(New York, N.Y.) - On August 17, a suicide bomber infiltrated and detonated a bomb at a wedding in western Kabul, killing 63 and injuring 182. ISIS claimed responsibility for the explosion, seeking to target members of the Shiite community. For Afghanistan, this attack represents a serious threat from a resurgent ISIS, and a severe complication to the U.S. and Taliban peace negotiations.
The explosion came days before Afghanistan’s 100th Independence Day on August 19, 2019, and also coincides with on-going peace talks between the U.S. and the Taliban. Following the wedding attack, Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S. special envoy for peace talks, stated that a deal between the Taliban and the Afghan government must be accelerated to better combat the growing threat of ISIS in Afghanistan. However, the Taliban has decisively sidelined the Afghan central government in the peace negotiations due to continued distrust of President Ashraf Ghani’s regime.
Four years ago in January 2015, ISIS declared Afghanistan and Pakistan to be one region called the Khorasan Province (Wilayat Khorasan or ISIS-K). That same month, a group of Afghan and Pakistani militants released a video in which they pledged allegiance to ISIS and promised to increase their domestic operations. The militants introduced Hafez Sayed Khan Orakzai—a commander in the Pakistani Taliban who pledged allegiance to ISIS in October 2014—as their regional leader. In April 2015, ISIS claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing in Jalalabad, its first major attack in Afghanistan. Since then, ISIS has increasingly targeted Shiite targets in Afghanistan. According to an April 2019 assessment by an unnamed senior U.S. intelligence official, ISIS-K poses the top threat for “spectacular attacks” on the United States.
As the peace talks continue, the Afghan government, the Taliban, and the U.S. face an increasingly perilous situation for the future of Afghanistan.
To read the CEP report, Afghanistan: Extremism & Counter-Extremism, please click here.