Who are its enemies?
Like other terrorist groups, ISIS-K has targeted U.S. forces, their allies and civilians. But unlike the others, ISIS-K openly fought with other extremist Islamic organizations, like the Taliban. Among the people killed in the attack at the airport in Kabul this week are at least 28 Taliban fighters, Reuters reported.
This is the latest clash between the two groups.
ISIS-K has been antagonistic mostly toward the Taliban, and the two groups have fought for turf, particularly in eastern Afghanistan. More recently, ISIS-K leaders have denounced the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan, saying that the group’s version of Islamic rule was insufficiently hard line.
Understand the Taliban Takeover in Afghanistan
Who are the Taliban? The Taliban arose in 1994 amid the turmoil that came after the withdrawal of Soviet forces from Afghanistan in 1989. They used brutal public punishments, including floggings, amputations and mass executions, to enforce their rules. Here’s more on their origin story and their record as rulers.
But didn’t Trump destroy ISIS?
In October 2019, President Trump announced the killing of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, saying in a speech that he was “the founder and leader of ISIS, the most ruthless and violent terror organization anywhere in the world.” Mr. Trump went on to say, “We obliterated his caliphate, 100 percent, in March of this year.”
In January 2020, days after the U.S. killed a high-ranking military commander, Qasem Soleimani, Mr. Trump again bragged about having destroyed “100 percent of ISIS and its territorial caliphate.” He also said that Mr. al-Baghdadi “was trying again to rebuild the ISIS caliphate and failed.”
Clearly, it was not 100 percent.
Before Mr. al-Baghdadi’s death, he had expanded the organization and given subordinates considerable latitude to act. ISIS encouraged followers to act alone or in small groups. Hassan Abu Hanieh, a Jordanian expert on extremist groups, said at the time that “getting rid of the leader does not get rid of the organization.”
ISIS, he warned, “has created a new structure that is less centralized, and it will continue, even without al-Baghdadi.”
In 2016, a year after it was founded, ISIS-K was at its peak size, with about 3,000 to 4,000 fighters, according to analyst estimates. That figure was cut in half after the group was targeted by American airstrikes and Afghan commando raids.