Certain death awaits ISIS militants migrating to Afghanistan
KABUL -- Terrorists heeding the call of the "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" (ISIS) to come to Afghanistan should think twice about making such a move, Afghan officials and analysts say.
ISIS's Khorasan branch released a 25-minute video March 4 promoting purported ISIS strongholds in northern and eastern Afghanistan "as an option for immigration" for militants unable to reach Iraq or Syria, the SITE Intelligence Group said March 6.
"O you Muslims in every corner of the world! Immigrate to Khorasan! If you are incapable of immigrating to Iraq and Sham [Syria], come to Khorasan," a militant said in the video, referring to a historic region that includes parts of modern-day Afghanistan, Pakistan and neighbouring countries.
The video, with messages in Pashtu, Persian and Uzbek, showcased the terrorist group's brutality, including the training of child soldiers and the execution of prisoners.
ISIS on verge of collapse
Militants coming to Afghanistan on behalf of ISIS will find only death as the terrorist group is on the verge of collapse, according to the Afghan Ministry of Defence.
"All of ISIS's plans in Afghanistan have failed and this group has been defeated," Gen. Dawlat Waziri, a Defence Ministry spokesman, told Salaam Times. "The Khorasan branch of ISIS has lost a vast majority of its members, weapons and combat capabilities both in eastern and southern zones."
"During the past two years almost 3,500 ISIS fighters were killed, more than 1,000 of them were wounded and more than 500 others were captured," he said.
ISIS terrorists "must know that Afghanistan is not a safe haven for them and if they head either north or east [in Afghanistan], they will be destroyed by civilians and security forces", Waziri said.
"ISIS militants have lost all their bases in Nangarhar Province, which was once their headquarters. Just two years ago they had 4,000 members in the east of the country, but now they do not even have 400 left," he said.
"Air and ground operations are under way to destroy the remaining ISIS [fighters] in remote parts of Nangarhar," he added.
Air strikes by Afghan and US Resolute Support Mission forces are also under way in Darzab District of Jawzjan Province, where ISIS is "relatively active", he said.
"As a result ... dozens of local and foreign ISIS members have been killed so far," Waziri said.
An unacceptable terrorist group
The main reason for ISIS's defeat in Afghanistan has been the resistance of the general public and its co-operation with security forces.
"ISIS came to Afghanistan with the claim of [establishing an] 'Islamic caliphate', attempting to take advantage of the name of Islam and Afghan Muslims to turn Afghanistan into its headquarters after losing in Iraq and Syria," Daoud Rawash, a Kabul University professor, told Salaam Times.
"Its ideology and actions, however, were in conflict with Afghan ideology and culture. The 'Islamic caliphate' was merely a slogan, far from the truth," he said.
"Afghans realised that the main goal of followers of the self-proclaimed 'Islamic caliphate' was to promote religious extremism and terrorist activities, not moderate Islam," he said. "For this reason, Afghans rejected ISIS and their 'caliphate' and began to fight them."
"Atrocities committed in Syria and Iraq by ISIS have been witnessed around the world, especially by Afghans, who for years have been fighting terrorism," Rawash said. "The presence of such a group never has been and never will be acceptable for the Afghan community."
"Therefore, ISIS cannot choose Afghan territory for its headquarters," he said, adding that Afghans will "react negatively" to any terrorist organisation led by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi "as they have done so over the past two or three years".
ISIS finds no ally in the Taliban
Even the Taliban doesn't tolerate ISIS's attempted incursion into Afghanistan.
Over the past two months, ISIS and Taliban members have clashed in Laghman Province, resulting in dozens of deaths and injuries on both sides, according to local officials, and enabling Afghan National Defence and Security Forces to launch operations to eliminate both.
Late last year ISIS and the Taliban fought over territory in Nangarhar Province and in November the two groups declared "jihad" against each other after "serious and deep conflicts" in Jawzjan and Nangarhar provinces, local officials told Salaam Times.
Last May, officials told Salaam Times that ISIS and Taliban militants were locked in combat throughout Afghanistan, vying for the ability to extort and plunder the civilian population.
Resisting ISIS's oppression
During the two years ISIS was present in Nangarhar, "it committed numerous atrocities and crimes," said Zabihullah Zemarai, a member of the Nangarhar Provincial Council.
"It burned down houses, abducted women, assassinated tribal elders and religious scholars, and shut down schools and health centres," he told Salaam Times.
"It tried its best to make residents pledge their allegiance to it," he said. "All this, however, had [the opposite] result."
"The population of Nangarhar refused to join ISIS and stood with its security forces," Zemarai said. "It fought ISIS."
"Not only did Nangarhar residents not allow ISIS to establish a foothold in the province, they are struggling alongside the security forces to crack down on the remaining ISIS members," he said. "Residents of Nangarhar have played a major role in defeating this terrorist group."
"Throughout the country's history, the Afghan people have never pledged allegiance to any foreign leader," he said. "Therefore, they not only refuse to pledge allegiance to the ISIS terror group, they also consider joining this group contrary to their religion and culture."
"ISIS terrorists should not come here, because all their leaders as well as the majority of militants of their Khorasan branch have been buried under Afghanistan's soil," Zemarai said.
ISIS plans backfire
Finding only failure in attempting to build a headquarters in Afghanistan, ISIS attempted to fan sectarian discord by targeting the Shia minority, said Fakuri Beheshti, a representative of Bamiyan Province in the Wolesi Jirga (lower house of parliament).
"Its objective was to [recruit followers] through this method," he told Salaam Times. "This plan, however, has caused more ethnic and religious awakening in Afghanistan."
By blowing up Shia mosques and other holy sites, ISIS sought to inflame sectarianism in Afghanistan and to induce youth to fight each other, he said.
However, the opposite happened. "The followers of the two sects became closer more than ever before, to the extent that Sunnis went to Shia mosques not only to sympathise with them but also to join them in prayers," he said.
"Almost 100% of the victims of ISIS attacks have been civilians, including women and children," Beheshti said. "In the current solar year [beginning March 21], hundreds of civilian men and women were killed in the group's attacks on mosques and other religious places."