​​​​'No one feels safe': The Taliban promised to provide security to Afghans. New data shows threat from ISIS is growing

The data, which includes over 2,000 ISIS propaganda videos, provides a rare glimpse into the group's activities in Afghanistan.As the U.S. warns of the growing threat of ISIS in Afghanistan, new data reveals the group's activities in the country. The data includes over 2,000 ISIS propaganda videos,

​​​​'No one feels safe': The Taliban promised to provide security to Afghans. New data shows threat from ISIS is growing

Qasim was informed in late March by his brother that a Taliban employee had been injured seriously in a suicide attack near the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Kabul.

When the 32-year old and his family arrived at the hospital, the doctors informed him that his brother had already died.

The blast occurred as employees of the government were leaving for the day. The explosion occurred in the heart of what used to be the heavily fortified diplomatic area of the capital, called the "Green Zone" until August 2021 when the former Afghan government collapsed. This year, the United States will focus its firepower on high profile targets in an attempt to undermine Taliban rule and undermine public confidence in their assurances of safety.

The Taliban claim to protect us but they can't. We still face threats in Afghanistan from various groups. I don't even know if it's ISIS or someone else behind these attacks, Qasim told CNN.

He added, 'Afghanistan has no security at all. We don't even know if we'll make it home.

ISIS-K, in the two years that have passed since the Taliban took control of Afghanistan's government, has increased the number and complexity of its attacks throughout the country. This puts pressure on the newly elected government, and raises concerns about the possibility of the group regenerating and posing a serious international threat.

ISIS-K, and the Taliban are both Sunni Islamist extreme groups with different ideologies. They fight each other to control parts of the country and recruits.

Recent attacks by ISIS-K have been directed primarily at the Taliban, other symbolic targets and Afghanistan's Shia Muslim minority, notably the ethnic Hazaras. Bombings in urban areas have increased, resulting in hundreds of injuries and deaths. An explosion was carried out at an Air Force compound where Chinese businessmen were staying.

In its weekly newsletter Al Naba the group claims to have struck 283 times in Afghanistan since Taliban tookover. It has claimed that at least 670 people were killed and 1,200 injured. This is a dramatic increase in the number of casualties per attack.

It's hard to verify these numbers, as media restrictions in the country severely limit journalists' independence and there is no Western intelligence. Roza Otunbayeva of UNAMA, who spoke to the Security Council in march, stated that ISIS K posed "a growing threat" and expressed concern over the Taliban’s ability to deal with this challenge. The Taliban, however, insist that they have full control.

Analysts are increasingly relying on open sources in order to gauge the current state of affairs in Afghanistan, given the patchy information available.

This week, the UK-based Centre for Information Resilience (CIR), which monitors the human rights situation in the country, released a dataset of verified abuses since the Taliban took over. The evidence includes 367 open-source pieces, mainly videos and images that were shared on social media about 70 ISIS attacks in Afghanistan since August 2021. Together, these evidences reveal a gradual change in ISIS's activities in Afghanistan. From a few small-scale assaults on Taliban checkpoints and patrols in rural areas such as eastern Nangarhar Province, where ISIS maintained a presence in 2015, to an increase in attacks in urban areas including the capital Kabul, Herat, in western Afghanistan, and Mazar-i-Sharif, in northern Afghanistan.

In his office. ISIS-K has claimed eight attacks on Kunduz in the first year of the new Taliban government.

Afghan Witness data on confirmed attacks and ISIS claims show that the group continues to target civilians. This includes the Hazara Community in Kabul, Herat, and other cities. However, attacks have slowed down over the last few months, as the group has shifted its focus on Taliban targets with greater visibility.

David Osborn is the team leader at Afghan Witness. He said that it was clear from data and propaganda they were using strategies elsewhere to promote sectarianism. They have also become more bold when targeting high-profile targets and symbols in Afghanistan.

The Taliban have recently conducted raids on the Islamic State. This coincided with a reduction in the number of attacks from the group. Open source gives us this picture, but it's unclear in the long run how much the Taliban's actions can reduce the capability of Islamic State-Khorasan inside Afghanistan.

The Taliban have not kept their promises to impose a more moderate rule than they did when they last ruled in Afghanistan two decades ago. They have instead reintroduced harsher measures that are in line with the strict interpretation they give of Islamic law or Sharia. These include public executions, flogging, and the banning of women from the workplace and education.

The Taliban continue to attack civilians as they try to minimize the danger ISIS-K represents.

We've seen Islamic State-Khorasan attack Shia Hazara while they attended schools, mosques, and festivals. The research of Afghan Witness shows that the most striking thing is the state of helplessness and constant fear of those who are caught in the violence. He added that these communities believe the de facto authorities will not defend them after being persecuted for years by the Taliban.

Nearly half the attacks confirmed by Afghan Witness targeted crowds gathered in public places, such as markets, schools and hospitals, or at funerals, weddings, and religious services.

ISIS-K fighters in October 2021, just two months after US withdrawal, bypassed Taliban security in order to gain access to Imam Bargah Mosque in Kandahar (a city located in the southern part of the country) during Friday prayers. The ISIS-K fighters shot the temple guards and then detonated explosive vests in the crowds. They claimed to have killed or wounded over 100 people. More than 30 confirmed deaths

At least 25 people were killed in Kabul’s Dasht-e-Barchi District -- a district dominated by Hazaras and Shias that had been the victim of several ISIS-K terrorist attacks before Taliban took control. Many of the students were girls who were taking a mock university entrance test. Afghan Witness verified the videos, which did not show ISIS-K as the perpetrators. However, analysts said that the attack bore hallmarks of this group.

According to 21 survivors and family members interviewed, the Taliban authorities had an obligation to protect communities at risk from ISIS-K attacks. However, they failed to do so. Richard Bennett, UN Special Reporter on Human Rights in Afghanistan, also called for investigations of attacks on Hazara Shia and Sufi Communities, which he characterized as 'crimes against humanity'.

Fatima Amiri was one of the 18-year-old students taking the test when the gunfire started. She suffered a broken jaw and lost both an ear, an eye and a shattered ear in the attack. She is still receiving treatment for her injuries. She remembers her classmates lying on the ground, bloodied, as the gunman shot them.

I saw that many of my friends were dying. I tried to get away. All of the doors were locked. She said, "I climbed up a wall, jumped and was in a bad state, full of blood." "I am now half-normal with one eye and an ear."

"We know the Taliban can't protect us." No one in Afghanistan feels safe at the moment.

ISIS-K attacks have caused anxiety among US officials regarding the capabilities of the group. Some even warn that the group could develop soon the capability to strike Western targets.

In March, ISIS-K became more confident and aimed to expand its ranks as well as inspire or direct attacks throughout the region. He said that ISIS-K would be able conduct an 'external operation' against US or Western interests overseas in less than six months with little or no warning. Kurilla, when asked about the likely targets of terrorist attacks that originate in Afghanistan, said Europe or Asia would be more likely than the United States.

Kurilla's comment highlights one of Western intelligence's main concerns: that, after the US withdrawal from Afghanistan, it's difficult, if not impossible, to determine the Taliban's success in containing ISIS-K. US officials and analysts say this is because drones must now fly long distances to reach Afghanistan to conduct reconnaissance.

Some have called the Biden administration’s ‘over-the-horizon’ strategy, which aims to strike terrorists without American troops on the ground, a 'rainbow'. As one of the only successes to date.

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence stated in a report on 2023 that ISIS-K will 'almost definitely retain the intent to conduct attacks outside Afghanistan and continue to operate in the West'.

The US does not recognize the Taliban as the official government of Afghanistan. CENTCOM spokesperson Major John Moore told CNN that US officials do not share intelligence with the Taliban in order to combat ISIS-K. Nor does the US cooperate with them. The Taliban is fighting ISIS-K on their own, according to US estimates.

The Taliban are in a tough spot because of the increase in violence. To prevent a group from using Afghanistan as a means to threaten the security of the US or its allies.

Taliban security forces are conducting night raids and operations against ISIS-K. In public areas

Patricia Gossman is the associate director of HRW's Asia Division. She said that the Taliban has been pursuing them in a way that's counterproductive, because they've been tackling them as brutally and as quickly as possible. This causes resentment to grow in local communities which leads to more recruitment. We documented a number raids carried out by the Taliban, in Kunar and Nangarhar. Many people were killed during these raids who may or not have been affiliated with ISIS-K.

The plotters of the 2021 Kabul suicide bombings at the Abbey Gate in the international airport, which took place amid chaos during evacuations, and killed 13 US servicemen as well as more than 170 Afghans trying to escape the country. The suicide bomber, who was released by the Taliban in the days before the attack from the Parwan detention center at Bagram Air Base and Pul-e-Charkhi Prison.

In 2021, ISIS-K had been reduced to just a few cells and a tiny stronghold in Kunar Province. That was all. In the chaos of the handover, the Taliban also opened Bagram prison, which was a mistake. They underestimated the number of ISIS-K fighters who, after being freed, simply walked away.

The organization was able to establish itself very successfully.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres announced in January 2022, that the number ISIS-K recruits had increased.