According to Taliban officials, Islamic State’s Afghanistan offshoot (known as the “Khorasan province,” or ISKP) has but a negligible presence. American diplomats, for their part, have claimed that the new jihadist government in Kabul can provide a bulwark against the group, which opposes what it sees as the Taliban’s relative religious moderation. But, Oved Lobel argues, the evidence supports neither interpretation:
In Jalalabad, . . . there have been near-daily shootings, bombings, and assassinations targeting the Taliban. . . . ISKP suicide bombers have also continued to target the Shiites of Afghanistan, with a massive suicide bombing at a mosque in Kunduz and another at a mosque in Kandahar, attacks which killed and wounded hundreds.
The simple fact is that despite U.S. attempts to pass intelligence to the Taliban as well as backing from Russia, China, Pakistan and Iran, the Taliban seem fundamentally incapable of containing, much less eliminating, ISKP. . . . In addition to the abundant recruitment potential created by economic, ideological, and sectarian factors, there is boredom. The Taliban have never really been a governing entity; their raison d’être was always jihad and martyrdom. Interview after interview with Taliban rank-and-file since their victory in August has exposed complete listlessness and lack of discipline, with many lamenting the transition to civilian life and their failure to get themselves killed.
As there’s no work, no money, no food, and most importantly nobody left to fight, there is a substantial risk of Taliban fighters joining ISKP just to have a chance to continue waging jihad.
Even under combined pressure from the U.S. Air Force, Afghan special forces and the Taliban, all of whom occasionally cooperated against ISKP prior to the Taliban takeover, the group retained the capability to conduct mass-casualty attacks and assassinations at will. Without the former two, ISKP is now operating and recruiting in an extremely permissive environment and is likely to remain and expand throughout the country.
Worse still, a U.S. Defense Department official stated that, unchecked, ISKP will be able to launch attacks outside of Afghanistan within a year.