Ever since the U.S. military formally withdrew from Afghanistan, there have been questions about the region's stability. The Taliban, who now control the nation, are known for their brutality and governing decisions that include the strict imposing of their take on Sharia law, a set of rules that align with the Islamic faith.
The U.S. and its allies are concerned about the Taliban and their rule in Afghanistan, but a new dangerous foe has come to prominence in the area: ISIS-K. Largely unlike the Taliban, they have their sights set firmly on Western targets.
So, who exactly are they and what is the difference between ISIS and ISIS-K? Furthermore, why are ISIS and the Taliban enemies? Keep reading for all of the known details.
What is the difference between ISIS and ISIS-K?
There really isn't a difference between ISIS and ISIS-K. ISIS-K is simply an offshoot of the Islamic State terrorist organization ISIS, which has long been a major enemy of the U.S. in the fight against global terrorism.
The "K" in the organization's name stands for Khorasan, which is a historical title for a region that encapsulates what is today Pakistan, Iran, Afghanistan, and Central Asia, per The Times. ISIS-K operates now through Pakistan and Afghanistan in locations where U.S. troops have fought Taliban and Al-Qaeda militants since 2001.
Unlike the Taliban, which seeks to only control Afghanistan, ISIS and ISIS-K operate a worldwide terrorist network. The beliefs of ISIS and ISIS-K largely overlap, but the reason for concern surrounding ISIS-K attacks is the group's apparent willingness to specifically go after Western targets. This deviates from other militant groups in the region, like the Taliban, who are largely focused on local control.
Even though almost all military intelligence accounts currently deem ISIS-K a relatively small offshoot group of ISIS, their attacks and belief system have made them a substantial threat in the eyes of both the Taliban and the U.S. military.
ISIS-K, in the past, has attacked girls' schools and hospitals, even staging a particularly gruesome raid on a maternity ward where ISIS-K fighters allegedly shot and killed pregnant women and nurses, according to the BBC.
At the peak of its power, the group reportedly contained roughly 3,000 members, but that number has since dwindled following a series of battles with U.S., Afghan, and Taliban forces. The ISIS sub-group was founded in January 2015 during a peak time for IS international's power in both Iraq and Syria.
When it comes to how they bring in new members, ISIS-K seems to largely recruit Afghan and Taliban defectors who feel as though the Taliban's methods aren't extreme enough in imposing Sharia law.
Why are ISIS and the Taliban enemies? The Taliban considers the insurgent group to be a threat to their power.
Although there are some similarities between the Taliban and ISIS, the Taliban have a strong resentment for ISIS, and vice-versa. ISIS has accused the Taliban of abandoning Jihad and guerilla war tactics in favor of peace negotiations. The Taliban sees ISIS and ISIS-K as a threat to their totalitarian rule of Afghanistan.
This provides common ground for the Taliban and U.S. forces, who both view ISIS and ISIS-K as a massive threat to Afghan and global stability. In the days before the vicious Aug. 26, 2021, bombing outside Kabul airport that left 12 U.S. soldiers dead, the Pentagon as well as the Biden administration warned that they had been monitoring unusually high ISIS-K activity and that threats may be imminent, per France 24.