On Oct. 24, a video surfaced on Afghan social media, showing a former fighter of the Islamic State surrendering to the Afghan government. The man, who claimed to be Jordanian, says that he came to this country looking for jihad. “On the internet, they told us there is jihad here, but I came here I see [no jihad], Muslims with Muslims, fighting together,” he tells Shah Mahmood Miakhel, the governor of the Afghan province of Nangarhar.
This fighter didn’t find the glorified battle he was promised, but that hasn’t stopped hundreds of others who are making this trip each year in search of the jihad being promoted by Islamic State leadership.
Two days later, on Oct. 26, the world woke up to the news of the death of the notorious Islamic State leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, killed during a U.S. army raid on his compound in Syria. Mr. al-Baghdadi had gained notoriety since taking on the reins of the group in 2014 and has been blamed for many brutal atrocities committed by the group in Syria, Iraq and elsewhere.
His death is being hailed as major victory for the U.S.’s war against the group and is likely to weaken the many factions of the group in the Middle East. However, the fight against the Islamic State is far from over. Like the man interviewed by Mr. Maikhel, many IS fighters are now turning eastward to this region in central and south Asia to join the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant – Khorasan Province (ISKP). Despite Mr. al-Baghdadi’s death, there is real concern that ISKP could grow into a formidable insurgency in the region.
The ISKP has increased its recruiting and attacks in Afghanistan. Of the 5,117 civilian casualties reported by the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan in the first nine months of this year, 1,013 were attributed to ISKP, including the horrific suicide bombing at a Hazara Shia wedding ceremony in August in Kabul.
While the estimated population of foreign ISKP fighters remains relatively low, there have been several reports of many fighters travelling to Afghanistan from Pakistan, India, Central Asia and the Middle East. Unable to find their place in the losing war in the Middle East, they come to Afghanistan with their families to seek battle gratification.
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