A former member of the US State Department said the real purpose of Thursday’s suicide bombing in Kabul, which killed 13 US servicemen and dozens of Afghans, was “an opening salvo of a war. civilian ISIS-K seeks to fight against the Taliban. “
The ISIS-K suicide bombing marked the deadliest day for US forces in Afghanistan since August 2011.
In an interview with Fox News, Christopher Harnisch, former deputy counterterrorism coordinator at the US State Department, explained the terror group’s motivation for the attack as the US completed its withdrawal from the country.
“We in the West tend to think of Americans as the target,” Harnisch told Fox News. “The real goal was to attract potential recruits to its ranks, and also to really start a civil war against the Taliban and other groups fighting on the periphery.”
The group, known as the Islamic State’s Khorasan Province or ISIS-K, is an Afghan affiliate of the group’s main leaders in Syria and Iraq. After ISIS lost its territory following a five-year military campaign by local and international forces, the caliphate increasingly turned to Afghanistan for its fighters.
ISIS-K was founded in 2015 by several hundred disillusioned Pakistani Taliban fighters. According to Harnisch, the goal of all ISIS factions is “to establish a global caliphate governed by the most extreme and oppressive interpretation of Sharia law.”
“With the withdrawal from Afghanistan, ISIS-K sees an opportunity to fill a security vacuum and ultimately to try to take power,” he continued.
In order to gain control of the region, ISIS-K will have to fight the Taliban, who just overthrew the US-backed government in Afghanistan after a 10-day blitz and who are currently ruling the country.
In addition to starting a civil war with rival militant Islamist jihadist groups, another reason for the attack was to aid the terrorist group’s global recruitment effort.
“ISIS-K knows that in order to be successful and realize its vision of creating an Afghanistan-based caliphate it will need manpower,” Harnisch said.
A United Nations report released in June found that 8,000 to 10,000 jihadists from Central Asia, Russia’s North Caucasus region, Pakistan and China’s Xinjiang region have entered Afghanistan in recent months. According to the report, most are associated with the Taliban or al-Qaeda, according to the report, but others are allied with ISIS-K.
“ISIS-K’s goal was to undermine the credibility of the Taliban by showing Afghans and the world that the Taliban are incapable of providing security,” Harnisch said. “The attack was a huge propaganda victory,” he continued. “Aspiring jihadists all over the world have seen it and they say, ‘ISIS is ruling here. “”
While the estimated 1,500 to 2,000 ISIS-K members are pale compared to the nearly 80,000 Taliban, Harnisch said he believes the number of ISIS-K recruits entering Afghanistan will increase over the next few years. months after Thursday’s attack.
Comparing ISIS-K with the Taliban and Al Qaeda, Harnisch said that “tactically speaking, they are very similar”, all three engaging in “absolutely barbaric and evil terrorist attacks”.
However, he admitted that ISIS-K attacks “tend to be as far off the spectrum of evil as possible.”
Harnisch specifically recalled an incident in 2020 in which ISIS-K targeted the maternity ward of a Kabul hospital, killing 24 people, including newborns and mothers.
“The Taliban and al-Qaida, although they are full-fledged evil and barbaric organizations, have not gone so far in their attacks,” he said.
Despite the desire of the United States to disengage itself from long international conflicts, Harnisch affirmed that “the fight against terrorism, it will continue”.
The former National Security Council counterterrorism director criticized the US leadership for its false promise to “end wars forever.”
“We have ended the war in Afghanistan, but I can tell you right away that the war on terror is not over,” he said. “This will continue because we have just given the Taliban, ISIS and al Qaeda a major victory.”
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