The Islamic State’s Wilayat Khorasan (or Khorasan Province), which incorporates both Afghanistan and Pakistan, is promoting what appears to be two training camps in the region. While the locations of the camps are unknown, they are likely situated in the eastern Afghan province of Nangarhar, where the jihadist group has established a presence.
The camps were highlighted in 18 photographs that show dozens of Islamic State recruits training in a wooded area. The fighters are shown participating in physical exercises and weapons training, including the use of an anti-aircraft gun. It is unclear if the camps are in the same general area.
The Islamic State provides the names of the camps in the photos. The first, the “Shaykh Abu Omar al Baghdadi camp,” is named after the previous leader of the Islamic State of Iraq. The other camp, the “Shaykh Abu Musab al Zarqawi camp,” is named after the founder of al Qaeda in Iraq, the predecessor of the Islamic State.
While it has long been reported that the Islamic State operates training camps for its branch in the region, the photo report offers the first official confirmation of such facilities. In August, photos emerged purporting to show the “Shahid Hakeemullah Mehsud camp,” which is named after the last leader of the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, and is thought to be located somewhere in Pakistan’s tribal areas. Earlier this year, other images were published showing the “Ustad Yasir camp,” which was run by the Sa’ad bin Abi Waqas Front in Logar province in Afghanistan. The status of these two camps is unclear.
Much has been made of the Islamic State’s presence in Afghanistan by both the jihadist group itself and Western media. The Islamic State, which is challenging al Qaeda for supremacy in the global jihad, is attempting to supplant the Taliban and al Qaeda in their strongholds in Afghanistan and Pakistan. However, the Islamic State has largely been contained to the province of Nangarhar after being defeated by the Taliban in Farah and Helmand provinces.
Photos released by the Islamic State’s Wilayat Khorasan: