Islamic State’s ‘Khorasan province’ threatens Taliban in latest video

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The Islamic State’s so-called “Khorasan province” threatened the Taliban in a video released late last month. The video, which is more than 15 minutes long, features a lengthy speech by an unnamed jihadist (see image above) in front of armed fighters and local villagers.

The speaker, citing the Prophet Mohammed, warns that there cannot be two caliphs. If one of the caliphs fulfills the appropriate criteria for being the ummah’s supposed leader — that is, the head of the worldwide community of Muslims — then the other must be vanquished, the speaker says.

Although he doesn’t name Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Omar, the Islamic State’s man undoubtedly intended to evoke a comparison between Omar and Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, the Islamic State’s self-proclaimed “caliph.” His speech, therefore, could be seen as a call to eliminate Omar.

Al Qaeda has highlighted its oath of allegiance to Omar, first sworn by Osama bin Laden prior to the 9/11 attacks, as part of its response to the Islamic State’s challenge. Although al Qaeda’s leaders typically don’t describe Omar as the “caliph,” they do refer to him as the “Emir of the Believers,” a title usually reserved for the man holding that position of authority.

In the video, the Islamic State’s “Khorasan province” also accuses the Taliban of attacking its fighters at the behest of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency. The ISI has long backed the Taliban, and it is widely suspected that Omar is being sheltered by part of the ISI’s establishment, or at least lives in Pakistan with the intelligence service’s knowledge.

In text scrolled across the bottom of the screen, the group alleges that the Taliban attacked its fighters in the Nangarhar province in the middle of May. The speaker says that his men will avenge their fallen comrades.

Multiple published accounts since the beginning of the year have reported on the clashes between the Taliban and the Islamic State’s representatives in Nangarhar and elsewhere in Afghanistan. One account, published yesterday, claims that the Islamic State’s men captured and then decapitated 10 Taliban fighters after they fled a battle with local Afghan security forces. Another version of the story says the Islamic State’s jihadists ambushed the Taliban fighters as they were making their way to a battle with the Afghan National Army (ANA).

Other accounts point to skirmishes between the two sides in the western province of Farah, after the Islamic State established training camps there earlier this year. [For a summary of press reporting on the Islamic State’s presence in Afghanistan and Pakistan from earlier this year, see LWJ report, Mapping the emergence of the Islamic State in Afghanistan.]

Despite the Islamic State’s attempt to win over jihadists in Afghanistan and Pakistan, the organization’s presence is likely still much smaller the network controlled by the Taliban, al Qaeda, and their allies. Still, the Islamic State has been itching for a fight with its jihadist rivals in the region.

In January, Islamic State spokesman Abu Muhammad al Adnani announced his organization’s expansion into the Khorasan, which covers Afghanistan, Pakistan and parts of the area surrounding these two nations. Adnani warned that other “factions will assemble against” the “caliphate’s” men, and they shouldn’t hesitate to fight their opposition. Although Adnani didn’t specifically name the Afghan or Pakistani Taliban, he clearly had the groups in mind.

The Islamic State’s growth in the region has been fueled by disaffected Taliban commanders. A splinter group of mid-level Pakistani Taliban leaders has sworn allegiance to Baghdadi, as have some Afghan Taliban veterans who were forced out of their roles in Mullah Omar’s organization.

In February, the US killed Mullah Abdul Rauf Khadim, the Khorasan province’s deputy emir, in an airstrike. Khadim, an ex-Guantanamo detainee, had served as a senior Taliban official until he was removed from his position.

Infighting and leadership disputes fractured the Pakistani Taliban coalition last year. But in recent months the alliance was reestablished, with a senior al Qaeda leader, Matiur Rehman, playing a leading role.

In late May, the new Pakistani Taliban coalition issued a nearly 60-page statement rejecting the Islamic State’s “self-professed caliphate.” The group praised the leadership of Mullah Omar, deceased al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, and Ayman al Zawahiri.

The statement shows that al Qaeda and the Taliban continue to exercise a great deal of influence over the Pakistani Taliban.

Thomas Joscelyn is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Senior Editor for The Long War Journal.

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19 Comments

  • Gary says:

    Which one of these dispicable foes emerge the deadelist jihadists.. Stay tuned. More die the better.

  • Alex says:

    I’m pretty sure it’s safe to call this one red-on-red, right?

  • Oberron says:

    If the estimated 200 strong or so IS fighters in Af/Pak manage to defeat or flip the 40,000+ or so leg mobile AfTal and the PakTal, it would be an utter embarrassment to the US Military that they couldn’t defeat the Taliban or AQ, but a force with nowhere near their firepower or technology, and whose annual budget isn’t even a rounding error on Pentagon Budget Sheets achieved what they couldn’t do.

    Especially if IS then leads those flipped fighters to victory after victory in Afghanistan. If they manage an operational victory over US troops in direct combat, and teach the flipped Taliban proper light infantry tactics…

    Well how many troops do we want to send back to Afghanistan? Or do we say to China, your problem, good luck propping up Pakistan, we blow billions on them to keep their corrupt Generals happy?

    • wiggum says:

      @ Oberron

      How should ~200 (foreign ?) IS fighters defeat (kill or rout) 40,000 Taliban fighters who are deeply rooted in the Afghan/Pak population and have ISI support ?

      And if these Taliban decide that they want to fight under the IS flag (join ISIS) from now on, how would that be a “utter embarrassment” to the US Military ?
      Because the US could not convince the Taliban to join the ANA or the US-Army ?
      Your logic is pretty flawed on this and it looks to me (while reading your other comments here) that you like to portray IS fighters as some kind of Jihadi Superman’s.

      I mean IS should teach the Taliban “proper light infantry tactics” ?!
      Please tell us why the ordinary IS fighter is so much more badass then a Afghan Taliban…

    • mike merlo says:

      @ Oberron

      IMO the ANA will do just fine as long as the US & other principals Allied with the Afghan Government keep providing all that is necessary to take the fight to their opponents. The Afghan Military is nowhere near the despicable conditions of the Iraqi Military. Afghanistan took a heavy hit in Badakhshan & responded quite impressively. Unlike the Iraqi Military who once losing Mosul pretty much lost everything South of Mosul to within Binocular distance of Baghdad.

      It really doesn’t matter that much if ISIS/ISIL manages to calve off some of the AfPak Taliban. Its not like the AfPak Taliban haven’t had outside assistance before. The Pakistani Military at one time was providing upwards 50% of the manpower along with Technology, Heavy Weapons & Air Support early on in the Taliban’s ascendancy. That the Tribal’s residing in the AfPak Theater took in some outsiders is nothing new. Haqqani is essentially an outsider & he’s done quite well but he’s never managed more than what he initially ‘carved’ out for himself. All that ‘talk’ about the Haqqani Network becoming a nexus for Global Jihad has never materialized & never will. ISIS/ISIL is just the latest collection of outsiders to ally themselves with the local Tribal’s & make a run at regional Government’s. Afghanistan will stop them & the AfPak ‘boys’ will do what they did in the mid/late 2000’s & target Pakistan. Maybe having better luck this time in making a run at Islamabad. Besides Pakistan is where the Nukes are.

      One thing I do find incredibly disturbing is the defection of the Tajik Paramilitary Special Forces Officer Gulmurod Khalimov from Tajikistan to ISIS/ISIL in the Syrian Iraqi Theater. One could easily make the argument that Central Asia along with the Caucus Region & a few other areas were all part of the birthing phase of ‘Todays’ Jihad once the Soviet Union collapsed. What unfolded in Tajikistan, as I’m sure you’re aware of, which was probably one of the Principal Locales as the Salafist’s & like minded others burst onto ‘the scene.’

      Its my understanding that there was a connection in the Badakhshan Offensive between ISIS/ISIL, some AfPak Taliban who had Allied themselves with ISIS/ISIL, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar/Hezb-e Islami, some Central Asians & Afghan Taliban themselves. Hekmatyar a one time ISI ‘Golden Boy’ is still very much involved with them & this could possibly signal a potentially intimate relationship with ISIS/ISIL & Pakistan’s ISI. With that Tajik Paramilitary SpecOps Officer surfacing within the ranks of ISIS/ISIL in the Syria Iraqi Theater this could be the beginning of a whole new chapter in The Jihadi ‘Experience.’ For all we know this Tajik could wind up following a similar path like Zarqawi & end up near or in the vicinity of his Home Turf & make ‘things’ happen much in the same way Zarqawi got the ball rolling in Iraq. I’m sure any number of the Fumblelina’s in the US Intelligence if queried about Zarqawi in the late 90’s early 200 would have simply wrote him off as nothing more than a scofflaw.

      Concerning the failure of the US, the Coalition & the Afghan Government for fully emasculating the Afghan Taliban & others Allied with them is disingenuous. When a neighboring Nation like Pakistan is providing not only sanctuary but everything & then some to support an Insurgency. Lest ‘we’ forget bin Laden was living in Pakistan till we killed him. I find it pretty hard to stomach that now all of sudden we’re just going to witness a rerun of the 90’s after the Soviet Union withdrew from Afghanistan.

      Afghanistan is still receiving significant assistance from the US & others. Of particular importance is the level of & type of assistance Afghanistan receives from India. I’m sure Afghanistan will weather this Fighting Season & be that much stronger for it

      • Oberron says:

        @Mike Merlo

        Yes Pakistan is supporting the Taliban. Its irrelevant, the Generals had the responsibility to seal the borders and lock the place down. They failed and should have been sacked and replaced with those who could.

        The ANA is still unable to stand on its own and the Taliban is getting better, albeit slowly, but there is measurable difference between how they fought 2001-2013 and now. We are economically unable to sustain them, our infrastructure is breaking down to do so and China and Russia are moving to displace the dollar as reserve currency. If ANA is only able to survive because it relies on us to prop it up its doomed once we cut them off.

        The failure of ANA is the again the General’s fault. They failed the job we gave them and they should have been sacked for those who could.

        In WW2 the US trained Chinese Army fell apart against the IJA while led by General Slim in Burma in early 1942.

        Slim took full responsibility, said he would find out what went wrong, and did so. He sacked five generals, 40 colonels, and replaced them with men who got results and led them on an ass kicking spree.

        That kind of soul-searching and accountability is missing from our Generals and Officers.

        Trying to deflect the issue by trumpeting tactical successes won’t make the problem go away. If tactical successes were all that was needed to win wars, we all would be speaking German.

        So the issues remain:

        1. We failed to make Afghanistan a transparent democracy

        2. We failed to eliminate the Taliban who we outnumbered, outgunned, outmaneuvered, and outspent

        3. We failed to eliminate Al-Qaeda and bankrupted ourselves in the process

        These failures are the Generals, they did not own up to them, nor were they sacked for those who could deliver results. The line infantry did what they were supposed to and no fault lies with them, but their officers failed them and its time we face that and stop making excuses for them and putting our heads in the sand.

        Because if we don’t fix the failure of leadership at the Flag Ranks, they’ll lose against far worse foes than leg mobile Infantry who can’t hit the broad side of a barn.

        As for Zarqawi it gets worse:

        1. Jordan passed up numerous chances to assassinate him.

        2. The Taliban offered to turn him back over to Jordan, but were rebuffed.

        I already pointed out that Clinton and Bush and the Saudis could have nipped Osama when the Taliban offered him up numerous times before 9/11 and even after.

        • mike merlo says:

          @ Oberron

          The ANA is performing well. It has become Standard Fare for the last few years coming up on a decade for all the naysayer’s to make their usual negative pronouncement’s at the start of every fighting season. The Taliban & their allies as customary show up enmasse at some locale at the Opening of The Fighting Season, raise all kinds of havoc & all kinds of Band Wagoning goes on about ANA shortcoming’s & the stereotypical blather about the Afghan Government & on & on it goes. Mixed in are a handful of High Profile Terrorist/Bombings & then The Fighting ensue’s with Taliban as usual ending up with little or nothing to show for their efforts. In other words its just a bunch of atypical rhetoric that’s become quite common place over the last few decades involving Muslims. Rest assured this Fighting Season will end same as all the other’s, the Afghan Government still intact & gaining confidence, the ANA that much stronger for the experience & the Afghan People that much more resolute & determined to counter the Taliban & other like minded animals. The Taliban & their associates will slobber along with their usual bravado filled propaganda about their empty accomplishments & the like.

          The Generals didn’t “fail.” Its a political ‘thing.’ Besides the NDS has proven themselves more than capable of taking on the responsibilities accorded them & deftly acting on them. Afghanistan might not be “the Democracy” many have irresponsibly demanded but they are much more “transparent” than many Governments to & including the USA. The US Economy is doing ok all things considered & is certainly able to carry much more than Afghanistan & whatever else any should chose to sling at it. Lest anyone forget the USA was still being shadowed by the Great Depression when Challenged by WWII. The ‘whole’ China Russia ‘thing’ is a sophomoric argument proffered by those with little understanding of what’s driving the World’s Economy & those with their customary anti-American ‘ax’ to grind.

          “In WW2 the US trained Chinese Army fell apart against the IJA while led by General Slim in Burma in early 1942.” Total nonsense. Stillwell had the Chinese Army trained & managed to have SouthEast Asia back moving on the right track in favor of the US. Slim sleazed in on Stillwell’s ‘coattails.’

          “2. We failed to eliminate the Taliban who we outnumbered, outgunned, outmaneuvered, and outspent
          3. We failed to eliminate Al-Qaeda and bankrupted ourselves in the process”
          Both items are patently false. Both the Taliban & AQ have been ‘holed up’ in their Pakistani Sanctuary since the invasion of Afghanistan able only organize “Flying Columns,” semi-regular Terrorist Attacks focusing mainly the civilian population & the usual propaganda of controlling Afghanistan. Its a tired canard that’s long ago revealed itself to be what it is, ‘trash talk by a bunch of laggards & 3rd rate degenerate criminals.

          I fail to ‘see’ how “it gets worse” with Zaraqawi. He got blown to smithereens . End of story.

          I’m not sure how Bush figures into your bin Laden ‘scheme’ but definitely Clinton & the Saudi’s how their chances & blew them. Nonetheless bin Laden is dead & has been for a few years now

          • James says:

            Wow, Mike, is that really you making the above statement? I must say, I’m quite impressed!

  • Pendraig says:

    A bonus for the Afghan National Army!

  • mike merlo says:

    excellent information & insight. Very interesting. Am very much looking forward to whats next with these people. I’m pleased to ‘see’ that Wylie Coyote & Roadrunner caricature’s are very much active among our adversaries.

  • Jeff Edelman says:

    I thought this war — a war amongst the various factions of islam — would start once they had conquered the world politically and/or militarily. But, I guess, they couldn’t wait that long.

    • Jeff Edelman says:

      If I could just say one other thing and then I will shut up, I promise. This war amongst the muslims won’t end until all the muslims that care to fight are gone or the second coming of Christ. Kind of sounds like a warranty, doesn’t it?

  • john says:

    The Ghilzai won’t be beaten by Da’esh. You could make a case against the Durrani, because they’ll surrender or run away in a fight. The Ghilzai are hands down the best fighters in the area, though, and the total lack of any honor code among Da’esh will only get them wiped out. Afghanistan is NOT Syria/Iraq. The rules aren’t the same at all.

    • Ingush Talib says:

      John
      The Ghilzai won’t be beaten by Da’esh. You could make a case against the Durrani, because they’ll surrender or run away in a fight. The Ghilzai are hands down the best fighters in the area, though, and the total lack of any honor code among Da’esh will only get them wiped out. Afghanistan is NOT Syria/Iraq. The rules aren’t the same at all.
      I agree with you

  • Evan says:

    @Oberron,
    So who do you get your weed from???
    You MUST be high…..with conjecture and speculation like that….
    Look, IS has a first rate, or pretty damn near it, propaganda machine, and can issue veiled threats in messages, and make it appear as though they’re more numerous or powerful than they actually are, but that’s about it….
    In Af/Pak anyway…

    The point is moot, the truth, is that NO ONE, I don’t care who they are, can or has defeated the US Military, or any branch thereof, operationally, or otherwise, in any way shape or form. NO ONE can stand and fight with the US, NO ONE.
    But defeat us?

    Also, just FYI, the Taliban DONT need or want ANY lessons in tactics from IS, they are quite proficient…

  • JW BARR says:

    Interesting that ISIS is attempting to expand its sphere of influence to Afghanistan. The strategy is clear, but I wonder whether ISIS has factored in the unique tribal dynamics attributed to the region and ISI’s influence over Pashtun centric groupings such as the Taliban itself. The myth of ISIS’s invincibility in the West is perpetuated by its aversion to ground combat operations creating the mystique and appeal to audiences predisposed to radicalisation through Western style social mediums. However, the Afghan temperament is quite different with more traditional views defined not just by tribal attitudes but ingrained historical and geographical perspectives. Essentially, in the short term ISIS is unlikely to making the kind of gains it has done in Iraq and Syria, though the growth of technology and global interconnectedness may certainly imbue the younger generation of Afghans with ISIS’s world view generating a long term problem. One thing is certain, and that is there is ‘turf war’ going on and that may take some of the pressure off ANSF for the time being.

  • Zakkie says:

    Materialization of underlying theological-ideological-school of thought divide between misunderstood militant structures…….
    The ideologies, that drive the two groups, can never be same and even can not be narrowed down by any attempt of reconciliation.
    The clashes first appeared in undertones ;and then in speeches ;and now the conflict has emerged physically. If the literature of both is compared than it will not be hard to herald that the two will see fierce fight in coming days.

  • lolzy says:

    Basically, IS in Afghanistan are indigenous militants and probably just allied (for now) in spirit.
    IS is not sending arms so nothing except light skirmishes are likely.

    Mullah Omar is unlikely to resume power even if the Taliban regained total control. He was a shrewd man, but not covetous of leadership by all accounts and never really asked to become leader.
    And there isn’t a complete likelihood of all out war. IS in K militants are fresh from the Taliban and unlikely to adopt the more extreme isolatory tactics of IS

  • James says:

    So now, “The Graveyard of the Empires” (as well as a sizable chunk of AQ) has now become the graveyard of the Islamic State. Good riddance!

Iraq

Islamic state

Syria

Aqap

Al shabaab

Boko Haram

Isis