Several former members of the U.S.-trained intelligence services and elite units of Afghanistan – and now abandoned by their American patrons and hunted by the Taliban – have enlisted in the only force now challenging the new rulers of the state: the Islamic State (ISIS).

The number of defectors who have joined the terrorist organization is relatively small, but has increased, say Taliban leaders, former security officials in the Afghan republic and people familiar with the defectors. More importantly, these new recruits bring to the Islamic State organization critical expertise in intelligence gathering and combat techniques, and may strengthen the extremist organization’s ability to compete with Taliban supremacy.

An Afghan national army officer in charge of the army’s weapons and ammunition depot in Gardaz, the capital of the southeastern Pakistani province, has joined a local branch of the Islamic State terrorist organization Khursan Province (ISIS-K) and was killed in a clash with Taliban fighters a week ago. Who knew him.

The former official said several other people he knew, all members of the military and intelligence community of the former Afghan republic, also joined the Islamic State after the Taliban searched their homes and demanded that they introduce themselves to the country’s new authorities.

A resident of Krabach province north of Kabul said his nephew, a former senior member of Afghanistan’s special forces, had disappeared in September and is now a member of the Islamic State cell. Four other members of the Afghan national army whom the man knew have also enlisted in the organization in recent weeks, he said.

“In some areas, ISIS has become very attractive” to former members of the Afghan security forces “left behind,” said Rahmatula Nabil, the former head of Afghanistan’s intelligence agency, National Security Directorate, who left the country shortly after the Taliban takeover. “Any resistance, they would join it,” he said, but added: “Meanwhile, ISIS is the only second-armed group.”

Unemployed and fear for their lives

In early September, Taliban forces crushed a resistance movement in the Punjir Valley led by Ahmad Massoud, the son of Ahmad Shah Massoud, who opposed the Taliban and was assassinated by al-Qaeda in 2001. The leaders of the resistance then fled the country.

The Taliban has long claimed that ISIS-K is a creation of the Afghan and U.S. intelligence services designed to sow division in the Taliban, a claim that both Washington and the previous government in Kabul deny.

Hundreds of thousands of intelligence officers, soldiers and policemen of the former Afghan republic are unemployed and fear for their lives despite Taliban promises to grant them forgiveness. Only a small portion of them, mostly from the National Security Administration, returned to work under Taliban supervision. Like almost all other Afghan government employees, they have not been paid for months.

“This is exactly how it started in Iraq – when they lost faith in Saddam Hussein’s generals,” a senior Western official said. “You have to be careful.” The United States dismantled Iraqi security forces after invading the country in 2003. When security forces often hid weapons in their homes, and with years of combat experience, they formed a ready-made pool of recruits for terrorist groups, including al-Qaeda and the organization that preceded the Islamic State. .

In addition to protecting the Taliban, the Islamic State is offering a lot of money to its new recruits in Afghanistan, senior security officials say. In a recent Senate testimony, Colin Cahel, the U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defense for policy issues, warned that the Islamic State in Afghanistan could build capacity to attack Western targets with its allies within 6 to 12 months.

While the Taliban have great motivation to fight the Islamic State, “their ability to do so is still unclear,” Kahl said.

Deep disagreements

Although both the Taliban and the Islamic State say they want to impose a tough Islamic order in Afghanistan, there are deep divisions between the two groups over religion, ideology and politics. The Taliban are mostly loyal to the flattering school of Sunni Islam, believe in an Afghan nation-state and say they want good relations with all countries, including the US. They see the Shiite hizra minority in the country as Muslims like them.

In the Islamic State, they operate according to the tougher Slavic tradition, treat Shiites as infidels who must be physically destroyed, and seek to establish a worldwide Islamic suit by military conquests.

ISIS-K is influenced by the original Islamic State leaders in Syria and Iraq, and was founded in 2014 by Afghan and Pakistani Taliban fighters who felt that the Taliban leadership, which was in peace talks with the United States at the time, was not radical enough. Of the Taliban in 2015 weakened it greatly.

But this year ISIS-K strengthened again, taking advantage of the collapse of the Afghan republic and the withdrawal of the American presence that fought terrorism.

The organization killed 200 Afghans and 13 members of the U.S. military at Kabul airport in August, and has since carried out a series of attacks against the Taliban, mostly in eastern Nangarhar province, but more recently in Kabul. More than 100 worshipers died in these attacks.

Admittedly The US has begun to provide some intelligence on the Islamic State to the Taliban, but senior Taliban officials do not like to admit this cooperation and often underestimate the severity of the challenge posed to them by the Islamic State.

“We are not facing a threat, and we are not worried about them,” said Mawlawi Zubir, a senior Taliban commander whose 750 commanders oversee southwest Kabul and work out of the capital’s third district police station. “There is no need, there is not even a little need for us to ask for help from anyone else in front of ISIS.”

The area he oversees includes Kabul Zoo, where a man who apparently belonged to the Islamic State recently threw a hand grenade at a group of Taliban infantry. Zubir said there is “100% certainty” that former members of the Afghan security forces are participating in Islamic State attacks.

He said the Islamic State had been fueled by growing anger over the economic situation in Afghanistan since the organization took control on August 15.

“In the current situation we are not facing some difficulties, we are facing a lot,” Zubir said. “If we get rid of all the economic problems and problems related to our administration, ISIS will disappear from all of Afghanistan within 15 days.”

Zamir Saar and Rosudin Protan participated in the preparation of the article

By Editor

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