Who Are IS-K? What You Need to Know About the Group That’s Sometimes Called ‘ISIS-K’

Afghan women protesting in Kabul on September 8, 2021. Photo Courtesy: [Marcus Yam/Getty Images]

On August 26, 2021, President Biden addressed the nation. “We will not be deterred by terrorists. We will not let them stop our mission. We will continue the evacuation… America will not be intimidated,” he told reporters and the millions of people watching. This was Biden’s response to IS-K, a name you may have been seeing a lot of in the news.  

IS-K, often referred to as ISIS-K, is a major militant force in Afghanistan. The U.S. had strategically planned their exit from Afghanistan after nearly 20 years of combat. IS-K is not affiliated with the Taliban, but there is some crossover between the two groups.

Now, with the Taliban still at large and the emergence of IS-K, people are having a hard time wrapping their minds around the conflict. While we don’t know what will happen going forward, we can look at IS-K and see what we can learn from their story.

Who Are IS-K? And Is It IS-K or ISIS-K?

Photo Courtesy: [Karim Sahib/Getty Images]

According to BBC News, IS-K stands for Islamic State Khorasan. This group, a chapter of a larger body, formed in 2015. IS-K is a part of the greater Islamic State network. The Islamic State Network, also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL), is a massive organization, and the United Nations (UN) has deemed it a terrorist organization. The group was founded by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in the late 1990s and has taken responsibility for heinous acts of violence, including public beheadings, suicide bombings, ethnic cleansings and genocide.

The organization is separated geographically. The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, for example, is the most prominent sect of the organization. Known to the world as ISIS, this terror group has ultraconservative ideals. The group identifies as Sunni practitioners of Islam, so Shia Muslims and Sikhs are among the groups affected by IS-K.  

IS-K, meanwhile, is based in the Nangarhar region of Afghanistan. It’s on the eastern side of the country and shares a border with Pakistan. Some people living inPakistan used to be a part of IS-K, but they have since formed their own chapter. BBC News reports that IS-K had 3,000 members at its peak, but the numbers have probably decreased and will continue to decrease as the U.S. and United Nations counterattack the IS-K.    

So, which should we be saying, IS-K or ISIS-K? You’ve probably seen and heard both by now. Since the group is so new, there may be a back-and-forth for a while until politicians and pundits decide on one altogether. On one hand, ISIS-K has a familiarity to it. We know who ISIS is, but is adding a “K” to that enough to differentiate the two chapters? On the other hand, IS-K is more descriptive when it comes to naming this group in particular.

What Attacks are IS-K Responsible For?

Photo Courtesy: [Karim[a][b] Sahib/Getty Images]


IS-K took center stage in world affairs on August 26, 2021. Suicide bombers from the organization attacked the airport in Kabul. This attack occured as the U.S. military was in the process of pulling out of the country. The attack killed 13 American troops, mostly U.S. Marines. The Conversation reports that there were at least 100 deaths in total linked to this attack.

Other attacks that IS-K has taken responsibility for include bombings of girls’ schools, hospitals, and even a maternity ward. U.S. troops, NATO forces, non-Shia Muslims and civilians have all gotten caught in the crossfire of these attacks.

The Taliban and IS-K: Enemies, Allies, or Rivals?

Photo Courtesy: [Hindustan Times/Getty Images]

There is a lot of crossover between IS-K and the Taliban. To put it simply, IS-K is a more extreme version of the Taliban. Since the Taliban are currently in power in Afghanistan, more conflict is likely to come. In this instance, the enemy of our enemy is definitely not a friend.

IS-K uses propaganda to radicalize individuals who are already skewing toward their beliefs. The group’s goal is to establish an Islamic State, which would occupy areas in countries like Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Both organizations are a part of the Haqqani network. This is a group of terrorist organizations started by Jalaluddin Haqqani, who was an ally to Americans during the Afghan-Soviet War but later joined the Taliban and other terror networks in the 1990s. The network was not officially deemed a terror organization until 2012.

What Can Be Done to Help?

Photo Courtesy: [SOPA Images/Getty Images]

Let’s take a minute to acknowledge that IS-K did not simply emerge from nothing. Some pundits are looking at the Trump administration’s attempt at reducing violence in 2020 as a point where smaller groups like IS-K started to ramp up their recruitment efforts. Instead of pointing fingers, however, perhaps we could look at what we could do to help the situation as a whole. It’s been 20 long years, so what can we do to help?

The first action you can take? Educate yourself about the situation in Afghanistan. We’ve compiled an insightful list of books to help you get started when it comes to learning about what life is like in Afghanistan and the events that shaped the events of the present. You can also look into ways you can help Afghan refugees here in the U.S. New organizations dedicated to helping Afghan people, like Welcome.US — where the Obama, Clinton, and Bush families are board members — are emerging.

Keep in mindthat members of IS-K are a very extreme denomination of Islam. Other religions have very problematic denominations of their own, so it’s important to remember than not every person who practices Islam — or is of Middle Eastern descent — believes in IS-K’s ideals.

The people of Afghanistan are not backing down with protests erupting throughout the nation. Women are leading the charge in these efforts in many cases. Not only are they fighting for more rights, but they are pushing back against extremist views too.    

[a]Photo MIA :O


Photo MIA :O[b]Maybe the google doc was haunted. Sorry about that!!


Maybe the google doc was haunted. Sorry about that!!