ThesisPDF Available

Human security, economic vulnerability, and terrorism in Afghanistan: Deficits in a western-oriented, top-down approach

  • Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction


Unending internal divisions, lack of physical security, and a dearth of economic opportunities all serve to promote an environment throughout Afghanistan in which disparate terrorist groups rather than a unified western-style democracy thrive. This paper aims to demonstrate how the psychological and economic impact of the two primary terrorist groups have taken root in Afghanistan and must be taken into account in order to create a plan to successfully diminish their power. Looking closely at one province in the country will exemplify those issues. By understanding the foothold of both groups more clearly, strategies to weaken either or both and simultaneously improve human security might be possible. This paper will primarily focus on the psychological and economic aspects of the two primary terrorist groups (ISIS and the Taliban) currently operating in Afghanistan and in particular, in Nangarhar province. This is an area in which government control is present in urban areas, and terrorist control is present elsewhere. I will examine current and past news articles, scholarly work, official statements, and interviews conducted with individuals (who will remain anonymous) currently or recently living in Afghanistan and others who are state officials. I will then look at the international players and connections to the groups I am examining, and note key deficits in the current approach to a “peace” plan.
Human security, economic vulnerability,
and terrorism in Afghanistan:
Deficits in a western-oriented, top-down
Maia Brown-Jackson
MALD Capstone
April 2019
Submitted to Advisor: Dyan Mazurana
Nowhere in this world will people listen to the cry of the people of
Afghanistan. I speak for the broken hearted, I speak for the tears of
orphans, I speak for the widows dressed in mourning, I speak for the
bleeding hearts of mothers who have lost their children, and also for
those who have seen their children die before their eyes. Till when will
we conceal this burning story? I am burning, burning to tell this story.
“Shadow of Afghanistan: A Documentary”
Table of Contents
Introduction, 2
Multidimensional Governing Structure, 4
Rise of the Taliban, 5
Rise of the Islamic State, 7
Persistence of Terror Groups
Foreign ISKP Fighters, 11
ISKP Gaining Ground: Resentment, Fear, and Economic Incentives, 13
The Taliban’s Developing Narrative: A “Moderate Force,” 18
A Key Economic Incentive of the Taliban, 22
Impact of Islamic State Terrorism on Various Segments of the Population
Treatment of Afghan Civilians, 23
Attempting to Sow Sectarian Violence, 24
Electoral Violence, 25
Psychological and Economic Consequences
Additional Psychological Impact of ISKP, 27
Economic Consequences of ISKP and the Taliban, 28
International Impact
International Response: Russia and Pakistan, 30
International Response: the U.S., 33
Long Term: Controlling a Growing Threat, 35
Appendices, 38
Afghanistan is known as the graveyard of empires, and like a Shakespearean tragedy,
tells the story of contending political and ideological groups whose internal goals time and again
serve only to destroy the innocent people around them. American interventions have stressed the
destruction of terrorists’ footholds while supporting symbolic touchstones of burgeoning
democracy and diminishing drug industries. The core oft stated goal for the U.S. is to ensure that
the terrorist groups lack the security and power to launch attacks on it, yet the tools employed by
the US have failed to adequately address the dispersed power structure in Afghanistan. As result,
American efforts have not taken root in a long-term sustainable way. Unending internal
divisions, lack of physical security, and a dearth of economic opportunities all serve to promote
an environment throughout Afghanistan in which disparate terrorist groups rather than a unified
western-style democracy thrive. This paper aims to demonstrate how the psychological and
economic impact of the two primary terrorist groups have taken root in Afghanistan and must be
taken into account in order to create a plan to successfully diminish their power. Looking
closely at one province in the country will exemplify those issues. By understanding the
foothold of both groups more clearly, strategies to weaken either or both and simultaneously
improve human security might be possible.
The popular narrative through which the U.S. views the conflict in Afghanistan has led to
fundamental miscalculations. Sociologist Jim Kuypers clarified the idea of framing analysis in
the social sciences, clarifying that “Frames are so powerful because they induce us to filter our
perceptions of the world in particular ways… They operate by making some information more
salient than other information; therefore, they ‘highlight some features of reality while omitting
others.’”1 The War on Terror in Afghanistan, as framed by the U.S. and other Western powers
has often focused on the lack of democratic civil society touchstones, while in reality the
splintered governance and historical persistence of that dispersed power structure, combined with
the lack of economic opportunity and physical security, are the most crucial elements to address
in any successful plan to weaken the terrorists networks. Rather than focus on solely on
democratic structures such as free elections, any plan with a chance of success needs to be
created with a deep understanding of the “on the ground” environment that has allowed various
militant groups to thrive.
In Afghanistan in particular, we need to look at the two primary terrorist networks, the
Taliban, a longstanding national group, and the Islamic Statea, a more recent and more violent
addition with aims for global jihad. Both the Taliban and the Islamic State use violence and the
fear produced by that violence as a primary means of control. Seventy- nine percent of
respondents to a December 2018 Asia Foundation survey found that the Taliban is the biggest
threat to security in the North West, and 57 percent in the East consider the largest threat to be
Daesh. Understanding that on the ground environment in Afghanistan means understanding the
economic and psychological relationship between these two groups the civilians living in local
territories that result from that violence.
The academic journal Perspectives on Terrorism presents up to date work from the
experts in the field of security studies. In August 2018 the editors created a new list of the un-
and under-researched topics in terrorism studies. One area is broadly defined as “Terrorism and
the Public/Public Opinion,” with the subcategories:
1. Impact of terrorism on public behavior at election times: comparative case
2. Does public opinion influence terrorists? If so, how?
3. The impact of terrorism on various segments of the population.
4. Determinants of popular support for terrorist organizations.
5. Educating the public about terrorism: national experiences.
6. Psychological and economic consequences of terrorism for various actors other
than direct victims.2
This paper will primarily focus on the last category – examining the psychological and economic
aspects of the two primary terrorist groups currently operating in Afghanistan and in particular,
in Nangarhar province.b This is an area in which government control is present in urban areas,
and terrorist control is present elsewhere. I will briefly explain the context in Afghanistan
generally, and then focus on this province in particular. To do so, I will examine current and past
news articles, scholarly work, official statements, and interviews conducted with individuals
(who will remain anonymous) currently or recently living in Afghanistan and others who are
state officials. I will then look at the international players and connections to the groups I am
examining, and note key deficits in the current approach to a “peace” plan.
Multidimensional Governing Structure
Local governance in Afghanistan is typically a patriarchal tribal system, one in which
communities are insular, loyal to their own tribe and ethnic group, and governed by male elders.
During the communist revolution in 1978, for example, local resistance was organized along
community and tribal lines. The unstable and shifting political situation was a factor in the
increase in tribalism and jihadism in Afghanistan.
In Afghanistan, the 20th century was rife with attempts at democratization followed by
periods of oppression. That tumultuous see-saw still impacts current attitudes towards the formal
national government. Even after the ousting of the Taliban government, elections in 2004, 2005,
2009, and 2010 experienced endemic corruption. As a result, local warlords with political and/or
military clout were often mobilized as political leaders in place of the official government. In
2018, Transparency International surveyed experts and business people throughout the country to
determine the public perception of corruption, and found that on a scale of 0 (highly corrupt) to
100 (very clean) Afghanistan was perceived as 16/100.3 This is a not surprising statistic—both
Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah ran on anti-corruption platforms in 2014—but it is one that
indicates the perception of the government in the eyes of civilians. Civilian faith in the
government is at a ten year low, and there are continued allegations of corruption and
embezzlement in the government and military.4 Additionally, 45 percent of citizens feel unsafe
criticizing their government.5 As a result, power is dispensed as it has been for generations,
through familial and tribal lines.
Rise of the Taliban
Afghanistan is a diverse country, comprised of 34 provinces and 407 districts. Its
population of approximately 35 million people is majority Sunni, at 85-90 percent and minority
Shia at 10-15 percent. Hindus, Sikhs, Bahais, and Christians comprise around .3 percent of the
total population.6 As of October 2018, the Taliban controls 11 out of 34 provinces. More
specifically, out of 407 districts, 59 are under Taliban control (15 percent) and 119 (30 percent)
are neither controlled by the government nor the Taliban.c7 This means that even before the
presence of Daesh in Afghanistan, the peoples’ loyalty was divided among their own
c See Appendix A.
familial/tribal group, their village, the Taliban (in itself an extremely diverse group), and the
official government.
It is critical in understanding the complex landscape of Afghanistan to remember that the
country have lived with conflict for forty years, and have a power structure that is fundamentally
different from that in the U.S. There has been instability and war since the USSR aided Noor
Taraki and his Khalqi fighters in a communist coup in 1978, leading to years of civil wars.8 In
1994 the Taliban, made up largely of former mujahideen fighters who had trained in Pakistan
during Afghanistan’s civil wars, emerged and took control of Kabul. These fighters were largely
drawn from the mujahideen who had been fighting the Soviets for the prior ten years, supported
covertly by the United States. Once the Soviets withdrew, the U.S. followed suit, and the country
plunged into chaos. Claiming that they fought solely for Islam, the Taliban took control of 90
percent of Afghanistan between 1996 and 2001.d9 The internal fighting and apparent hypocrisy
of the mujahideen in relation to their own edicts made the populace more open to the Taliban
initially. However, as their power solidified, the Taliban’s extreme interpretation of sharia law,
forcing women to stay at home, closing down girl’s schools, and banning most kinds of
entertainment led to less public support.10 The Northern Alliance, who worked with a U.S.
coalition, removed the Taliban from power in 2001.11 Since then, the national government has
been gradually losing control to the Taliban, though the area controlled by each side is in flux,
but the struggle has resulted in a people divided by socio-religious grounds and an unstable
economy.e Since 2015, Taliban control has risen from 7 percent of the country to 12.5 percent,
d There is no one set and clearly defined metric of “taking control,” but throughout this paper I am using the phrase
the way it is primarily used in news media and scholarly articles: that the group in questions has a sizeable presence,
government facilities are frequently attacked by said group within the territory, and the civilians living there mostly
have to follow the set of rules enforced by that group. It sometimes includes the complicity of a village chief.
e U.S. reports specifically indicate that control is which side runs an area, and influence is which side has the upper
hand. Not all reports have this specificity, but typically this is what is meant by control and influence. (“Taliban
control of Afghanistan on the rise, US inspector says”)
with 1/3 of the country considered “contested.”12 In many rural parts of the country, civilians
rely more on the Taliban to distribute justice than on the elected government.13
Daesh is an outside group and while not trusted by the majority of Afghans, the lack of
trust and cooperation has not diminished its strength.14 The current conditions of Afghanistan,
including poverty, government instability, and the growing role of the Taliban has made it
possible for ISKP to take hold in a way that is stronger, faster, and more prevalent than most
other countries, including the U.S., have publically acknowledged.15 Unless the U.S. understands
and incorporates knowledge about the new methods of recruitment and current state of ISKP,
both as it relates to civilians and to the Taliban, the problem of terrorists in Afghanistan is likely
to only grow.
Rise of the Islamic State
The Islamic State in the Khorasan Province (ISKP) emerged in 2015, shortly after a
group of ex-Taliban members located in Pakistan declared allegiance to Daesh.16 While their
territorial control has waxed and waned, Daesh is a growing movement with a united vision (a
global caliphate under al-Baghdadi).17f Though its numbers were greatly diminished in 2016 as it
was pushed out of strongholds in Iraq and Syria, according to reports from the UN and the U.S.
military, in addition to their newer regimes in places like Afghanistan and Libya, there are
approximately 30,000 ISIS fighters again in Iraq and Syria--nearly as many as when it was at its
territorial peak.18 The lack of western media coverage about the so-called Khorasan Province
(parts of Afghanistan and Pakistan)g compared to that of Daesh in Syria and Iraq is striking. One
f Despite rumors of al-Baghdadi’s death stemming back several years, he made a statement on August 22, 2018,
which confirmed that he is alive. {“ISIS Isn’t Dead Yet”)
g “Khorasan is a historical term for areas populated by peoples speaking Iranian languages in northeastern Iran, the
Transoxania part of Central Asia (Mawr-un-Nahr) and Afghanistan, mainly north of the Hindu Kush Mountains. In
report bemoaning the lack of information on civilians in Nangarhar province, for instance, stated:
“only few sources specifically focus on the situation of the civilian population. With the
exception of the United Nations Assistance Mission to Afghanistan (UNAMA)h, there are no
reliable sources that systematically report on the security situation for Afghan civilians.”19
Multiple Western media sources as well as Western leaders have, after the fall of Mosul and
Raqqa, begun to promote the narrative that Daesh is on the decline, and is no longer as grave a
threat as it was when it held more territory in Iraq and Syria. While Daesh’s hold on territory has
declined, other indicators demonstrate its staying power.i Daesh’s social media output has
increased (a primary recruiting tool). The loss of territorial control has not equaled a loss of
human. For instance, in January 2018 Lawfare announced that Daesh media had undergone “a
full-fledged collapse” yet only a few days later BBC revealed that Daesh content production had
increased by nearly 50 percent in the past month.20 Daesh has produced content in English and
other languages, accessible by both devout and recently converted Muslims, but it is a mistake to
presume that these more easily accessible sources reflect the only content produced by Daesh.
While open access Germanic and Romantic language content may have declined, clandestine
networks have expanded. These communications require knowledge of Arabic, religious code
words, or access to channels on Telegram.j21 That the apparent content production has decreased
actually reveals the difficulties in fully accessing the information provided by Daesh.k
IS propaganda, it now comprises all of Afghanistan, most of Pakistan as well as Central Asia. Its reaches are felt as
north as Kazakhstan and in eastern Turkistan.” (“The Islamic State in ‘Khorasan’: How it began and where it stands
now in Nangarhar”)
h UNAMA established a presence in 2002 at the request of the government, supporting the government in security,
governance, and development. It aims to support peace and reconciliation and protect civilians in armed conflict.
(“Frequently Asked Questions,” UNAMA, 2019 [].)
i As of March 2019, unlike when I began this research in mid-2018, news sources are beginning to once again look
at the ISKP branch as a threat.
j Telegram is a communication interface tied directly to a users phone number, with an additional web service,, which allows users to open a chat directly with another user by following a URL such as Jihadis can share and promote URLs for Telegram channels on Twitter and elsewhere, and
As reporter Paul Lushenko has found that:
Surprisingly, ISKP continues to resolve and evolve. Even after the death of its third
leader and capture of its capital in Nangarhar, the group executed a series of heinous
attacks in September 2018 against schools in eastern Afghanistan including Kabul.
The group exercises an expansionist strategy that capitalizes on weak governance,
under-addressed grievances, and poor security to establish redoubts across not only
Afghanistan, but the region. It has exacerbated territorial and ethnic flashpoints in
Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, Pakistan, and Tajikistan to indigenize its agenda
among marginalized Muslims and secular populations. It also capitalizes on social
media and secure messaging applications to inspire, enable, and direct attacks
abroad. In October 2017, for example, the U.S. Justice Department arrested three
ISKP operatives who were in the final throes of executing attacks in New York.22
The U.S.’ past actions in Afghanistan was one factor that helped support the rise of Daesh
intervention. Despite funding Taliban efforts during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan during
the Cold War, the U.S. later accused the Taliban of harboring Al Qaeda members and invaded
Afghanistan in 2001 to remove the Taliban from power. One stage of the fight against the
Taliban included arming local militias. One tribe that was provided ammunition, food, and
training in late 2009 was in Achin.23 This group, the Sepai of the Shinwar, used their newfound
power to not only fight the Taliban, but also in an intra-tribal conflict to force land concessions
from a rival sub-tribe, the Alisherkhel. This conflict in the Shinwar tribe caused the Alisherkhel
to ask Pakistani militant groups for aid. The intra-tribal violence greatly weakened the Shinwari
tribe.24 When Daesh began making inroads in 2014, there was no organized resistance, but rather
more than 13 different armed groups operating in the area, some of whom pledged allegiance to
The geography of Afghanistan has further aided ISKP in their recruitment of individuals
linked to other jihadi groups. It has been seen since the arrival of ISKP that:
provide notifications for new content. Telegram is a cloud-based app, meaning that the content across one user’s
devices is synchronized. For more information on the use of Telegram, see Appendix B.
k See Appendix C for data on IS media output.
The small foreign and Afghan groups, often lacking fixed loyalties, as well as units
belonging to larger networks such as the TTP – which started to disintegrate
following the death of its then leader Hakimullah Mehsud in November 2013 –
provided a potentially fertile recruitment ground for ISKP. Members of smaller and
loosely structured groups are far more accepting of a new, incoming brand than
fighters belonging to a powerful and dominant network.26
ISKP is recruiting from not only Afghanistan, but rather, as their very name suggests, from
throughout the Khorasan Province. Pakistani militants, for instance, are able to join the group by
crossing through the Waziristan region. Additionally, the Pachir wa Agam district in Nangarhar
borders the Tora Bora mountains and caves (a historic terrorist hideout), and provides access to
the east, west, and north.27 It also borders Kurram Agency, which has been a location for
Pakistani military installations and training camps.28
While ISKP has footholds 30 districts, they are strongest in Nangarhar province, in the
central-east.2930 Nangarhar is almost entirely Pashtun, making it a natural rendezvous for
members of Pashtun-dominated Pakistani militant groups who have pledged allegiance to Daesh,
including the Pakistani Taliban, Tehrik-i-Taliban, (TTP) and Lashker-e-Taiba (LeT).31 Further
support of terrorist groups in Afghanistan is only partly due to ideological reasons, and is often
due to power and material gains. More broadly, if a group can provide any positive attributes for
the community, particularly economic incentives, that will also increase their support. In
Afghanistan, this is largely the case.
Before the arrival of ISKP, Nangarhar was already in disarray.l As reporter Borhan
Osman found:
The political and security situation in Nangarhar has been in consistent decline
since late 2011. Political elites have been busy jockeying among themselves for
power, leaving the rural population at the mercy of insurgents. Inevitably dragged
into power politics, officials in the local administration seems to have been largely
paralysed by the never-ceasing competition among the ruling families. The political
l Due to the presence of Daesh and the strategic location of Nangarhar as the main pathway between Afghanistan
and Pakistan there is more information available on this province than is typically the case of Afghan provinces.
infighting absorbed the will and energy needed for combating the expanding
While this has been happening, government territorial control has been shrinking since 2013 and
the ANSF have been largely on the defensive in districts now controlled by insurgent groups,
including Jalalabad, Farah, Kot, Bati Kot, Achin, and Charparhar since 2015.m33 Locals
complained about the Daesh fighters, especially as they were much more engaged in criminal
activities in cities in Nangarhar than in other provinces (including assassinations, kidnappings,
and random murder), but were unable to find who was in control to stem the violence.34 Much
like the political reality of the Syrian civil war, the chaos and violence of multiple insurgent
groups meant that neither the government nor the Taliban could create a system of control.35
Unlike most of Afghanistan, which is controlled by either the government or the Taliban,
Nangarhar was a territory in which governance was highly contested and frequently changing
Persistence of Terror Groups
Foreign ISKP Fighters
In order to survive, terrorist groups need to fill their ranks and obtain constituent
support.36 In Iraq and Syria, Daesh was able to largely rely on foreign fighters who had been
radicalized to join their ranks. While some of that same immigration occurs in Afghanistan,
Daesh has had to adapt to identify and attract more recruits in their Khorasan Province. While
attracting westerners was done largely over social media, by fighters who were mobilized and
trained online, recruiting in Afghanistan proved to be more personal.
m Near Nangarhar, these are the districts to the south and east of Jalalabad and along the Spin Ghar mountain range.
n See appendix D for more on the Pakistani geographic influence.
A sizeable contingent of ISKP fighters are from Central Asia.37 ISKP proudly reports the
varied nationalities of its fighters as proof that it is unbound by modern borders.38 They highlight
this presence in propaganda films that feature these fighters overseeing executions, reports on
their radio in Herati, Badakhshani, or Tajikistani accents and in Urdu, Pashto, Pashai, and
Nuristani. They also post pictures on social media of members from Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan,
Myanmar, and Gilgit-Baltistan (northern Pakistan).39 Uzbek members of the Islamic Movement
of Uzbekistan (IMU) have also flocked to ISKP in defiance of the Taliban’s nationalism agenda:
The foreign jihadists, although proportionally small in numbers, are a dangerous
contribution to the ISKP phenomenon. They are the fighters who have lived in the
border areas between Afghanistan and Pakistan over the past decade and a half, and who
seem to have gone through an evolution of ideologies and objectives, moving from a
struggle to ‘liberate’ their countries of origin from their ‘infidel’ governments to a
transnational jihad, as manifested by their recent publications. Now, when faced with the
stark reality of being unable to ‘liberate’ anywhere, let alone establish a transnational
caliphate in the near future, the aim for many of them has become more reckless and
deadly: martyrdom in hijra (away from home), making them potential suicide bombers.40
The breakdown of traditional power structures and disintegrations of community resilience
allows these more extreme trends to withstand smaller numbers if they can reach a critical mass
of committed followers.41 Nangarhar was largely abandoned by government security forces by
2014 (allowing ISKP to gain their foothold), and local Taliban were particularly fractured as
different individuals fought for power. Civilians reported that violence was increasing while
Taliban shadow governors competed for control. As ISKP power grew, some of their number
remained within the Taliban to act as spies.42
Daesh also aims to bring larger affiliates into its sphere of influence. With its presence in
Afghanistan, it has gained fighters and a pledge of allegiance from a faction of the IMU,
traditionally an al Qaeda supporter.43 The son of the founder of IMU moved with hundreds of
fighters and their families to Jowzjan in February 2017 to somewhat successfully force the
Taliban out.44 The foreign groups whose members were drawn to ISKP include:
Al Qaeda (located in Khyber Agency, FATA, and Kunar)
Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistani
Lashkar-e Islam (based in Khyber Agency)
Jamaat ul-Ahrar (Mohman Agency-based militants who broke away from TTP)
Junund-e Khorasan (another TTP breakaway sect)
Amr bil ma’ruf Wa Nahi An Al-Munkar (Salafi group in FATA)
Ansar u-Islam (pro-Pakistani government group)45
A 2014 operation by the Pakistani army to remove militants from Khyber chased many into
Nangarhar, where others had already been growing their networks.46
Additionally, Pakistani militants crossed the border into Afghanistan, and rather than be
concerned, the Afghan government began working with the fighters, hoping to use them against
the Pakistani government (according to tribal elders who were asked to shelter these
individuals).47 These militants made up the majority of the initial ISKP soldiers. Weapons caches
were transported throughout the province, and Daesh flags were flown across villages by May
2015. The militants made Mamand the initial ISKP command center, later making it mobile. At
first, locals thought this would bring about positive change, as ISKP soldiers didn’t require food
or shelter from the locals. This changed when ISKP and the Taliban began clashing throughout
the province, resulting in attacks that are still ongoing.48
ISKP Gaining Ground: Resentment, Fear, and Economic Incentives
While the Taliban has a localized focus, Daesh aims for a global caliphate. That goal
does not, however, make them unaware of local grievances that they can exploit to enhance
recruiting. They have been able to recruit Taliban members who felt their organization wasn’t
extreme or powerful enough, as well as civilians, ex-military, and members of other regional
militant groups. Reasons for joining varied amongst the newer recruits, with the primary ones
being power (economic and physical) and ideology. This indiscriminate violence on the part of
previous Taliban commanders is also, according to conflict scholar Neamat Nojumi, an attempt
to return to the less limited targeting practices of the Taliban in the immediate post-American
invasion period.49 Daesh provided Taliban commanders “who either do not want to subordinate
themselves to the stricter discipline of the Taliban movement or want to keep their local fiefdoms
free of too much outside interference.”50 Appealing to the extremists in Afghanistan did not
involve only propaganda that promoted ISKP, but also propaganda criticizing existing extremist
groups (the Taliban). Unlike in Iraq or Syria, ISKP had an organized competitor for their
recruits, and they had to sow dissent and discord among the Taliban. The Taliban control of
eleven districts at the end of 2017 was partially shifted to Daesh control over some of these
districts, including some in Nangarhar and Jowzjan.51 Yet some recruitment methods from Iraq
and Syria (primarily forced conscription) remained constant. One resident of Chaparhar district
said that many villagers joined ISKP, either because they were poor and jobless, or because
ISKP had managed to deceive them into believing in their version of violent jihad.52 Current
Afghan government estimates of total ISKP numbers range from 3,000 to 5,000.53
ISKP recruitment needs to be seen in light of the demographics of Afghanistan. Nearly
half the population is under the age of 15 and over half the population lives below the poverty
line.54 As of late 2017, 40 percent of Afghans were unemployed.55 Even of those who are
employed, 80 percent are in jobs considered “vulnerable employment” (job insecurity and poor
working conditions).56 The majority of employment is in the agricultural sector, but land size has
been decreasing, harming livelihoods.57 An increasing population has led to increased land
fragmentation, so that the average farm size has decreased from 6.7 to 4.9 hectares over the past
10 years.58 Nangarhar, upon ISKP’s arrival, was a political vacuum: the Taliban and the
government forces were at odds, and political elite were too preoccupied with internal power
struggles to continually pay attention to the countryside and the growing insurgency there.59o The
fraught history between Salafisp in Afghanistan and the Taliban meant that once Daesh arrived in
Nangarhar, many Salafis quickly pledged their allegiance (which will be discussed further on).
One of ISKP’s messages in Afghanistan has been an attempt to discredit the Taliban as
too nationalist, given that their focus is solely Afghanistan and not global.60 The Taliban aims to
create an Islamic Emirate in Afghanistan, which does limit their appeal for other jihadi groups,
such as the IMU and TTP. Members of IMU who joined ISKP noted that they found “the
Taliban’s statements of non-interference in neighbouring countries as deeply disturbing… For
these foreign jihadists, their distant future probably looks more promising with an ally that
promises to break down borders, than one they fear may abandon them after victory or a political
settlement (ie the Afghan Taliban).”61 ISKP also notes Taliban “alliances” (sometimes simply a
lack of violence) towards groups it has branded as kafir, particularly Shia.62 The first governor of
the then newly established Khorasan Province, Shaykh Hafidh Said Khan, claimed that the
Taliban followed tribal conditions and the wishes of the locals rather than sharia. Additionally,
he claimed that Taliban members attacked IMU members after they swore allegiance to Daesh.63
o Without US support, Afghan defense forces became reluctant to leave their own bases, the political alliances
between local elite and the governor diminished, and urban calls to end opium cultivation set the urban elite at odds
with the rural farmers. (David Mansfield, “The Devil is in the Details: Nangarhar’s Continued Decline into
Insurgency, Violence and Widespread Drug Production,” AREU, Feb 2016 [
content/uploads/2016/02/1602E-The-Devil-is-in-the-Details-Nangarhar-continued-decline-into-insurgency.pdf] 1, 4)
Between 2011-2014, Nangarhar consistently was the district with the most violent crimes, uncertainty amongst its
populace about leadership, and a corresponding decrease in government security forces. (“Descent into chaos: Why
did Nangarhar turn into an IS hub?”)
p Practitioners of Islam can overall be divided into Shia and Sunni, due to a disagreement a millennia ago over who
was meant to be Mohammad’s successor. Salafism is a very conservative branch of Sunni Islam. Within Salafism,
only a minority of practitioners are jihadists. They view all those who do not conform to their specific brand of
Islam as heretics and infidels, and thus enemies who must be defeated to create their caliphate.
They were welcomed by the Afghans who follow Ahl al-Hadith, a traditionalist sect of Islam,
according to one resident.64
And so ISKP found Afghan nationals who have willingly joined. “ISKP has also released
films of uniformed, apparently Afghan teenagers conducting military training, carrying ISKP
flags and talking about bringing down the infidel rulers of the world. These youths then call on
their cohorts, in Pashto and Dari, to join the global cause. ISKP’s romanticization of living as
one of its fighters is unparalleled in the jihadist media in Afghanistan.”65 There has been
evidence of educated young people who were drawn in by ISKP media, giving up their studies to
join.66 Even one policeman in Jalalabad was interviewed saying that ISKP sermons made him
question working for the government rather than them.67
The Afghan groups that joined ISKP include:
Taliban members (including those under the Quetta Shura, the supreme council of the
Taliban who operate the media branch)
Tora Bora Jihadi Front (officially dismantled and largely incorporated into the Taliban
October 2015)
Salafi groups outside the Taliban
Siahpushan units (mysterious groups; no one knows if they’re connected to the Taliban, a
Salafi network, or are independent)68
A long history of Salafism in Nangarhar contributed to the locals who joined ISKP, who had
long had contentious relations with the local Taliban. It was the defection of many Afghan
Taliban members that particularly helped ISKP to gain a foothold by incorporating locals rather
than its initial makeup of largely Pakistani militants.69
While the Salafis, who have influence in the communities in the eastern provinces of
Afghanistan, have historically worked with the Taliban, this was partly due to a lack of options
and simple pragmatism: the Taliban was the insurgent group with the most numbers and the
greatest chance of making a difference. However, the Taliban follows the Hanafi school of
jurisprudence.q70 This is one element in why the relationship between Salafi communities and the
Taliban in the southern parts of Nangarhar in particular has remained fraught. Even the non-
violent Salafi scholars largely supported ISKP, giving Daesh a local base.71r While local
communities are typically hostile to foreign groups, Nangarhar was an area in which there had
been multiple local uprisings against the harsh policies of the Taliban.72 Of course, once Daesh
had control of various districts in Nangarhar as well as elsewhere in Afghanistan, they forced
civilians to leave their houses and murdered dozens. As discussed above, the disorganization of
this area left it vulnerable to actively recruiting groups like Daesh.73s
But not all recruitment is ideological. One tribal elder explained: “Poverty is the main
reason for young men joining the insurgency, there are no alternatives, their families need to
eat,” and others also “indicated that fear and coercion have played an important role in
recruitment.”74 Nangarhar, after all, has the lowest per capita availability of land, making even
subsistence farming difficult. Where public institutions still exist, they are mired in corruption,
further reducing the limited benefits they might provide.75
Thus some join Daesh primarily because of the material rewards: currently, up to
$1000/month and a motorcycle.76 Much of the populace in Nangarhar and other provinces are
jobless, a fact which Daesh takes advantage of by broadcasting messages about what Daesh can
q There are four schools of law in Sunni tradition, and Hanafi is the oldest and most liberal. “Among the Hudud
crimes, those crimes against God, blasphemy is not listed by the Hanafis. Hanafis concluded that blasphemy could
not be punished by the state. The state should not be involved in deciding God-human relationships. Rather, the state
should be concerned only with the violation of human rights within the jurisdiction of the human affairs and human
relationships.” (“Hanafi Islam,” Global Security, May 2017 [
r “By mid-June 2015, altogether eleven out of the 14 Taleban delgeys (a unit of 20-30 fighters) only from Chaparhar
had defected to ISKP… In Bati Kot and Achin districts, more than half of the Taleban groups with a known Salafi
ideology defected to ISKP.” (“Descent into chaos: Why did Nangarhar turn into an IS hub?”)
s This occurred primarily in the Shinwari districts, Achin, Deh Bala, and Nazian, and later, to a lesser degree, the
Mohmand districts Kot and Bati Kot.
provide in exchange for loyalty over the radio in Pashto and Dari.77 Not to mention, fighters are
often promised a wife.
Many of the Afghan recruits in Nangarhar were originally from Kunar province, where
ISKP had set up several recruiting stations. It was again mostly young men who joined, often
because of salaries paid in U.S. dollars.78 When some of these men were captured and
interviewed, it was found that they could not say even one verse from the Quran. There seemed
to be a split between the Pakistani nationals in ISKP who were focused on the mission and its
supposedly Islamic origins, while some of the Afghan fighters had been brainwashed into
believing ISKP propagandat without understanding its Islamic origins.79
Lastly, Daesh also trains dozens of Afghan child soldiers who have been forcefully taken
from their homes.80 There are also foreign Daesh members whose role is to convince Afghan
teenage boys to join their ranks.81 Between the abductions and successful recruiting, there are
now over 300 minors being trained by Daesh in Darzab district alone.82,83
The Taliban’s Developing Narrative: A “Moderate Force”
In comparison to the dramatic, bloody, and violent messages put out by the Islamic State,
groups like al Qaeda and the Taliban have been able to rebrand themselves, to an extent, as
“moderate” extremists. Taliban promotional material, often inaccurate or false, has been geared
towards improving its image to the West. The Taliban is less prone to extraordinary violence,
such as beheading journalists, forcing community elders to sit atop bombs for their executionu, or
t Propaganda in Afghanistan began as early as 2015 with ISKP’s initial appearance, distributing leaflets that praised
the neighboring who groups who (they claimed) had already offered them allegiance, and promising fighters victory.
These types of leaflets quickly began including the brutal acts ISKP committed on Afghan soil. (Sarah Ashraf, ISIS
Khorasan: Presence and Potential in the Afghanistan-Pakistan Region,” Center for Response to Radicalization and
Terrorism, 2017 [] 5, 7)
u One instance in which this occurred was in a village in Nangarhar. The elders (60-70 years old) had gone to the
governor’s office to discuss village related matters, and when they returned ISKP officials demanded to know why
kidnap women for marriages and slavery, but they continue to engage in terror attacks. Women
are threatened if they leave the house alone or do not dress in what the Taliban considers
“appropriate garb” (completely covered).v Women may not be taught by male teachers or treated
by male doctors. And the Taliban continues to “tax” the communities in which they have power
and use those taxes to arm their own soldiers.84
There are two positive things to be said about life under the Taliban: first that they now
allow international humanitarian workers into territory they control; second, that their justice is
swift and is seen as fair compared to the Afghan government. One resident in Nangarhar said
that simply to get a case seen by the official judicial system someone must be bribed, and in
order to win a case, the bribe must be even greater. Facts are therefore not determinative of
success in court. This source alleges that people living in contested areas prefer to settle
disagreements through the Taliban rather than official channels.85 Various outlets have reported
that the Taliban is increasing service provision in the areas they govern.86 One report from which
much of this information stems from was released in June 2018. It is not clear how accurate that
report is, versus how much is simply created to appeal to western audiences.
By autumn 2018, NATO and BBC reports suggested that the Taliban had influence or
control over nearly half the districts in the country. The withdrawal of U.S. troops and the U.S.
recommendations that the Afghan National Army (ANA) focus on urban areas led to both the
U.S. and ANA largely abandoning rural areas, and the Taliban stepping in and increasing service
they had not gone to the IS office. They were sent to an IS court for this infraction, and ultimately forced to go
outside and sit atop bombs while they were detonated. (Subject 1)
v A 2018 Reuters poll found Afghanistan is the second most dangerous country in which to be a woman, topped only
by India. It is worth noting that the United States is ranked 10 on that list. (“Afghanistan: Country Summary,”
Reuters, 2018 []).
provision in those same areas.w87 Interviews with over 160 Taliban fighters, officials, and some
civilians, found that:
Taliban governance is more coherent than ever before; high-level commissions govern
sectors such as finance, health, education, justice and taxation, with clear chains of
command and policies from the leadership based in Pakistan down to villages in
Afghanistan. Where the government and aid agencies provide public goods and services,
the Taliban coopt and control them. Health and education in Taliban areas are a hybrid of
NGO and state-provided services, operating according to Taliban rules. The Taliban also
regulate utilities and communications, collecting on the bills of the state electricity
company in at least eight of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces and controlling around a quarter
of the country’s mobile phone coverage. Justice provision has also become increasingly
far-reaching. Taliban taxes either coopt Islamic finance concepts or mimic official state
Recently, instead of burning down schools as they did previously, the Taliban have begun to
operate schools, maintaining strict control over the type of educational information allowed,
often using Taliban ideology as the basis for learning.89 They now monitor hospitals and schools
requiring that doctors and teachers arrive and perform their duties.90 Additionally, they have
begun to allow ethnic minorities to play a larger role in their organization.91
These moves are a new direction for the Taliban. By illustrating their ability to
effectively govern and their willingness to minimize brutality, there is a greater chance that
Western countries like the U.S. will be willing to include them in negotiations over future peace
In fact, the Taliban may be learning more from the West than it at first appears: these
claims of a new direction may be overstated and simply western-oriented propaganda.
Despite claiming to support education for all, girls who have reached puberty are strongly
pressured by Taliban edicts to end their education. The Taliban mandate that girls and boys be
educated separately, and girls be educated by women. As of June 2018 there was not a single
w NATO estimates put Taliban control at 14 percent, while the BBC says they are “openly active” in 70 percent of
the country. (Ashley Jackson, “The Taliban’s Fight for Hearts and Minds”)
official girl’s school functioning.92 One report says that “Taliban officials are eager to emphasize
the degree to which they work with the Ministry of Education.”93 Perhaps Taliban officials are
eager to emphasize it, but a source in Nangarhar described having traveled to nearly all provinces
in the country for his work and reported that the Taliban are not working to provide education in
any areas they govern.94 No one seems to disagree that women are not allowed in these schools.
The report qualifies this by saying that the Taliban suggest they support education for all, but
have additional rules for women to be educated:
Any girls’ school must have a separate building, a perimeter wall, female teachers and a
means of transporting the girls to and from school. Additional measures may also apply,
such as requirements that girls must not wear school uniform and must wear a burka or
chador to school, not carry cell phones or be educated in the mosque or madrassa instead
of an official school. This research could not identify a single girls’ secondary school
open in an area of heavy Taliban influence or control.95
Further, one Nangarhar resident illustrated further reason to doubt the Taliban’s promise of
education for all. During one monitoring trip, the Taliban threatened the women who wanted
education at a specifically female center, and negotiations to reopen the center had to go from the
community leaders all the way to the Taliban’s headquarters in Quetta, Pakistan. The following
day one of the delegation members’ car was blown up. 96
The same source confirmed that women are not allowed outside the home without a male
guardian, and have no employment opportunities. Additionally, while claiming to allow
international NGOs who can provide education services into their areas, the Taliban restricts the
educational support to boys and men and does not provide additional funds. They also do not
provide the health services they claim to—the only “social service” they fulfill is justice in
disputes.97 This source commented: “the only people happy under the Taliban are the warlords,
criminals, mafias, and those who benefit from drugs and minerals, they’re the only ones who
support the Taliban.”98
A Key Economic Incentive of the Taliban
While the Taliban is not the official governing body, as mentioned above, it holds control
over vast swathes of the country. Its power comes from, in part, its willingness to permit poppy
Poppy farming, prevalent and popular, is also officially illegal according to the
government. The Taliban tolerates it. Those villages that primarily farm poppy increasingly feel
that the government does not have control over their village, and that they are more unsafe than
those villages which do experience government control. One 2017 study was done on farming in
an opium-dominated sector in Afghanistan by the Ministry of Counter Narcotics of Afghanistan
and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.x The study surveyed all provinces and a total
of 1417 villages in a nationally representative sample by population and location. It was found
that of the heads of villages, 37 percent said their village was not under government control, and
24 percent said their village was not safe.99 When we look at the data regarding villages that use
poppy farming as a primary way of making enough to survive right now in rural areas, those
numbers increase to 67 percent and 44 percent respectively.100
It is worth noting that Afghans are still most confident in their religious leaders (67.3
percent), followed by the media (65.7 percent) and community shuras/jirgas (65.7 percent), and
lastly the National Unity Government municipal government (56.2 percent).101 That said, 61.3
percent believe the country is going in the wrong direction, a percentage that has been
increasing, and 81.5 percent think corruption is still a major problem.y For some, the Taliban
fulfill the role of religious leaders—but that is the rural minority. Nonetheless, the trust in local
x For an explanation of the history and importance of opium farming in Afghanistan, see Appendix E.
y See Appendix F.
government and distrust of outside forces exemplifies how difficult it will be to create a single
successfully national plan.
Impact of Islamic State Terrorism on Various Segments of the Populationz
Treatment of Afghan Civilians
ISKP sows terror and uncertainty wherever it spreads its reach, and decreases the ability
of those within its territory to make money through poppy farming and, due to increased fear of
travel (i.e., to markets in which one might sell other goods), other crops as well. While there are
Afghans who willingly joined the group, the majority do not appreciate their presence.
Compared to the Taliban, the primary impact of Daesh presence is that civilians are less safe
from violence. For instance, the Taliban and the Afghan government agreed to a temporary
ceasefire at the end of Ramadan in 2018. During the following days of celebration, Eid, Daesh
executed a suicide attack at a gathering between the two groups celebrating the ceasefire in
which 25 people were killed and an additional 54 were wounded.102 In a fight between three
different groups, most civilians cannot necessarily make choices based on their ideals, but rather
must choose their path based on which will protect them and their families, physically and
The violence as well as ISKP’s anti-nationalist message have turned much of the local
population against them. Anyone connected to the government or the Taliban, as previously
discussed, would be summarily executed in Daesh controlled areas. Thus as ISKP territory grew
in 2015 and 2016, thousands of IDPs fled to Jalalabad, leaving behind houses burned to the
ground.103 One story I was told exemplifies the random violence that was seen throughout Iraq
z See Appendix G.
and Syria as well: a man had five daughters before his wife gave birth to a boy. They celebrated
the birth, which drew the attention of Daesh fighters. The fighters asked what was happening,
and upon being told, asked the man to bring the newborn baby out for the leaders to see. There
they cut the child into pieces in front of his father.104 These stories of horrifying violence spread
and create deep fear.
Daesh quickly began going from house to house to find young women and girls whom
they can force into marriage, sometimes using threats of violence against other family members
as an added push factor.105 Families in Dih Bala and Kot, for instance, were told after their
village was taken by ISKP to raise a white flag over their house for each daughter, and a red flag
for each widow.aa106 These women were now to be the wives of Daesh fighters.
It is also worth noting that unlike the Taliban, who focus their attacks primarily on
government officials (particularly as they try to work through the peace process), ISKP attacks
civilians who don’t conform to their beliefs.107 They are, as discussed, willing to kidnap and rape
women as wives for their soldiers, and are willing to kill the elderly and children. Locals with
any connection to the Taliban or the government can leave their homes or die, and other civilians
can either flee or live under the repressive and harsh system through which Daesh metes out
Attempting to Sow Sectarian Violence
One of the reasons the Taliban has been seen as preferable by many Afghans to ISKP is
that it is comprised of Afghans, with a focus on the country of Afghanistan. Many Afghans are
aa According to a source in Nangarhar, the flags for houses with single women were green. It is possible this depends
on the district. (Source 2)
suspicious of outsiders and of international players generally. The Taliban is not focused on
international fighting, but is focused entirely within Afghanistan’s borders.
One of the Islamic State’s tenets is sectarianism: they kill or enslave all those who do not
follow their very narrow interpretation of Islam. But this sectarianism has not been as present in
Afghanistan as it has in other countries Daesh has fought in. As in many Middle Eastern and
Central Asian countries, there have historically been tensions between the Sunni and Shiite
populations. The Shia have been discriminated against by the government in the past
(particularly the 1970s). But the fighting of the 1990s saw Shiite and Sunni groups often working
together to fight other groups.108 This coexistence is a far cry from the path ISKP has been
taking, concentrating on bombing and attacking Shia gatherings and individuals. While these
attacks are continuing, there does not yet appear to be evidence of the Sunni majority escalating
the sectarian violence. Both the Afghan security forces and the Taliban have previously spoken
out against sectarianism, and religious leaders have also emphasized the importance of
coexistence as part of social cohesion.109 It would be a challenge for ISKP to reverse the
narrative and promote extensive sectarian violence.
In short, unlike the Taliban, ISKP shows no interest in negotiating a more moderate
version of their positions to be “at the table” in the ongoing peace talks.
Electoral Violencebb
Daesh has declared war on “the religion of democracy.” In a recent edition of their
newsletter, Al-Naba, they stated that they:
will continue to prevent the elections by any means, as it has always done. It will
target: the temples of the religion of democracy, in which its followers recognize
their enslavement to the tawaghit [illegitimate rulers] who legislate without God;
bb See Appendix H.
the places where tawaghit are election; the places of al-tashri [legislation] without
God; and the places of al-hukm [governance, administration] other than by what
God has revealed.110
It should be unsurprising, then, that Daesh has been consistently attacking election facilities and
workers. These particular attacks began in early 2018.111 They were responsible for some of the
largest attacks on voting centers, including one in April 2018 that killed over 60 and injured over
130 in Kabul, as well as attacks on centers in Nangarhar and Badghis.112 The Taliban was also
conducting attacks on election facilities in early 2018, after “vowing to do everything in its
power to block the vote, which the group called an ‘American conspiracy to further justify the
foreign occupation.’"113 Both group’s attacks on election facilities impeded the democratic
process and sowed fear amongst the populace.
The 2018 elections were postponed multiple times, and finally took place in October. The
process of democratization has been a difficult one in Afghanistan, and one that is yet not
successful. 43 percent of election centers used in the 2018 elections were considered to be under
medium to high security threats.114 “The numerous delays [of parliamentary elections],
deteriorating security situation, and rapidly worsening state of governance caused by the
disagreements between the two leaders and the rampant corruption intensified the decline of the
public faith in the government.”115 It is against this backdrop, with a country effectively divided
between the government and the Taliban, that the 2018 parliamentary elections occurred.
Through continued attacks and messages meant to frighten people out of voting, Daesh may have
helped minimize the number of people who were able to go to the polls. Their attacks tended to
be more deadly and less discriminate than those of the Taliban.
Daesh attacks on voting registration centers, ID distribution centers, and similar locations
have killed several hundred civilians and security personnel.116 Daesh has also been targeting in
particular centers in Hazara and Shia neighborhoods, trying to emphasize the link between ethnic
violence and political process.117 Between Daesh and the Taliban, at least ten candidates were
killed before the elections, one third of voting centers were closed due to fear of violence, and
54,000 security personnel had to be deployed.cc118 The violence surrounding the elections made
civilians less likely to vote, particularly if they had to travel far and through dangerous spaces to
reach a voting center. Such reticence is particularly troubling in Afghanistan, in which the
limited support for and belief in the official government can already provide obstacles to voter
Psychological and Economic Consequences
Additional Psychological Impact of ISKPee
At the same time as attacking election facilities, Daesh was also targeting their local
opposition. They have been killing tribal elders and leaders since 2016.119 Illustrative of their
tactics since inception, Daesh does not discriminate in killings or intimidation tactics, unlike the
Taliban, who began limiting who they targeted in recent years, excluding some teachers,
healthcare workers, and journalists.120 Understanding the critical role that elders play in a tribal
society, particularly in the rural parts of Afghanistan, Daesh fighters slaughter them in
dramatically horrific ways, as well as using beheadings and stonings. ISKP has not been seeking
support from community elders to gain legitimacy, believing in their superiority and ability to
cc The one third of polling centers being closed has increased from a previous maximum of 10 percent.
ee Much of the psychological impact has already been discussed; here I am simply presenting additional examples.
intimidate civilians into compliance, this use of violence has been used to intimidate whole
communities.121 In one attack in the Achin district in Nangarhar, similar to an attack described
above in Chaparhar, community elders were blindfolded and led to sit above holes filled with
explosives that were then detonated while other civilians were forced to watch.122 Additionally,
ISKP fighters view any communication with Afghan police or government as a sign of
collaboration with an illegitimate governing body, which, for them, has been enough to warrant
death. Again, these practices serve to terrify entire communities. In Jalalabad, one man called a
friend of his on personal business, but the friend worked for the police. The man who made the
call was publicly executed to show the punishment for associating with police and
Economic Consequences of ISKP and the Taliban
The impact of ISKP and the Taliban is more complex than terrifying communities for
fear of their physical safety: the conflict has had an economic impact as well. There is a drought
throughout parts of Afghanistan, including Nangarhar.124 The fighting has only made the impact
of this drought worse, and has made it harder both for farmers to reach markets and for
international efforts to deliver aid.125 Farmers, in response, are prioritizing poppies over food
goods, as the buyers of poppies are willing to travel to purchase them, lessening the farmers’
time spent on dangerous roads.126 This in turn makes the farmers increasingly dependent on
farming poppies, while food shortages rise—and only the Taliban allow for poppy farming.
Locals in Nangarhar, though most are quite opposed to Daesh presence in their province,
are also concerned about what will happen if and when they are eradicated. The fight in this
province is led in part by local powerbrokers who have received state support in the form of
weapons to create militias.127 These militias have proved more successful than ANSF units in
recapturing territory. Years of militia forces in Afghanistan (often with foreign, specifically U.S.,
backing) has led to trepidation about their accountability, local ‘buy-in’ or lack thereof, impact
on local tribal balance of power, how it impacts the powerbrokers who started it, and what the
long term negative consequences are.128 Disagreements are already forming about which tribes
are contributing men to the militias and which aren’t. The people here have already seen unstable
tribal relations allow Daesh to enter; they know what can happen.
There is also the issue of Daesh and poppy farming. Unlike the Taliban, who actively
profit from these ventures and protect the right of farmers to grow opium, Daesh is strictly
against drug trafficking. The Afghanistan Research and Evaluation Unit has found that in the
parts of Nangarhar in which poppy farming is most prolific, Daesh is not only not utilizing it for
funding, but also is eradicating the existing fields and closed a major drug bazaar.129 They have
captured territory in Nangarhar and other provinces that are important stops on the ancient trade
route the Silk Road. But rather than profiting from opium as the Taliban does, Daesh “has
prohibited opium poppy cultivation both on grounds of ideological purity the strategic goal of
ensuring that the only employment available to local men is as IS [Islamic State] foot
soldiers.”130 Daesh considers opium to be haram (prohibited under Islam), and have been telling
farmers to find other cash crops as they destroy poppy fields.131 But poppy is the fastest and most
popular cash crop, and options like wheat or barley do not yield the same near immediate result.
The lack of employment opportunities is not only a reason that young men join ISKP, but
a reason that they join the Taliban as well (though it is less well paid).132 Simply put, the Taliban
allows opium farming. The government does not allow opium farming and has extensive laws
regarding mine usage.133 The Taliban has much looser laws than ISKP regarding mines and
precious minerals found within them. Certainly there are those who join because they want to
live in a place of “pure Islam,” unlike the cities which they view as infested with foreign
nationals and various haram practices, but it would be a mistake to say that this is the only
International Impact
International Response: Russia and Pakistan
Instability in Afghanistan has always had implications for Pakistan. TTP and Inter-
Services Intelligence (ISI) both use money earned from the drug trade based in Nangarhar.ff Now
that ISKP controls much of the rural parts of the territory, they needed to establish a working
relationship.134 Former Daesh fighters have reported that they were given weapons by Pakistanis
who encouraged them to fight the Afghan government.135 The German special envoy to
Afghanistan and Pakistan, Bernd Mutzelburg, suggested there is some truth to the rumors that
Pakistani militants have been crossing the Durand line to join up with ISKP and further
destabilize Afghanistan.136 As he puts it:
Due to the inability of the Pakistani state to provide even an elementary education to
each and every child, you have had over the last years this emergence of a Saudi—
and therefore Wahhabi—financed madrasas all over Pakistan. Some people are
saying that with Saudi money, more than 40,000 madrasas, had been established
many of them are following the very traditional Salafist interpretation of Islam. If you
assume that only 1/10th or so of these 40,000 of madrasas is training future terrorists,
you know, then you can imagine the dimension of the threat. This is also, I think, part
of the nurturing source for the IS in Pakistan, which is then also directed towards
ff TTP is the Taliban movement in Pakistan. Like the Afghan Taliban they are primarily Pashtun, but have a volatile
relationship with the Afghan Taliban. The ISI is the main intelligence agency in Pakistan, which has long been
associated with supporting regional terrorist groups.
The relationship between Afghanistan and Pakistan is more fraught than ever. The police chief of
Nangarhar claimed that the ISI has been leading Daesh in that province, and that 90 percent of
the Daesh fighters are Pakistani.138 The Afghan Minister of Interior added that Pakistan is
providing Daesh the same safe havens they afford to al Qaeda and the Taliban.139 Former
President Hamid Karzai has also stated that if Daesh rises in Afghanistan, it will be due to a
foreign-backed force who wants to destabilize the region, likely China, Russia, or another
country in Central Asia.140 Whether or not this is true, this claim indicates the fear with which
Daesh has infected a country with already limited allies.
At the same time, off the record Afghan government officials have stated that Pakistani
militants in TTP have been allowed free movement and treatment in government hospitals in
reaction to Pakistan’s support of the Afghan Taliban.141 These militants increasingly ignored the
commands of central TTP, and many of them became fighters for ISKP by summer of 2015.142
Public fear of ISKP in Afghanistan allows Russia room to maneuver politically. For
several years, Russia has been positioning itself as a mediator in Afghanistan. In December 2016
Moscow hosted conferences about diplomatic talks between the Taliban and the ANG, and has
offered to host negotiations several times in 2018.143 The U.S. has failed to bring peace and
stability to Afghanistan for nearly two decades, and now Russia is attempting to accomplish
what the U.S. could not, from their role in bringing the Taliban to the negotiating table to taking
an active function as the protector for Central Asia against Daesh. Either accomplishment would
give President Putin leverage over future negotiations.144 Russia faces its own threat of growing
jihadism along its borders and its Central Asian sphere of influence, including in Tajikistan. But
the public fear of terrorism is not only used to inspire counterterrorist action but also to back
Russia’s interest in ISKP is a stepping stone to greater influence in the region.
Russia’s frequent exaggerations of the Islamic State’s presence in Afghanistan are
closely intertwined with Russian President Vladimir Putin’s broader internal
consolidation and foreign policy objectives. Russian policymakers have emphasized
the ISIS threat to unite anti-Western nationalists around Russia’s expanded diplomatic
involvement in Afghanistan, strengthen Moscow’s alliances with Central Asian
countries, and establish common ground with Pakistan on the resolution of
Afghanistan’s political crisis.145
Russian officials claim that the lack of U.S. action against Daesh in Afghanistan since the
“Mother of all bombs” in April 2017 is a sign of American complacency. Central Asian countries
view Daesh presence in Afghanistan as a serious threat against which to rally public support, and
part of Russia’s campaign is to increase its ties with these countries in their fight.146
Since ISKP and the Taliban began struggling, shortly after the appearance of the
Khorasan branch of Daesh the Taliban and Russia have grown closer. Russia has grown
increasingly wary of the presence of jihadists in the Caucasus. In 2016, the then special envoy to
Afghanistan, Zamir Kabulov, stated: “Taliban interests objectively coincide with ours.”147 Yet
Russia and other concerned regional parties (China and Pakistan) have not worked with the
national Afghan government on this issue. Rather, it was only Russia, China, and Pakistan that
began meeting in Moscow in 2016 to discuss the ISKP threat and how to respond.148 Russia has
provided material aid and intelligence, and we are now facing a situation in which the Taliban
may become a legitimate political party in Afghanistan. Though Russia and the Taliban have a
gg Russia has notably been partnering with Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Pakistan. Russia frames itself as “a
benevolent protector of Central Asian countries against terrorism rather than as a hegemonic actor. As many Central
Asian governments continue to view the securitization of Islamic extremism as a useful tool for regime
consolidation, Moscow is likely to be able to use its anti-ISIS efforts in Afghanistan to bolster the effectiveness of
its regional alliances.” Russia is positioning itself as the answer to increasing jihadism with countries that have a
historically tense relationship with the U.S., creating stronger alliances that shift the global political calculus.
(Samuel Ramani, “Why Russia Exaggerates the Islamic State Presence in Afghanistan”)
fraught history, closer relations between the Kremlin and the Taliban could provide Russia with
an ally about to gain extensive power within Afghanistan.
International Response: the U.S.
The U.S. under President Trump declared a “fight and win” strategy. This increase in
kinetic strategies combined with a declaration to end any nation building efforts has thus far only
led to less transparency, as the U.S. military stopped publishing reports about the insurgent
control of territory, Afghan troop strength, and casualty numbers.149 Trump ordered additional
troops to Afghanistan and increased airstrikes to their highest level since 2010. To date the
strategies have resulted in continued security incidents, loss of territorial control, and heightened
Afghan force casualties.150
The U.S. is working with both the Afghan government and local militias to fight
Daesh.151 Historically, U.S. involvement in areas of Afghanistan has led to strengthening the
Taliban and the creation of ISKP, as well as the erosion of intra-tribal solidarity.152 Afghanistan
began requesting help from Russia in 2015, showing an increased reliance on that country.153
Neighboring Tajikistan has expressed the desire for Russian servicemen to remain and prevent
the spread of Daesh.154
The U.S. statements have been contradictory. Early this year: “Gen. Votel expressed his
satisfaction with the security situation in Nangarhar and hailed the governor’s efforts in
prevention of land grabbing and corruption.”155 That quote is from January 20, 2019. It took only
one month for his opinion to change, as he admitted in February 2019 that “They [ISKP]
represent a very sophisticated and dangerous threat that we have to stay focused on.”156 That
U.S. officials are now willing to acknowledge the group’s potential is a sign of how serious their
presence is. One official has been quoted as saying, “They are closest to having the capacity to
attack the homeland from Afghanistan.”157 And yet the public narrative is still that the U.S. and
the Taliban have made enormous progress in both their negotiations and in their combined forces
attacking ISKP. According to a UN report, the Taliban has caused the most civilian casualties in
2018, with ISKP at a close second with 2,181 casualties (118 percent increase from the previous
Despite the clear, continuing instability on the ground, the U.S. is publically discussing
making the Taliban part of the peace plan and considering their potential withdrawal a “win.”
Understanding the complex situation between the Taliban. ISKP, and the national government as
political forces within the provinces, it is not clear what kind of structures could be employed to
improve local security. As one journalist noted: “The United States never deployed an effective
counterinsurgency strategy because it didn’t have one. Knowing how to kill people is far from
sufficient to defeat insurgencies… The Taliban can still be defeated after the peace agreement is
reached and U.S. forces have withdrawn, but the United States now seems too exhausted—and
still too dumb—to get the job done.”159 Without an effective counterinsurgency strategy and
billions of dollars spent, it is not clear how any plan will protect the Afghan civilians.
Additionally, withdrawing and declaring the situation satisfactory ignores the additional
problems the national government has raised. President Ghani has reported that 21 international
terrorist groups operate within Afghanistan.160 The Taliban has pledged to remove these from
the country, while the government has been unable to do so. ISKP in particular has defeated both
Taliban and government forces in districts in Nangarhar and elsewhere. Why would this
necessarily change when the Taliban is considered a political party? There is no indication that
years of animosity between their soldiers and the ANA would decrease enough to allow them to
successfully work together.
Furthermore, for any intelligent plan there must be an understanding of how these groups
are holding power in various provinces across the country. It is not out of the realm of possibility
that the Taliban could become an official governing body; terrorist groups have transformed in
this way multiple times throughout the 20th century. Even if some core Taliban branch becomes
more moderate and develops into what we consider a traditional political party, we will still need
to understand how to weaken other terrorist groups in the area. We don’t know which direction
the Taliban will take, but if it is steps towards legitimacy, they and other international forces will
need to understand how to eliminate other terror groups. Such understanding is impossible
without really examining local politics, ideology, economics, and security.
Long Term: Controlling a Growing Threat
One aspect of the U.S.’ longstanding involvement in Afghanistan has been repeated
attempts to create a western-style democracy. While some of the structures are in place (i.e., a
nominal government and constitution), there is no hope for an American style democratic
government while the power systems in place are so fractured. With the a citizenry split into
such minute but definite groups based on ethnicity and location, the president who might be
chosen by those living in Kabul or Jalalabad is not necessarily one who would be respected by or
ready to represent those living near FATA or in the far west.hh What seems more essential is
creating an environment and civil society structures that lessen violence and protect human
hh One Jalalabad resident spoke highly of the government improvements in the major cities, but seemed unwilling to
discuss the issues of Taliban or IS control beyond the urban centers, except to compare it negatively to the official
governance. (Subject 1)
The Taliban ascendancy to a legitimate negotiating party remains problematic. The
agreements the Taliban are negotiating in the deal with the U.S. are not easily enforceable. They
unrealistically claim that they will not allow terrorists to have safe haven on Afghan soil. As
reporter Mujib Mashal put it: “The details of enforcing the Taliban’s pledge to prevent
international terrorists such as Al Qaeda from using Afghan soil as a launching pad for attacks
again also remained unclear.”161 Meanwhile, the Taliban connection with and support from
Russia, as demonstrated by attending peace talks without the ANG in Moscow, indicates the
deep Russian influence over Afghanistan and Central Asia.162
At the same time, the Islamic State is far from defeated. Losing territory means they have
changed their tactics, not that their goals or their fighters have retired. As one reporter described
it: “a) ISIS is not only adapting to its new situation but also transforming into a hydra-like
organization, reinforcing its transnational configuration; b) ISIS, al-Qaeda and sister Salafi-jihadi
organizations are cooperating on attacking the West.”163
And the Taliban and ISKP are not the only options for young radicals. Hizb ut-Tahrir,
like Daesh, aims for a global caliphate; Jamiat-e Eslah was inspired by the Muslim Brotherhood
and Jamaat-e Islami in Pakistan and aims to “Islamize” all aspects of modern life; Hezb-e Islami
signed a peace deal with the Afghan government; and there are more generally an increased
number of Salafis turning to Wahhabism.164 There are additionally Sunni groups include
Tablighi Jamaat, Anjuman-e Dini Farhangi-e Imam Ghazali, and Majma’a-e Ihyay-e Sunnat
which are spread throughout mosques and educational centers.165
I began by exploring further some of the questions that terrorism experts have noted are
under researched, including the impact of terrorism on the economics and psychology of local
populations. The preliminary results I have found suggest that groups like the Taliban and ISKP
can gain control through a combination of misleading messaging, economic incentives, and fear
of violence, then maintain power bases through the same tactics. Dangerously, the extremely
violent groups like ISKP serve to make the Taliban appear more moderate, and reframe a
terrorist group into a political party.
The United States is holding peace talks with the Taliban, who are offering unenforceable
promises. If the U.S. wants to address the Taliban as a fellow political body, then it needs to hold
it to the standards of a governing party. Downplaying the ongoing violence in order to exit an
apparently unwinnable war and comparing one organization to another whose brutality seems
currently unmatched are not the basis for sound policy decisions. The complexity of the social
governing structures and the multiple players involved, including international interests, mean
that creating a successful "peace" plan will also require ongoing monitoring and assessment with
real time adjustments and modifications. If the parties lack the ongoing on the ground
intelligence from multiple sources around the country, the very necessary monitoring and
adjustment of any plan will be nearly impossible - and no plan will be successful in the long run
without being able to accommodate on the ground development and changes. The evidence I
have found indicates that a more thorough understanding of how these groups became ingrained,
why the populace is still responding to them, and how are they are learning and adapting would
all be better uses of time, money, and human resources than a simple and unchanging kinetic
response. The states must understand how real peoples lives are being impacted by the Taliban
and ISKP, particularly in terms of the ability to earn a living or exist free from constant fear. The
evidence discussed above demonstrates the kinds of circumstances players must understand and
account for in any future potential plan.
A: map of insurgent vs government control, December 2018
B: Telegram
Telegram in particular has been critical for Daesh:
The relative anonymity makes it harder to identity and track followers of a certain
channel for a number of reasons: First, on a social network such as Twitter,
following and follower lists are public, and therefore pro-ISIS accounts can be
cross-referenced by checking the accounts that they follow and those that follow
them. Second, Telegram users can forward content they find on the channel to
other Telegram users, thus heightening the sharing and dissemination of jihadi
content. Third, messages on the channels are transmitted in a single direction, and
no reverse interaction from channel subscribers to the broadcaster is possible. This
eliminates the possibility of counter-messaging and the disruption of a content's
feed, both of which are used on Twitter as a strategy to counter extremist
propaganda. Finally, Telegram provides client-server/server-client encryption as a
default option, which, in theory, adds security to the entire interaction.167
Telegram also offers “Secret Chat,” which uses end-to-end encryption, and offers features like
message self-destruct.168 Additionally, Telegram “has been much slower than other companies to
develop and implement ToS that target jihadi exploitation of file-sharing services. Telegram is
generally reluctant to regulate extremist content on its platform, citing concerns about free
speech and claiming that governments are inflating the threat of online extremist content.”169 The
2015 Paris, 2016 Brussels, 2016 Berlin, and 2017 Istanbul attacks were all organized over
Telegram.170 It is worth noting that part of the discrepancy in the apparent messaging Daesh
produces in English and the full amount of content they release is due to different focuses. The
English material is no longer focused solely on foreign fighter recruitment, but instead on attacks
in one’s homeland. Thus the instructions provided are more limited and focus on low-tech
attacks (ie, stabbings, vehicular assaults, etc).171 Researchers went through 98 channels in 2017
that produced instructional material in English, but this was only 16.2 percent of the channels
that the Program on Extremism discovered, illustrating the proportion of English language
C: Daesh media output
D: Nangarhar as an ideal base for expansion
The oft contested Durand Line, the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan, runs along
the one edge of Nangarhar province. The territory along the Durand line is host to lengthy
disagreements between the two countries over the territory. The line was initially been drawn up
when India was British territory, and after independence, the tribal areas technically became
independent once again.175 Pakistan made agreements with these tribes to control the territory but
let them exist as semi-sovereign independent territories.176 Nevertheless, Afghanistan had hoped
to reclaim these territories, and thus began a series of skirmishes, import/export delays, calls for
Pashtun independence, and so on. But it remains an area that is easy to cross without
documentation or government attention, and the lack of governance has been taken advantage of
by militants.177 Additionally, “the province borders the militancy-ripe tribal areas of Pakistani
and military operations by the Pakistani army which pushed militants from FATA into
Nangarhar. There are a number of unofficial crossing points, not controlled by either
government, many of them open year-round, which makes Nangarhar an easily accessible refuge
for Pakistani militants.”178 Members of the TTP who fled military operations were able to cross
the Durand line, posing as refugees, and join Daesh in Afghanistan.179 There are not current
estimates of additional Pakistani members, but Afghan government sources estimated their
number to be over 2,000 in 2015.180 The diversity of unaffiliated armed groups who could
benefit from the recognition and resources of a group like Daesh provided easy recruits.
The Pashtun tribes who live in the mountains along the Durand line are historically
poverty stricken yet resilient, and proud of their independence.181 They also have their own rule
of law (Pushtunwali) with two critical concepts: melmastia, and its extension, nanawati.
Melmastia requires all people to provide hospitality and protection to travelers, while nanawati
goes further to require all people to provide hospitality and protection to fugitives as well, even if
they are one’s bitter enemies.182 Additionally, many of the tribes have vendettas against each
other that are quite long-lasting, which keeps them from being unified.183 This is in addition to
their diversity as a people; individuals typically identify themselves by where they are born or
their tribe or clan, not by their ethnicity.184
This is not to mention that over 2500 Central Asians were previously recruited as foreign
fighters for Iraq and Syria—and Daesh is now telling its followers to travel to the Khorasan.185
This is now one of their bases, and since at least March 2018 they have been inviting foreign
recruits to join them. These foreign recruits are a group at that includes fighters from Iraq and
Syria, as well as France, Germany, and Algeria.186 Jowzjan borders are on or near Turkmenistan,
Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan, which had 400, over 1500, and 1300 foreign fighters join Daesh
respectively as of early 2018.187 The UN Counterterrorism Committee has found that the largest
percentage of Daesh foreign fighters are currently in Afghanistan.188 The Islamic State
headquarters are said to provide up to several hundred thousand dollars to the network in the
E: Afghanistan and the Opium Economy
In the midst of conflict and insecurity, the country’s economy has been in a deep slump
since 2013 when the United States and NATO radically drew down their troop presence, around
which much of Afghan economy was built after 2002. The economy has been in decline in recent
years. The percent of the population in poverty rose from 38 percent in 2011-2012 to 55 percent
in 2016-2017. In the same time frame, food insecurity has risen from 30.1 percent to 40.6
percent.190 40 percent are unemployed.191 The population is growing at a rate of 2.5-3 percent,
according to the IMF, and half of the population is under fifteen, while drought is threatening the
livelihood of farmers: there simply are not enough opportunities in the economy.192
The most prolific and lucrative crop is poppy, used for opium, heroin, and morphine,
though marijuana is sold as well. Opium poppies are a particularly good crop for unstable
regions, as they have a short production cycle and high value, allowing farmers to profit quickly
and frequently. The shorter production cycle provides farmers the option of movement rather
than be tied permanently to an area of land, as they can move to a different area without losing
everything they have (though such a move is still difficult).193 Afghanistan produces 90 percent
of the global supply of opium, and over 80 percent of heroin and morphine.194 The majority of
the profits from these crops, however, do not go to the farmers growing the poppies but to
traffickers and their political connections.195 Large swathes of the country are not under the
central rule of law, and provincial governors often have to make deals with warlords and drug
lords for their own protection.196 The limited power of governors means they are still subject to
the same threats as the rest of their populace.ii They also did not have the power to adequately
deter any actors (including groups like the Taliban) who were profiting more than the farming
population from these activities, regardless of if any governor was free enough of corruption to
wish to do so.197
ii “The Afghan government’s 2010 subnational policy acknowledged the absence of a “clear articulation of the duties
and responsibilities of Governors” in its predecessor Law on Local Administration and the degree to which this had
generated “significant ambiguity” with respect to the position” … “Absent clearly defined terms of reference or a
predictable rhythm of appointments and dismissals, the Afghan provincial governorship manifested in a wide range
of forms during Karzai’s time in office. Some governors were among the country’s most formidable strongmen.
Others were beacons of technocratic potential for foreign donors to support. A few shaped their provincial political
economies in lasting ways, but many left less of a mark, operating in the shadows of more powerful patrons or
competitors, sometimes for only a few months at a time.” (Dipali Mukhopadhyay, “Provincial Governors in Afghan
Politics,” USIP, Jan 2016 [
Politics.pdf] p3-4).
Many of the civilians not living in cities make their living through poppy farming. As of
the end of 2017, poppy cultivation occurred in more than of western and northern villages,
more than half of eastern villages, and almost 85 percent of southern villages-- the equivalent of
more than 350,000 full time jobs for farmers and local and migrant workers.198 Government
officials have become increasingly involved in the production and sale of opium.199 2017 marked
a record high production of opium.200 Though President Ghani promised that reducing opium
production would be one of his goals, satellite imagery showed the opium fields still growing as
he took office.201
Yet this drug trade is also unstable. Before 2016, Nangarhar province’s production
increased dramatically.202 The villages that grow poppies are also seen as much less secure than
those that don’t by the people living in them. Throughout the country, 37 percent of the heads of
villages indicated that their village wasn’t under government control, but if looking only at the
villages that cultivate opium, that number rises to 67 percent. Nationally, 24 percent felt their
village was insecure, which doubles when restricted to the opium cultivating villages. While
opium cultivation is not a cause for insecurity, it reflects a link between economic insecurity and
poppy farming. When civilians have the options of farming staple crops or poppies, which
provide higher revenue and often will be collected from the farmer’s home rather than the farmer
having to travel dangerous roads to markets, many turn to poppies. Yet opium cultivation can
drastically improve quality of life: “Farmers who have resumed poppy production have reported
an increase in their standard of living, that they are able to eat meat several times per week, send
their children to school, and access medical care which they were not able to do without
producing opium.”203 This environment, in which farming drugs may be the best way to benefit,
is critical to understanding the environment of the villages where Daesh is attempting to take
control, the details of which will be provided in the following sections. Their occupants already
feel unsafe and don’t count on government protection.
F: National Mood: Direction of the Country
G: Perceptions of security threats
H: Fear during 2018 elections
1 Jim Kuypers “Framing Analysis,” Rhetorical Criticism: Perspectives in Action, Lanham, MD: Lexington Books,
2009, 181.
2 James Forest and Alex Schmid, “Research Desiderata 150 Un- and Under-Researched Topics and Themes in the
Field of (Counter-) Terrorism Studies A New List,” Perspectives on Terrorism, Vol 12 No 4, August 2018, 72.
3!“Corruption Perceptions Index 2018,” Transparency International, 2018
4!“Afghanistan in 2017: A Survey of the Afghan People,” The Asia Foundation, Nov 14 2017
[], 11.!
6 “Afghanistan 2015 International Religious Freedom Report,” US Department of State, Bureau of Democracy,
Human Rights, and Labor, [] 2.
7 Alla Chughtai, “Afghanistan: Who controls what,” Al Jazeera, Oct 19 2018
8 “The Soviet Invasion of Afghanistan and the U.S. Response, 19781980,” The U.S. State Department, Office of
the Historian [].
9 Binod Kumar Singh, “Taliban versus Islamic State in Afghanistan: A Turf War,” Himalayan and Central Asian
Studies, Vol 21 No 2/3 Apr/Sep 2017 [].
10 Ibid.
11 “Women in Afghanistan: the back story,” Amnesty International, 2017 [
12 “Taliban control of Afghanistan on the rise, US inspector says,” CNN Wire, Nov 9 2018
13 Bernd Mutzelberg, Interview over Skype, May 21 2018.
14 Dawood Azami, “Why Taliban special forces are fighting Islamic State,” BBC News, Dec 18 2015
15 Charles Lister, “Trump Says ISIS Is Defeated. Reality Says Otherwise,” Politico, Mar 18 2019
16 Mona Kanwal Sheikh, “Islamic State Enters Al-Qaeda’s Old Hotbed of Afghanistan and Pakistan,” Connections,
Vol 16 No 1 (Winter 2017), 38.
17 Ibid, 40.
18 Jennifer Williams, “The Pentagon says ISIS is “well-positioned” to make a comeback,” Vox, Aug 17 2018
19 “Afghanistan: The security situation in Nangarhar province.” Landinfo. Report, 2017
[] 6.
20 “ISIS: Sunset on the ‘decline narrative.’” Online Jihad, May 2018 [
21 Ibid.
22 Paul Lushenko, “ISKP: Afghanistan’s new Salafi jihadism,” Middle East Institute, Oct 19 2018
23 Dexter Filkins, “Afghan Militias Battle Taliban With Aid of U.S.” The New York Times, Nov 21 2009
24 Kate Clark and Borhan Osman, “More Militias? Part 2: The proposed Afghan Territorial Army in the fight against
ISKP.” Afghanistan Analysts Network, Sep 23 2017 [
25 Borhan Osman, “Descent into chaos: Why did Nangarhar turn into an IS hub?” Afghanistan Analysts Network,
Sep 27 2016 [].
26 Ibid.
27Khyber Sarban, “Islamic State Khorasan Province: Pakistan’s New Foreign Policy Tool?,” The Diplomat, Nov 15
2016 [].
28 Ibid.
29 Niamatullah Ibrahimi and Sharram Akbarzadeh, “Intra-Jihadist Conflict and Cooperation: Islamic StateKhorasan
Province and the Taliban in Afghanistan,” Studies in Conflict & Terrorism, 19 Jul 2018
30 “Afghanistan and Pakistan Ethnic Groups.” The Choices Program, Brown University, 2013
31 Sudha Ratan, “The Trump Administration’s New Afghan Problem: The Islamic State,” The Diplomat, Apr 3 2018
32 Borhan Osman, “Descent into chaos
33 Ibid.
34 Afghanistan 2015 International Religious Freedom Report.”
35 Ibid.
36 Richard Shultz, “Rank and file recruitment and constituent support,” Lecture, Mar 5 2018.
37 “Isis letter reveals tribal rifts in Afghanistan faction amid war with Taliban and US,” International Business, Jun 7
2017 [].
38 Borhan Osman, “ISKP’s Battle for Minds: What are its main messages and who do they attract?” Afghanistan
Analysts, Dec 12 2016 [
39 Ibid.
40 Ibid.
41 Ibid.
42 Borhan Osman, “Descent into chaos.”
43 Jennifer Cafarella, “ISIS Plotting Attacks from Afghanistan.” Institute for the Study of War, Nov 12 2017
44 Ibid.
45 Borhan Osman, “Descent into chaos.”
46 Ibid.
47 Borhan Osman, “The Islamic State in ‘Khorasan’: How it began and where it stands now in Nangarhar,”
Afghanistan Analysts Network, Jul 27 2016 [
48 Ibid.
49 “EASO Country of Origin Information Report: Afghanistan, Individuals targeted by armed actors in the conflict,”
European Asylum Support Office, Dec 2017 p65.
50 Obaid Ali, “Non-Pashtun Taleban of the North (4): A case study from Jawzjun.” Afghanistan Analysts Network,
Sep 18 2017 [
51 Ibid.
52 Interview with subject 1, resident of Nangarhar Province, over Whatsapp, Feb 6 2019. Individual remaining
anonymous for security reasons.
53 Sudha Ratan, “The Trump Administration’s New Afghan Problem: The Islamic State,” The Diplomat, Apr 3 2018
54 “Afghanistan Living Conditions Survey 2016-2017,” Islamic Republic of Afghanistan Central Statistics
Organization, 2018
[] 4.
55 Steve Almasy, “ISIS in Afghanistan: A battle against increased threats,” CNN, Apr 14 2017
56 “Afghanistan Living Conditions Survey 2016-2017,” 5.
57 Ibid, 6.
58 Ibid, 6.
59 Borhan Osman, “Descent into chaos.”
60 Borhan Osman, “ISKP’s Battle for Minds.”
61 Ibid.
62 Akhilesh Pillalamarri, “Revealed: Why ISIS Hates the Taliban,” The Diplomat, Jan 29 2016
63 Thomas Joscelyn, “The Islamic State’s obsession with al Qaeda and the Taliban,” Long War Journal, Jan 20 2016
64 Interview with subject 1.
65 Borhan Osman, “ISKP’s Battle for Minds.”
66 Ibid.
67 Ibid.
68 Borhan Osman, “Descent into chaos.”
69 Ibid.
70 Ibid.
71 Ibid.
72 Ibid.
73 Ibid.
74 Micah Ingalls and David Mansfield, “Resilience at the periphery: Insurgency, agency and social-ecological
change under armed conflict,” Geoforum Vol 84 Aug 2017
75 Ibid.
76 Binod Kumar Singh, “Taliban versus Islamic State in Afghanistan.”
77 Ibid.
78 Interview with subject 2, resident of Nangarhar Province, over Whatsapp, Jan 29 2019. Individual remaining
anonymous for security reasons.
79 Ibid.
80 “French terrorists training child soldiers in Jawzjan.” Salam Watandar, Nov 12 2017
81 Tamkin, “Daesh foreign mentors recruiting Jawzjan Youth.” Pajhwok Afghan News, Nov 12 2017
82 Ibid.
83 Animesh Roul, “Islamic State Gains Ground in Afghanistan as Its Caliphate Crumbles Elsewhere,” Terrorism
Monitor Vol 16 No 2, Jan 26 2018 [
84 Interview with subject 2.
85 Ibid.
86 Pamela Constable “The Taliban has successfully built a parallel state in many parts of Afghanistan, report says,
The Washington Post, Jun 21 2018 [
87 Max Boot, “The Taliban doesn’t need peace. It’s winning,” The Washington Post, Aug 23 2018
88 Ashley Jackson, “Life under the Taliban shadow government,” ODI, Jun 2018
[]. 5.
89 Ashley Jackson, “The Taliban’s Fight for Hearts and Minds.”
90 Ibid.
91 Alex Ward, “Why some experts are cautiously optimistic.”
92 Ashley Jackson, “Life under the Taliban shadow government,” 12.
93 Ibid, 12
94 Interview with subject 2.
95 Ashley Jackson, “Life under the Taliban shadow government,” 14.
96 Interview with subject 2.
97 Ibid.
98 Ibid.
99 “Sustainable development in an opium production environment.” Afghanistan Opium Survey Report 2016,
UNODC, May 2017 [
monitoring/Afghanistan/Afghanistan_sustainable_development_for_web.pdf] 30.
100 Ibid, 30.
101 “Afghanistan in 2017: A Survey of the Afghan People.”
102 “Death Toll Rises to 25 in Nangarhar Suicide Bombing.” Tolo News, June 16 2018
103 Interview with subject 2.
104 Ibid.
105 Binod Kumar Singh, “Taliban versus Islamic State in Afghanistan.”
106 Sudarsan Raghavan, “The Islamic State is making these Afghans long for the Taliban,” The Washington Post,
Oct 13 2015 [
107 Manoj Kumar Mishra, “How ISIS Appears To Be Deadlier Than The Taliban In Afghanistan Analysis,”
Eurasia Review, Sep 23 2018 [
108 Rustam Ali Seerat, “Sectarian War Is Looming Over Afghanistan,” The Diplomat, Aug 9 2017
109 Borhan Osman, “With an Active Cell in Kabul, ISKP Tries to Bring Sectarianism to the Afghan War,”
Afghanistan Analysts Network, Oct 19 2016 [
110 Kyle Orton, “Islamic State Threatens Democrats and Democracy.” Translation of summary of ISIS documents.
May 6 2018 [].
111 Scott Worden, “ISIS Attack on Afghan Voting Center Aims to Sow Ethnic Division,” United States Institute of
Peace, Apr 24 2018 [
112 Bismellah Alizada, “Afghanistan’s Parliamentary Elections: Challenges and Prospects,” South Asian Voices, May
8 2018 [].
113 “'At least 15 Police Killed' In Taliban Attack In Northern Afghanistan,” Reuters, Oct 11 2018
114 Bismellah Alizada, “Afghanistan’s Parliamentary Elections: Challenges and Prospects.”
115 Rajeshwari Krishnamurthy, “Electoral Reforms in Afghanistan: Key Issues and Prospects.” Fletcher World
Affairs No 41, 2017, p 141-150, 143.
116 James Mackenzie, “Kabul blast highlights risk to long-delayed Afghan vote.” Reuters, Apr 23 2018
117 Scott Worden, “ISIS Attack on Afghan Voting Center Aims to Sow Ethnic Division.” United States Institute of
Peace, Apr 24 2018 [
118 Haroon Shafiqi, “Afghanistan election: What's at stake in the parliament vote?,” BBC, Oct 19 2018
119 Khyber Sarban, “Islamic State Khorasan Province: Pakistan’s New Foreign Policy Tool?”
120 “EASO Country of Origin Information Report: Afghanistan, Individuals targeted by armed actors in the conflict,”
European Asylum Support Office, Dec 2017, 65.
121 Ibid, 65.
122 “IS in Afghanistan: How successful has the group been?,” BBC, Feb 25 2017 [
123 “Saving Ourselves: Security Transition and Impact on Civilian Protection in Afghanistan,” Center for Civilians
in Conflict, 2016 [
content/uploads/2017/09/Afghanistan_CivilianProtection_Interactive_FINAL.pdf] 12.
124 Map. “Afghanistan: Drought-Related Migration & Response.” Relief Web, May 2018
[ ].
125 Mujib Mashal, “Drought Adds to Woes of Afghanistan, in Grips of a Raging War.” The New York Times, May 27
2018 [].
126 Ibid.
127 Kate Clark and Borhan Osman, “More Militias?”
128 Ibid.
129 Anders Corr, “To Defeat Terrorism In Afghanistan, Start With Opium Crops in Nangarhar Province,” Forbes,
Mar 26 2017 [
130 Edwin Mora, “Afghanistan: Government confirms Islamic State, Taliban clashes over opium,” Breitbart, Apr 27
2017 [
131 Noor Zahid, “Islamic State Eradicating Afghan Poppy Crops,” VOA News, May 2 2016
132 Interview with subject 2.
133 Ibid.
134 Khyber Sarban, “Islamic State Khorasan Province: Pakistan’s New Foreign Policy Tool?” The Diplomat, Nov 15
2016 [].
135 “Pak Army gives weapons, training to IS in Afghanistan: Former fighters.” Hindustan Times, Feb 25 2016
136 Bernd Mutzelburg.
137 Ibid.
138 Binod Kumar Singh, “Taliban versus Islamic State in Afghanistan.”
139 Ibid.
140 Ibid.
141 Borhan Osman: “The Islamic State in ‘Khorasan.’”
142 Ibid.
143 “Why Russia and China Are Expanding Their Roles in Afghanistan,” Stratfor, Sep 5 2018
144 Ibid.
145 Samuel Ramani, “Why Russia Exaggerates the Islamic State Presence in Afghanistan,” The Diplomat, Apr 10
2018 [].
146 Ibid.
147 Kim Sengupta, “World powers seek unlikely alliance with Taliban as 'interests coincide' in battle against shared
enemy Isis,” The Independent, Jan 7 2016 [
148 Amin Tarzi, “Islamic StateKhurasan Province,” in The Future of ISISI: Regional and International
Implications, Brookings, 2018, p137. 119-147
149 Scott Peterson, “Afghanistan by the numbers: inside the facts.” CS Monitor, Feb 2 2018
150 Ibid.
151 Kate Clark and Borhan Osman, “More Militias?”
152 Ibid.
153 Nikita Mendkovich, “Afghan call for support underlies Russia’s new influence.” Russia Beyond, Oct 28 2015
154 “Tajiks fear weaker Russian presence will open the way for ISIS.” Russia Beyond, Feb 18 2016
155 Yousuf Zarifi, “Gen. Votel, Hayat confer on Nangarhar security situation,” Pajhwok Afghan News, Jan 20 2019
156 Barbara Starr and Ryan Browne, “US officials warn ISIS' Afghanistan branch poses a major threat,” CNN, Feb
19 2019 [].
157 Ibid.
158 Edwin Mora, “US reports unprecedented number of civilian deaths amid 2018 peace talks: Taliban IEDs top
killer,” Breitbart, Feb 252019 [
159 Stephen Young, “Why America Lost in Afghanistan,” Foreign Policy, Feb 5 2019
160 “16 years later, Afghan capital under siege,” CBS, Jan 11 2018 [
161 Mujib Mashal, “U.S. and Taliban Agree in Principle to Peace Framework, Envoy Says,” The New York Times,
Jan 28 2019 [].
162 Frud Bezhan, “Explainer: Why There Are Two Competing Tracks For Afghan Peace,” Radio Free Europe, Feb 7
2019 [].
163 Robert Rabil, “ISIS Isn’t Dead Yet,” The National Interest, Sep 1 2018 [
164 Borhan Osman, “Beyond Jihad and Traditionalism,” Afghanistan Analysts Network, Jun 2015
[] pp
165 Ibid, pp 13, 16.
166 Bill Roggio and Alexandra Gutowski, “Mapping Taliban Control in Afghanistan,” The Long War Journal, 2019
167 Steven Stalinsky et al, “Germany-Based Encrypted Messaging App Telegram Emerges As Jihadis' Preferred
Communications Platform Part V Of MEMRI Series: Encryption Technology Embraced By ISIS, Al-Qaeda, Other
Jihadis September 2015-September 2016: Section 2 MEMRI Research Documents Jihadi Use Of Telegram,”
Middle East Media Research Institute, Dec 23 2016 [
168 Ibid.
169 Bennett Clifford, ““Trucks, Knives, Bombs, Whatever:” Exploring Pro-Islamic State Instructional Material on
Telegram,” Combating Terrorism Center, May 2018 Vol 11 No 5 [
170 Ibid.
171 Ibid.
172 Ibid.
173 “Analysis: Islamic State - one year on since loss of Raqqa,” BBC, Oct 17 2018
174 “ISIS: Sunset on the ‘decline narrative.’”
175 Bijan Omrani, “The Durand Line: History and Problems of the Afghan-Pakistan Border.” Asian Affairs, Vol 40
No 2, 2009 [].
176 Ibid.
177 Ibid.
178 Afghanistan 2015 International Religious Freedom Report.”
179 Kabir Taneja, “The Fall of ISIS and its Implications for South Asia,” ORF Issue Brief No 220, Jan 2018
[] 5
180 Borhan Osman, “The Islamic State in ‘Khorasan.’”
181 Bijan Omrani, “The Durand Line.”
182 Ibid.
183 Ibid.
184 James Goodman and Razi Wahid, “Afghanistan: Military Occupation and Ethnocracy,” Cosmopolitan Civil
Societies: An Interdisciplinary Journal, vol 8, no 3, May 2017.
[] 174.
185 Rohan Gunaratna, “Global Threat Forecast.” Counter Terrorist Trends and Analyses, Vol 10 No 1, p 1-6. 4.
186 “ISIS calls on Muslims to join them in Afghanistan if they can't make it to Iraq or Syria,” The Straits Times, Mar
7 2018 [
187 Kabir Teneja, “The Fall of ISIS,” 6.
188 “The Islamic State and U.S. Policy,” Congressional Research Service, Sep 25 2018
[] 3.
189 Seth Jones, “The Islamic State-Taliban Rivalry in Afghanistan,” Lawfare, Nov 27 2016
190 Rupam Jain, “Afghanistan's poverty rate rises as economy suffers,” Reuters, May 7 2018
191 Obaidullah Burhani, “Afghanistan’s Economic Problems and Insidious Development Constraints,” Foreign
Policy Journal, Oct 25 2018 [
192 Rupam Jain, “Afghanistan's poverty rate rises as economy suffers.”
193 Micah L. Ingalls and David Mansfield, “Resilience at the periphery.”
194 Suraiya Nazeer, “Narcotic Dilemma and Political Upheaval in Afghanistan.” Economic Affairs Vol 62 No 3, Sep
2017, p380.
195 Ibid, 381.
196 Ibid, 382-3.
197 Ibid, 384.
198 “Last year's record opium production in Afghanistan threatens sustainable development, latest survey reveals,”
UNODC, May 21 2018 [
199 Azam Ahmed, “Tasked With Combating Opium, Afghan Officials Profit From It,” The New York Times, Feb 15
2016 [].
200 Dyfed Loesche, “Steep Rise in Poppy Cultivation And Production of Opium,” Statista, Nov 21 2017
201 Azam Ahmed, “Tasked With Combating Opium.”
202 “Afghanistan Opium Survey 2017: Cultivation and Production.” United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime,
203 Micah L. Ingalls and David Mansfield, “Resilience at the periphery.”
204 “Afghanistan: A Survey of the Afghan People 2006-2018,” The Asia Foundation, 2017
LanguageName=English#Full-Report-4] 17.
205 Ibid, 61.
206 Ibid, 51.
ResearchGate has not been able to resolve any citations for this publication.
Rhetorical Criticism: Perspectives in Action presents a thorough, accessible, and well-grounded introduction to contemporary rhetorical criticism. Systematic chapters contributed by noted experts introduce the fundamental aspects of a perspective, provide students with an example to model when writing their own criticism, and address the potentials and pitfalls of the approach. In addition to covering traditional modes of rhetorical criticism, the volume presents less commonly discussed rhetorical perspectives, exposing students to a wide cross-section of techniques.
Armed conflict has played an increasingly important role in the transformation of key social and environmental systems at multiple spatial and temporal scales. Accelerated resource flows and environmental change dynamics intersect with conflict processes in ways that are substantial and yet inadequately understood. Drawing on research along the Pakistani border in eastern Afghanistan’s embattled province of Nangarhar, we employ a coupled systems approach for understanding the ways in which social-ecological processes shape and are shaped by armed conflict. Based on field surveys, geospatial analysis of land and forest change, and participatory research among local communities, government agencies and military actors, we identify several causal processes linking conflict and dynamics of social-ecological change in the context of multiscalar geopolitical processes. We focus attention on four inter-related elements: (1) transitional modes of resource governance relating to armed militia groups and state intervention, (2) forest changes related to illegal logging and trade networks, (3) the erosion of upper-montane rangelands through encroachment and changing pastoral responses to conflict, and (4) significant land use changes in the agricultural sector toward the cultivation of opium poppy. Our research highlights the importance of center-periphery relations, the problematic nature of local agency, and the ways in which local social-ecological elements—here, particularly, timber and opium—become political objects within competing narratives of (in)security and ongoing state formation.
A historical survey which covers firstly, the various attempts to establish a satisfactory boundary between the settled lands of India and the mountain areas to the North; secondly, the negotiations from which the Durand line emerged as the boundary between Afghanistan and Pakistan; thirdly, the status of the Tribal areas in Pakistan and the border areas more generally, and why so many of the obstacles to change seem to be the very elements which only change can resolve.
International Religious Freedom Report
"Afghanistan 2015 International Religious Freedom Report," US Department of State, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, [] 2.
Afghanistan: Who controls what
  • Alla Chughtai
Alla Chughtai, "Afghanistan: Who controls what," Al Jazeera, Oct 19 2018 [].
Taliban versus Islamic State in Afghanistan: A Turf War
  • Binod Kumar
  • Singh
Binod Kumar Singh, "Taliban versus Islamic State in Afghanistan: A Turf War," Himalayan and Central Asian Studies, Vol 21 No 2/3 Apr/Sep 2017 [].
Interview over Skype
  • Bernd Mutzelberg
Bernd Mutzelberg, Interview over Skype, May 21 2018.