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Taliban and Islamic State: Enemies or Brothers in Jihad? | Antonio Giustozzi

December 14, 2017

 

 

Summary

 

As the end of 2017 approached, IS in Khorasan had a lot going against it. The upheaval in Syria and Iraq was having a negative impact on funding, and probably on morale too. The central IS leadership struggled more and more to control its local forces.  Finally, the underlying tension within IS Khorasan erupted in open rivalry during the summer, with the organisation splitting into two distinct factions.

 

The IS reaction to these multiple challenges has been a series of attempts to mend fences with at least some of IS Khorasan’s main enemies: the Pakistani authorities and the mainstream Taliban of the Quetta Shura. These attempts were at least in part successful, as relations with the Pakistanis seem indeed to have improved, and a ceasefire with the Quetta Shura was in place for about three weeks, before ultimately collapsing. At the same time, these IS efforts are exacerbating the internal split, which from the outset was unacceptable to hardliners.

 

The Taliban, on the other hand, have shown an interest in reaching an understanding with IS Khorasan, since the Taliban's conflict with IS has been a significant distraction from its aim of fighting the Afghan government.  Moreover, fighting a war against a jihadist organisation is implicitly deligitimising for the Taliban. Still, a permanent ceasefire and long-term coexistence between the Taliban and IS Khorasan are ambitious aims as the two organisations compete for territory, recruits and -- increasingly -- for sources of revenue.

 

Introduction

 

The Taliban and the Islamic State have now been uneasily co-existing in Afghanistan for almost three years. From their rather friendly beginnings in late 2014, the two organisation locked horns during 2015, fighting each other bitterly, especially in Nangarhar and Zabul provinces. Fighting continued in 2016-17, even if it subsided somewhat. At any given time during these three years, there have been substantial parts of the Taliban and of the Islamic State (IS) that stayed out of the fight, and even in some cases signed formal non-belligerence agreements with each other. Despite frequent clashes, occasionally there have been allegations of Taliban-IS cooperation in specific cases. From the perspective of Afghanistan’s stability, an improvement in IS-Taliban relations could be a dangerous development that would substantially increase the threat faced by the Afghan authorities. However, the question remains of how likely is that to happen? And to what extent Taliban and Islamic State converge in their aims and to what extent are they incompatible?

 

This paper assesses the state of Taliban-IS relations as of October 2017 and looks into future prospects of collaboration and conflict between the two organisations. The paper is divided in four sections. The first section is a brief summary of what the Islamic State in Khorasan looks like today. The second section is a short summary of what the Taliban look like today. The subsequent two sections analyse the Taliban/Islamic State relations, first until 2016 and then during 2017 respectively.

 

This paper is based on extensive research on both Taliban and Islamic State in Khorasan (primarily based on oral sources), carried out in 2011-2017. Given the rapidly changing nature of IS-K and Taliban relations, our new interviews have been carried out specifically for this paper in October 2017, in order to update the information available. The bulk of the information contained in this paper comes from Islamic State in Khorasan (IS-K) interviewees and contacts, or from similar Taliban sources. Despite the fact that the source of information is primarily from the insurgency side (i.e. Taliban, IS-K), the information is not unilateral in character. In fact, the rivalry between the two organisations and their internal divisions allowed the author to use these sources for cross-checks and for verification. Having stated this, it is clear that relations between Taliban and IS-K are slippery ground for any analyst, not least because of the factionalization of both Taliban and IS-K as neither group is uniform.

 

The Islamic State in Khorasan today

 

IS-K made the headlines in 2015 because of its official appearance in various locations in Afghanistan and its intransigent attitude, inspired by Salafi views. It enforced religious strictures on the population, and attempted to rely largely on coercion in its relationship with local communities, not least implementing an unpopular ban on drug cultivation and trade. This ban in itself turned many communities against IS-K. By late 2016, a significant shift was noticeable, as a more pragmatic leadership emerged after the death of ‘governor’ Hafiz Saeed in the summer. Hafiz Saeed’s rigid approach had earned him constant opposition, particularly among Afghan members of IS-K. The new leadership (Special Envoy Abu Yasir Al-Afghani, interim governor Hasibullah Logari and the 40 members of the Military Council) adopted a more flexible approach with local communities, trying to co-opt them more than to coerce them. Although IS-K continued being perceived as a violent and ruthless organisation in Nangarhar, where most of its violence took place, the new approach seems to have given a new boost to IS-K’s expansion until mid-2017, when the successor to Hafiz Saeed, Hasibullah Logari, was also killed. Combined with weakening supervision from the increasingly embattled central leadership of IS in Syria, this contributed to unleash a succession struggle within IS-K.[1]

 

In the summer of 2017 IS-K split into two factions, one led by Aslam Farooqi, a former commander of Lashkar-e Taiba, and one led by Moawiya, a former IMU commander. The cause of the split was the controversial decision by a majority of the military council of IS-K to select Aslam Farooqi as the new governor of Khorasan province. A minority, mainly composed of Central Asians, with some Afghan commanders linked to them, rejected Farooqi and de facto split away. The minority suspected Farooqi of being an agent of the Pakistani ISI, or at least of having links to them. The Central Asians accuse the Pakistani authorities of having tried to exterminate them when they were based in Waziristan (still as IMU at that time), and rate the Pakistani state as non-Muslim. There seems to be some truth in these accusations of Farooqi having links to the Pakistani authorities. Sources in the Farooqi faction admit that after Farooqi was chosen as governor, relations with the Pakistani authorities improved greatly, to the extent that they now even receive some financial support from the ISI and are allowed to use some areas of Pakistan for training, logistics and recuperation. In exchange for this support, the Farooqi faction has reportedly agreed not to carry out attacks inside Pakistan.[2]

 

One reason for reaching an understanding with the Pakistani authorities could be the need for safe havens in Pakistan, following the heavy casualties inflicted on the leadership (as well as rank-and-file) of IS-K by US air strikes on Afghan territory. Whatever Farooqi’s actual relations with the ISI might be, he must be mindful of the fate of his two predecessors (both killed in US strikes) and of most of the original leadership of IS-K. The need for a safe haven, sheltered from constant US strikes, was evident by the summer of 2017.

 

From here onwards in this report the Farooqi group will be referred to as IS-K (F), while the Moawiya group will be referred to as IS-K (M). Despite attempts by the IS leadership in Syria to mediate, relations between the two factions have been tense and there were even a few violent skirmishes in Nangarhar. As a result IS-K (M) moved all its men to northern Afghanistan, where its main force was concentrated already, giving the split a geographic dimension as well. Negotiations sponsored by the central leadership of IS in Syria went on for months, but IS-K (M) remained adamant that Farooqi is unacceptable to them as a governor. The IS-K (M) source indicated that negotiations were abandoned at the end of the summer. The two factions are  trying to attract each other’s members to their side, including some of the top figures, and are actively negotiating to achieve this aim. The intent seems to be to reach the critical mass required to get the leadership of IS to recognise them as the one and only branch of IS in Khorasan. Each of them also claims to be closer to the central leadership of IS. For now the central leadership of IS has not officially recognised Aslam Farooqi as governor. The source in IS-K (M) claims that the central leadership of IS was not pleased with IS-K (F)’s dealings with Pakistan’s ISI and with the Taliban and that it might now be seeking to slowly undermine Farooqi’s leadership, but there is no independent confirmation of this.[3]

 

The Pakistani component of IS-K (Tehrik-e Khilafat Pakistan) fully followed Aslam Farooqi into IS-K (F), as did the bulk of the different Afghan groups within IS-K: those of Azizullah Haqqani and Muslimdost, as well as Khilafat Afghan and Tehrik-e Khilafat Khorasan. IS-K (F) is active in Nangarhar, Kunar, Nuristan, Laghman, Logar, Paktika, Zabul, Kapisa, Parwan, Baghlan, Ghazni and Helmand as far as Afghanistan is concerned. The main concentrations are in Nangarhar, Kunar and Zabul. In Pakistan it is present in Peshawar, Kurram Agency, Orakzay, Hangu, in North and South Waziristan, in Bajauar, Momand, Swat, Karachi and Baluchistan. The main concentrations are Orakzay, Bajaur, Hangu and Kurram.[4]

 

With Moawiya were mainly the Central Asians of the Omar Ghazi Group (an offshoot of the IMU which fully joined IS) and Shamali Khilafat, a group made up of Afghan Tajiks and Uzbeks, plus some other assorted commanders. They are active in Jowzjan, Faryab, Sar-i Pul, Samangan, Badghis, Baghlan, Kunduz, Takhar, Badakhshan. The main bases are in Badakhshan and Jowzjan.[5]

 

Overall, IS-K seems to have suffered from the split. IS-K (F) claims about 8,000 members, while IS-K (M) claims about 3,800; before the split IS-K was claiming up to 20,000 members.[6] Although there are some questions about the reliability of the higher end figures, there might have been some reduction in the strength of IS-K as a result of the split. There have been heavy losses especially to US air strikes, but it is also possible that some groups and commanders might have opted not to declare their loyalty to either faction. Even before the split there were some components of IS in Khorasan that were in fact autonomous from the IS-K leadership (the Iranian and Tajik branches, for example). In terms of nationality, the largest component of IS-K (taken as a whole) are Afghans, followed closely by Pakistanis. The rest are primarily Central Asians and Baluchis. In terms of ethnicity, IS-K (F) is almost entirely Pashtun, whereas IS-K (M) is Central Asian (mostly Uzbek, with Tajiks as well and few others) or Afghan Tajik and Uzbek.[7]

 

In order to understand the relationship established by IS-K with the Taliban, it is necessary to briefly discuss the status of the Taliban in recent years.

 

The Taliban today

 

The Taliban have always had complex internal arrangements and as they expanded after 2003, their arrangements have become even more complex. The so-called Rasool Shura (whose real name is High Council of the Islamic Emirate) has essentially split away and maintains no relations with the official Taliban of the Islamic Emirate. It accounts for less than 10% of total Taliban manpower.[8] The official leadership of the Islamic Emirate is concentrated in the Quetta Shura, which is based in part in Karachi and in part in Quetta. At present the head of the Emirate, Haibatullah Akhund, is recognised as leader by the Quetta Shura, except a minority of dissidents led by Obeidullah Ishaqzai, cousin of Akhtar Mansur, by the Shura of the North, by the Miran Shah Shura (in practice coinciding with the Haqqani network) and by Peshawar Shura. The Mashhad Shura is in good terms with Haibatullah but it has not yet accepted to formally recognise him as leader and to submit to his full authority.[9]

 

In practice, the Miran Shah Shura and the Shura of the North still maintain a considerable degree of autonomy and negotiate deals and agreements with other groups of insurgents (among else) without even reporting them to Quetta. Hence in this paper it will be necessary to discuss the relationship with the Islamic State of each of the Taliban’s Shuras. To talk of ‘the Taliban’ without any differentiation would be too much of a simplification.

 

The Mashhad Shura accounts for less than 10% of the Taliban’s manpower, but the Miran Shah Shura accounts for another 15% and the Shura of the north for about the same. The dissidents of the Quetta Shura, led by Obeidullah, account for another 10% or so. So these Taliban actors are not insignificant ones.[10]

 

Taken as a whole, the Taliban of the Islamic Emirate operate almost everywhere in Afghanistan nowadays, but its different components are often regionally focused:

 

  • The Shura of the North is mostly active in the north-east, around Kabul and in the east;

  • the Mashhad Shura is mostly concentrated in the west;

  • the Peshawar Shura operates in the east and around Kabul;

  • the Miran Shah Shura mostly in the south-east and in the south;

  • the Quetta Shura is mostly active in the south and in the north-west, but has some presence everywhere.[11]

 

It should be borne in mind that the Taliban are still many times the size of IS-K, easily 15 times as big if not more. This of course has implications in terms of how the Taliban have been viewing IS-K (initially clearly underestimating it), and also of how Taliban defeats at the hand of IS-K resonated among the Taliban’s rank-and-file (they were quite humiliating). In general, the inability of the Taliban to contain, if not to wipe out, a much smaller organisation like IS-K , in fact exposes a range of Taliban failures and inefficiencies, as well as internal divisions.

 

IS-K/Taliban relations in 2014-16

 

During 2014, the nascent IS-K established cordial relations with at least the Peshawar Shura (then autonomous from the Quetta Shura) and the Miran Shah Shura, trying to present itself as just another jihadist actor in the crowded Afghan-Pakistani environment. The Quetta Shura was from the beginning suspicious of IS-K’s intent given the proclamation of the Caliphate and the implicit challenge for Mullah Omar’s status as ‘Leader of the Faithful’. Only the Taliban of the Mashhad Office (not yet recognised then as a Shura) were inevitably opposed to all that IS-K represented since they were hosts of the Iranian Pasdaran. As IS-K started headhunting Taliban commanders from all Shuras any goodwill quickly evaporated. By early 2015, all the Taliban’s main shuras were turning very critical of IS-K, and the first few clashes with the forces of the Shuras of Quetta and Peshawar were beginning to take place and by the summer there was an was open war in Nangarhar, a province that since became the main epicentre of the Taliban/IS-K confrontation.

 

In reality, during 2015 already some components of the Taliban were working out arrangements with the Islamic State, first and foremost the Haqqani network (Miran Shah Shura). After tension in late 2014 to early 2015 over IS-K attempts to attract Haqqani network commanders, the Haqqanis avoided confronting IS-K, simply demanding that it stay out of their regional stronghold of Loya Paktia. Elsewhere, there were always numerous commanders of the Taliban who had relations with IS-K, or simply wanted to stay out of the fight. At one point in late 2015 even the leader of the Quetta Shura, Akhtar Mohammad Mansur,[13] briefly allied with IS-K against its enemy Mansur Dadullah.

 

During 2016, the Quetta Shura leadership was consistent in its opposition to the Taliban, but the new Northern Shura, which split from the Peshawar Shura at the end of 2015, quickly reached ceasefire agreements with IS-K in the north-east. The Haqqanis again had a period of tension with IS-K after the Haqqani district military leader of Zazai (Paktia) defected to IS-K with its men. The crisis was resolved through negotiations, without armed clashes.

 

The so-called Rasool Shura (High Council of the Islamic Emirate), which split from the Quetta Shura in November 2015, established cordial relations with IS-K from the autumn of 2016 onwards, once its relationship with the Iranian Pasdaran ended. Rasool Shura and IS-K cooperated on the ground for several months, but the relationship deteriorated in early 2017, for reasons that are unclear but might be related to the Rasool Shura’s desire to negotiate a settlement with the Afghan government.[14]

 

During 2016, in any case no component of the Taliban conceived the idea of an alliance with or collaborating with IS-K; the intra-Taliban debate was about open war, mutual tolerance and formal ceasefires.

 

IS-K’s criticism of the Taliban had an impact within the ranks of the latter for at least two reasons. One was the humiliating revelation of Mullah Omar’s death having been kept hidden for 2 years. The other was the bitter internal conflicts that were shaking the organisation. Throughout 2014-16, IS-K has been attracting thousands of Taliban commanders, fighters and cadres, who had been losing faith in their leadership. Among the most senior Taliban to switch sides in 2014-16 were Azizullah Haqqani, head of the Haqqanis’ Fedayi Commission (in charge of complex and suicide attacks), and Mohibullah, one of the deputies of the Peshawar Shura.

 

IS-K/Taliban relations in 2017

 

During 2017, IS-K continued to attract Taliban defectors. Among the most noteworthy ‘acquisitions’ were Habibullah (aka Abdul Rahman), formerly one of the heavyweight of the Peshawar Shura, who brought several hundreds men with him. Shahmahmood another senior member of the Peshawar Shura, and several other smaller commanders and their men making about 600 also joined IS-K (F). There were also some further defections from TTP and its various splinter groups.[15] However, a Haqqani source rather sympathetic to IS-K considered that the split of IS-K has harmed its jihadist credibility and is reducing the attraction of the organisation towards disgruntled Taliban. As the source said, ‘they are thinking that Daesh will also become like the Taliban’, that is permanently divided internally in rival groups. This source does not believe that realistically the split within IS-K can be healed and even fears that a further disintegration of the organisation along national lines might be possible.[16] While the source contacted in the IS-K (F) faction denied that the split might be a problem, the source in IS-K (M) admitted that because of the split IS-K is losing prestige among the Taliban and that recruitment of Taliban into either IS-K faction has slowed down. Significantly both sources in the IS-K factions admit that the situation in Iraq and Syria affects them negatively, as it destroy the aura of invincibility they were relying on. The two sources also agree that funding to IS-K is not for now a problem, with donors in the Arab Gulf keeping the supply up.[17]

 

As of October 2017, IS-K (F) admitted having agreements and alliances with various groups of Taliban in Logar, Paktika, Paktia, Zabul, Kunar, Nuristan. Mostly these alliances were negotiated locally, and as far as alliances are concerned mostly with the Haqqani network. After the Zabul agreement signed in April 2017, two more province-wise agreements were reportedly signed in September 2017 in Wardak and Ghazni. A source in the Haqqani network indicated that there are also alliances with IS-K in Zazai (Paktia), Azra (Logar), Daychopan (Zabul), Kajaki (Helmand), Nawa (Ghazni), Jaghatu and Nerkh (Wardak).[18]

 

However the trend in October was towards higher-level negotiations. Haibatullah, the leader of the Taliban, opened negotiations with IS-K (F), while the Miran Shah Shura was already negotiating with them for some time. In October 2017, Haibatullah’s representatives negotiated with IS-K (F) a ceasefire. Initially IS-K (F)’s requests were rejected as too onerous – IS-K (F) wanted exclusive control of Nangarhar, Kunar, Zabul, and Sar-i Pul provinces. Eventually the Quetta Shura managed to reach a ceasefire agreement with IS-K (F) on 18 October, whose terms were the following:

 

  • Taliban and IS-K (F) maintain taxation rights over the areas under their control at the time of the agreement;

 

  • Prisoners will be released by both sides;

 

  • Taliban and IS-K (F) recognise each other’s agreements with companies and businessmen, granting them access and immunity.

 

Some Taliban fronts in eastern Afghanistan, despite being liked to the Quetta Shura, rejected the terms of the agreement and continued fighting IS-K (F), particularly in Nangarhar, endangering the whole agreement. Even within the Quetta Shura there are major sources of tension over the agreement with IS-K (F): heavyweights like Gul Agha Ishaqzai, Mullah Shireen, Ibrahim Sadar, Mullah Yakub, Abdul Majeed have all criticised Haibatullah on this point.[19] At the time of writing the agreement was still standing (see Figure 1).[20]

 

The improved relations between IS-K (F) and the Pakistani security services helped improve relations with the Taliban too; both Taliban and IS-K (F) sources confirm that the Pakistani ISI has been mediating between the two groups and encouraging them to reach an agreement.[21]

 

While Haibatullah negotiated a ceasefire, joint operations between Haqqani and IS-K (F) have been carried out in Zabul, Janikhel, Baraki Barak and Azra. Cooperation between Haqqani network and IS-K also extends to Kabul city; according to a source, all IS-K attacks in Kabul have been performed with Haqqani support. This might only mean that ‘defectors’ from the Haqqani network to IS-K played a key role in carrying out the attacks, but the source also claimed that the Haqqani network has been asked by its Arab Gulf donors to perform attacks against Shi’a targets in Afghanistan, in retaliation for the despatch of volunteers to Syria.[22]

 

Haqqani sources insist that many of the commanders who switched from Haqqani to IS-K did so with the approval of Serajuddin Haqqani himself, for the purpose of creating a pro-Haqqani lobby inside IS-K. According to the source the Haqqani commanders who joined IS-K played an important role in moderating the group’s stance and in improving its skills in dealing with local communities. The same source acknowledged that Saudi donors to the Haqqani network push for collaboration with IS-K. Khorasan is one of the few areas where Saudi donors reportedly continue to support IS. Such claims of benign Haqqani influence over IS-K might well be inflated, and represent instead an attempt to dismiss the importance of large-scale defections from Haqqani network to IS-K. Indeed these very commanders have in some case prevaricated against the Haqqani networks, occupying portions of its territory without authorisation. Despite repeated warnings to stay out of Loya Paktia, the Haqqanis’s traditional turf, IS-K (F) has gradually established a presence in Zazai and Dand-i Patan (Paktia), Janikhel, Showak and  Barmal (Paktika), Baraki and Azra (Logar), Sabari (Khost). The Haqqanis do not hide the fact that they are irritated by this presence and threaten to cut off all relations with IS-K if these forces will not be withdrawn. It remains nonetheless quite probable that former Haqqani commanders now in IS-K might maintain some kind of relationship with their former leader, or with other members of the Haqqani network.[23]

 

The Haqqani network has maintained close relations with both IS-K factions after they split. An internal source indicates that the Haqqani networks feels closer to the IS-K (M) faction because of its own longstanding close relations with Central Asian jihadists, but in practice most cooperation has taken place with IS-K (F) for geographic reasons. Within the Haqqani network there is some opposition to an alliance with IS-K, including within the Haqqani family itself. However, according to an internal source the large majority of the rank and file is in favour of collaboration.[24]

 

Al-Qaida, which has given up on trying to find an accommodation with IS-K and went back on the offensive against it in recent months in Kunar, is lobbying the Taliban against making deals with IS-K. This has caused friction between Al-Qaida and Taliban, including a traditional ally of Al-Qaida like the Haqqani network, which has refused to bow to Al-Qaida’s pressure.[25]

 

The IS-K (M) group by contrast is not trying to negotiate at all with the Quetta Shura, rejects the IS-K (F)/Quetta Shura agreement and continues to fight it, particularly in north-western Afghanistan. Moawiya accuses the Quetta Shura of atrocities committed against Central Asian jihadists and their families in 2016. However IS-K (M) has close relations with the Haqqanis, who were not involved in those atrocities and in fact bitterly criticised them.[26] IS-K (M) also maintains its ceasefires with the Northern Shura of the Taliban in the north-east, despite tensions arising from its attacks on Quetta Shura Taliban in the region and its capture of some Northern Shura sources of revenue.[27]

 

In general IS-K (F) does not seem to believe that a comprehensive long-term ceasefire with the Taliban as a whole will ever be feasible. IS-K (F) continues to see Iran and its Afghan allies as its primary enemy; as long as important Taliban components and leaders will continue entertaining close relations with Iran (and Russia), IS-K (F) will be inclined to fight them, not least because of the pressure from its donors in the Arab Gulf. [28]

 

Conclusion

 

IS-K is past its peak in Afghanistan, if not in terms of military capabilities, certainly in terms of jihadist image. Its internal rivalries are now exposed, at a time when its myth of invincibility is also collapsing following a string of defeats in Iraq and Syria. IS-K sources admitted that the situation in Syria and Iraq was complicating their task of attracting new recruits from among the ranks of the Taliban, as well as from other jihadist organisations. Sources among the Taliban, even when sympathetic to IS-K, went farther and pointed out how IS-K’s new pragmatism and internal divisions were making it look too much like the Taliban.

 

At the same time IS-K had demonstrated sufficient resilience under attack from multiple sources (Taliban, Afghan security forces, local militias and US forces) to legitimise itself as an insurgent organisation with staying power in Afghanistan at least. As such many Taliban leaders and commanders see little point in locking their organisation in a conflict with IS-K, which could well last forever. At no point in 2015-17 did the Taliban come close to achieving decisive victories against IS-K: any tactical success turned out to be short lived. Even in western Afghanistan, where groups of Taliban engaged in fighting against IS-K were enjoying direct support from the Iranian Pasdaran, IS-K could not be eradicated.

 

At the same time it could make sense for the leadership of IS-K, or at least its majority, to normalise relations with other jihadist organisations and particularly the Taliban, with at least one of the regional powers (Pakistan), abandon its ambitions of hegemonizing the jihadist universe and accept a more modest role as just another jihadist organisation operating along the Afghan-Pakistan border.

 

Paradoxically the apparently incipient collapse of the Caliphate in the Middle East makes IS-K a less threatening presence in Afghanistan and therefore a more credible partner for the Taliban in some co-existence agreement. The Taliban’s leadership will remain under pressure from Iran and Russia to maintain an aggressive stance against IS-K, but this appears less and less sustainable politically for the Taliban, regardless of who will be the leader. More and more for the Taliban the priority is scoring high in the battlefield against Kabul’s forces, and re-establishing their credibility as the ascendant power in Afghanistan. This is probably one of the reasons why Haibatullah had to reluctantly accept to negotiate with IS-K in autumn 2017, despite having repeatedly declared his commitment to crushing it in the past.

 

The other reason for Haibatullah’s shift is regional politics. A more pragmatic IS-K leadership managed to find a modus vivendi with the Pakistani authorities, which in turn, started putting pressure on the Taliban leadership to follow suit. The ‘normalisation’ of IS-K breaks the united front of regional powers and most insurgent organisations against it, paving the way for more tactical behaviour on all sides.

 

Whether or not the IS-K (F)/Taliban agreement can hold will, therefore, depend on a number of issues. Iranians and Russians might tolerate Haibatullah’s dealings with the group, if they think that these would result in its gradual distancing from the IS leadership. The ability of Taliban and IS-K (F) to agree on spheres of influence and on a freeze of whatever territorial control they might have is an essential aspect of the durability of the agreement. If the two groups will continue competing to attract each other’s members (so far it has been IS-K doing that), take each other’s territory and control each other’s sources of revenue, the deal will not last long. Previous ceasefire agreements do not bode well in this regard, as IS-K showed a tendency to break them, particularly once its external sources of funding started shrinking and it came under pressure to raise more revenue within Khorasan.

 

 

FIGURE 1: Relations between Islamic State and Taliban in Afghanistan, 2017

 

 

 

 

[1] For more details and sources see A. Giustozzi, The Islamic State in Khorasan, London ; Hurst, forthcoming 2018.

 

[2] Interview with IS-K (F) commander in Achin, Nangarhar, October 2017.

 

[3] Interview with IS-K (F) commander in Achin, Nangarhar, October 2017; Interview with commander of IS-K (M), Baghlan, October 2017.

 

[4] Interview with IS-K (F) commander in Achin, Nangarhar, October 2017.

 

[5] Interview with commander of IS-K (M), Baghlan, October 2017.

 

[6] Interview with IS-K (F) commander in Achin, Nangarhar, October 2017; Interview with commander of IS-K (M), Baghlan, October 2017; Interview with IS-K (M) commander in Baghlan, October 2017; Interview with IS-K senior commander in Nangarhar, January 2017.

 

[7] See A. Giustozzi, Islamic state in Khorasan, cit.

 

[8] Interview with provincial-level cadre of the Rasool Shura, October 2017.

 

[9] Sources in the Quetta Shura, contacted in August and September 2017.

 

[10] Sources in the Quetta, Northern, Miran Shah and Mashhad shuras, contacted throughout 2017.

 

[11] Ibid.

 

[12] This section is based on A. Giustozzi, The Islamic State in Khorasan, London : Hurst, forthcoming 2018.

 

[13] Mansur was in charge from July 2015 until his killing in May 2016; Mawlavi Haibatullah Akhund replaced him within days of his death.

 

[14] Interviews with members of the Rasool Shura December 2016 and October 2017.

 

[15] Interview with IS-K (F) commander in Achin, Nangarhar, October 2017.

 

[16] Interview with advisor to Serajuddin Haqqani, October 2017.

 

[17] Interview with IS-K (F) commander in Achin, Nangarhar, October 2017; Interview with commander of IS-K (M), Baghlan, October 2017.

 

[18] Interview with IS-K (F) commander in Achin, Nangarhar, October 2017.

 

[19] Interview with advisor to Serajuddin Haqqani, October 2017; source in Miran Shah Shura, contacted October 2017.

 

[20] Source in the Quetta Shura, contacted November 2017.

 

[21] Interview with IS-K (F) commander in Achin, Nangarhar, October 2017; Interview with advisor to Serajuddin Haqqani, October 2017; source in the Quetta Shura, contacted in October 2017.

 

[22] Interview with advisor to Serajuddin Haqqani, October 2017.

 

[23] Interview with advisor to Serajuddin Haqqani, October 2017.

 

[24] Interview with advisor to Serajuddin Haqqani, October 2017.

 

[25] Interview with advisor to Serajuddin Haqqani, October 2017.

 

[26] Interview with advisor to Serajuddin Haqqani, October 2017.

 

[27] Interview with IS-K (M) commander in Baghlan, October 2017; interview with senior commander of Northern Shura, February 2017; source in Northern Shura, July 2017.

 

[28] Interview with IS-K (F) commander in Achin, Nangarhar, October 2017.

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