National and International Issues

ISIS-K & Daesh in Afghanistan: Its Negative Implications for the Region and World at Large

Since its inception in 1968, the Indian Intelligence Agency, Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), has had close liaison with the Afghan intelligence agency, Khadamat-e-Aetla’at-e Dawlati (KHAD), where they provided strategic intelligence about Pakistan to RAW. This relationship was further strengthened in the early 1980s when the foundation was laid for a trilateral cooperation involving RAW, KHAD, and the Soviet KGB.1 A book titled RAW: A History of India’s Covert Operations by Yatish Yadav, published on August 3, 2020, reveals that RAW had recruited three powerful warlords during the Soviet invasion. One name was mentioned but names of the other two warlords were not disclosed, but it is understood that they must have been a part of the anti-Taliban. 
Invasion of Afghanistan by the U.S.
Fast forward to 2001, the toppling of Taliban-led government by the U.S. resulted in the formation of a new government in Kabul. The Northern Alliance leaders were given key appointments in the new setup. This paved the way for India to establish itself as a key player in Afghanistan. Since 2002, India has played an active, but on all accounts negative, role in Afghanistan giving rise to more instability in the region. India’s security services started training a large number of officers and personnel from the Afghan National Defense Security Force (ANDSF), Afghan National Police Force (ANPF) and National Directorate of Security (NDS) at Indian security institutions. 


Of late, on August 26, 2021, reportedly two suicide bombers from ISIS-K/Daesh detonated their explosives at an entry gate to Kabul International Airport and the nearby Baron Hotel. Due to the explosion, 13 U.S. soldiers were killed while 18 others were wounded. Meanwhile, Kabul health officials have said that more than 60 people died while over 140 were wounded. Again, ISIS-K/Daesh has claimed responsibility for the attack. Detonation by suicide bombers in Kabul underline the fact that the attacks were conducted to achieve multiple aims by RAW and its proxies in Afghanistan. 


India has also invested about USD 3 billion in Afghanistan in the name of social development. However, a bulk of the money was spent to add fuel to the ongoing war in Afghanistan. On the hardware front, India provided 285 military vehicles, 491 small arms, 20 T 62 tanks with ammunition and 8 MI 35 helicopters to ANDSF.2 Apart from this, the negatively indoctrinated intelligence agency, NDS, and adversely motivated ANDSF were used to target and kill Taliban fighters. 
Creation of Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and Islamic State of Iraq and Syria – Khorasan Province (ISIS-K) and its Utility
It may be recalled that in 2002, the NDS was established by the CIA and Pentagon to help them in countering the Taliban resistance and collect intelligence in cities and remote districts. After the Taliban fell, New Delhi immediately reopened its embassy in Kabul and consulates in Kandahar and Jalalabad; it later opened consulates in Herat and Mazar-e-Sharif as well. Indian consulates in Jalalabad and Kandahar became veritable bases for RAW to collect intelligence and support anti-Taliban forces and separatists in Balochistan. India also used these consulates to create terrorist organizations like Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and Islamic State of Iraq and Syria-Khorasan Province (ISIS-K)/Daesh for undertaking terrorist activities in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran. 
In an interview on November 21, 2014, Syrian Ambassador to India, Riad Kamel Abbas, said that his country had shared the data of Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) with India through Ajit Kumar Doval. In late 2014, Indian National Security Adviser, Ajit Doval, visited Syria and Iraq on the pretext of assisting the Indian External Affairs Ministry (EAM) in the evacuation of stranded nurses. However, it was reported that the secret visit was used as a cover to create contact with the leadership of the extremist group, ISIS.3
The result of this effort was that, in 2015, the ISIS-K/Daesh appeared on the horizon and entrenched itself in East Afghanistan. It is important to note that Khorasan is a traditional name for Central Asia, and South Asia and Afghanistan is also a part of it. As far as the organizational composition of ISIS-K/Daesh is concerned, it is mainly comprised of a few Arab elements from the original organization but the bulk of it consisted of disgruntled fighters from the Pakistani Taliban as well as radicalized Indian Muslims. This new outfit became the sworn enemy of the Taliban and the two groups clashed repeatedly. The objective of creating this terrorist outfit was to create fissures among the rank and file of Taliban and also to create serious security issues for Pakistan and China. Meanwhile, the Indian consulate in Kandahar was utilized by RAW for coordination between the TTP and ISIS-K elements.4
In 2019 alone, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) attributed 157 terrorist incidents to ISIS-K/Daesh. They resulted in over 300 civilian deaths and left more than 900 injured.5 On March 6, 2020, gunmen attacked a ceremony commemorating the Hazara leader, Abdul Ali Mazari, in Kabul. The ceremony was attended by several high-profile politicians. At least 32 people were killed and over 60 injured, both the attackers were killed after a standoff; ISIS-K/Daesh claimed responsibility for the attack. Again, on March 25, terrorists reportedly belonging to the ISIS-K stormed the Sikh Gurdwara of Har Rai Sahib located in the city of Kabul, killing 25 people. Reportedly an Indian, Abu Khalid al-Hindi, was part of the four-member team that attacked the place of worship. A report by the IANS claimed that al-Hindi belonged to Kasaragod in Kerala, India. Indian investigation agencies have confirmed that al-Hindi was the nom-de-guerre of twenty-nine-year-old Muhammad Muhsin from Kasaragod in the Southern Indian state of Kerala. They also suspect the involvement of another young individual, Sajid Kuthirummal, in the attack. It was no coincidence that ISIS’ media group, Amaq news agency, released a video clip of an Indian national, Muhammad Muhsin alias Abu Khalid al-Hindi, who placed explosives in the Gurdwara, dressed in military camouflage in the back of a moving car, seeking blessings in Hindi with a heavy Malayalee accent, “My brothers and sisters, I’m going to accomplish a mission for you all, Inshallah. I’m nearing it soon and you all will hear the good news… about the humiliation of the Kuffar… Inshallah very soon.”6 It is firmly believed that the selection of targets as well as execution of terrorist attacks by Indian Muslims was the brainchild of RAW. It may be recalled that RAW used similar tactics on March 20, 2000, in Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJ&K), when some 35 Sikhs were massacred on the evening of U.S. President Bill Clinton's state visit to India. Like the Chittisinghpura massacre in IIOJ&K, the aim of the attack on the Sikh Gurdwara was again an attempt to create animosity between Sikhs and Muslims of the region. Similar to the previous attempt, it was once more intended to paint Taliban and Pakistan as sponsors of terrorism in the region. From the above discussions it can easily be established beyond doubt that while RAW is providing logistical and operational support to ISIS-K in Afghanistan, Mr. Ajit Doval is the godfather of this terrorist outfit. 
Of late, on August 26, 2021, reportedly two suicide bombers from ISIS-K/Daesh detonated their explosives at an entry gate to Kabul International Airport and the nearby Baron Hotel. Due to the explosion, 13 U.S. soldiers were killed while 18 others were wounded. Meanwhile, Kabul health officials have said that more than 60 people died while over 140 were wounded. Again, ISIS-K/Daesh has claimed responsibility for the attack. Detonation by suicide bombers in Kabul underline the fact that the attacks were conducted to achieve multiple aims by RAW and its proxies in Afghanistan. First and foremost purpose appears to be to create further chaos and anarchy in wartorn Afghanistan. Additionally, it was meant to send a clear signal to Taliban that they would continue to witness resistance from Daesh in the future. Furthermore, the bombings were meant to delay the evacuation operations beyond the August 31, 2021 deadline, thereby triggering renewed hostilities between the Taliban and American forces in Afghanistan. In addition, bombing was conducted against the American troops by design to provoke retaliation from the Americans, which could endanger Washington’s existing working relations with Taliban. Similarly, it was aimed at reinforcing the global perception that Afghanistan is still the epicenter of terrorism under Taliban, therefore, the international community may not recognize the Taliban-led government. Last but not the least, the attacks were meant to discourage the neighboring states from investing in Afghanistan in order to create financial difficulties for the newly founded Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.
From the above stated facts it is evident that during the last few years Afghanistan has witnessed an exponential rise in terrorism activities by ISIS-K/Daesh under the patronage and guidance of Ajit Doval and RAW. The military precision with which the recent bombing attacks were conducted along with the selection of targets clearly points towards RAW still working in concert with ISIS-K in Afghanistan. Since Taliban’s ideology of establishing the Islamic Emirate in Afghanistan runs in direct collision with the ideology of Hindutva, thus ultimately against Ajit Doval, who embodies the past, present and future of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and who is a staunch follower of Hidutva ideology. India and RAW have a history of thriving on situations linked with escalating terror in the region. Sponsoring of terrorist outfits like Tibetan Independence Movement, Mukti Bahini, Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, Balochistan Liberation Army, TTP and ISIS-K are a few examples of India stoking terrorism in South Asia. With conclusive evidence that India has established and nurtured a brutal terrorist organization like ISIS-K/Daesh in Afghanistan, Ajit Doval and his aides may be tried by the International Court of Justice for crimes against humanity.


The writer is a Retired Vice Admiral and was an Ambassador of Pakistan to Maldives. The article contains personal views of the author and cannot be associated with the policy of government of Pakistan or any other state institution.
E-mail: [email protected]


1.   Inam Ul Haque, The pervasive world of Indian intelligence, The Express Tribune, May 14, 2020. https://tribune.com.pk/story/2220857/pervasive-world-indian-intelligence
2.   Raashid Wali Janjua, India-The Afghan peace spoiler, Daily Times, September 28, 2020. https://dailytimes.com.pk/671591/india-the-afghan-peace-spoiler/
3.   India building contacts with ISIS, al-Qaeda in Afghanistan, The News, October 12, 2015 https://www.thenews.com.pk/print/15137-india-building-contacts-with-isis-al-qaeda-in-afghanistan.
4.   Ibid.
5.   Rudra Chaudhuri and Shreyas Shende, Dealing With the Taliban: India’s Strategy in Afghanistan After U.S. Withdrawal, June 2020, P 20, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace Publications Department, 1779 Massachusetts Avenue NW Washington, D.C. 20036.
6.   Shweta Desai, Kabul attack: Overseas Indian fighters haunt India’s interests abroad, Atlantic Coucil, April 18, 2020. https://atlanticcouncil.org/blogs/new-atlanticist/kabul-attack-overseas-indian-fighters-haunt-indias-interests-abroad/

 

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