Why Are Russia and Iran Most Concerned About the ISS-K in Afghanistan?

By: Mazdak Parsi

Recently, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has accused the United States of providing strong support to Islamic StateKhorasan (ISSK) and AlQaeda in Afghanistan. During a visit to a Russian military base in Tajikistan, he stated that the United States is actively aiding ISSK militants in Afghanistan, AlQaeda, and other terrorist organizations associated with it, with the aim of preventing Afghanistan from achieving stability.

Russian officials have long accused the United States of supporting the Islamic State of Iraq and SyriaKhorasan (ISSK), and the Americans have largely remained silent or denied the allegations, which few find convincing. The American narrative of ISSK is often seen as suspicious and exaggerated, furthering doubts among the Russians. Iran has also accused the United States of supporting the group in Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan, and even accused the Westernbacked government in Afghanistan of collaborating with ISSK. The previous government‘s ineffectiveness in combating terrorism and its failure to eradicate ISSK led Russia and Iran to view the Taliban as a viable partner in the fight against the group. Despite their support, there is still no sign of weakening ISSK, let alone its complete destruction.

Russia and Iran Are Most Concerned Among Others

Russian and Iranian officials have alleged that the United States was responsible for the formation of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) since its inception. Moscow and Tehran have asserted that the purpose of creating ISIS was to destabilize the borders of Russia and Iran, two of the United States most formidable rivals in Asia, and to plunge them into a security crisis.

Russian and Iranian officials, particularly in Syria, have jointly waged war against ISIS and managed to save the faltering regime of Bashar alAssad, achieving significant success in suppressing the group. While Moscow‘s and Tehran‘s concerns about ISIS in Syria have abated, the group has expanded its activities in the vicinity of Iran and Central Asian countries (Russia‘s sphere of influence). Especially after the Taliban came to power in Afghanistan, contrary to the expectations of Russia and Iran, ISIS has not only not diminished or weakened, but has broadened the scope of its activities more than before. It appears that Russia has realized that the Taliban either do not intend to combat ISSK earnestly, or they lack the capacity and ability to control this group. The continuous warnings of the Russian authorities and also the repeated concerns of the President of Tajikistan regarding the presence of terrorist groups in the northern and northeastern provinces of Afghanistan support this assertion.

It is unclear which regional and extraregional governments are responsible for the increased activity of ISISK in Afghanistan, however, it is certain that the world‘s major intelligence organizations have a significant impact on terrorist networks such as ISISK and the Taliban, and they use these groups for proxy wars. Even if we assume that the United States did not directly contribute to the formation of ISISK, it is undeniable that the United States actions in Iraq and Afghanistan provided the groundwork for the emergence and growth of ISIS.

The United States government has not only failed to bring security to any land it has entered in the name of stabilization, but has made the conflict more complex and provided new grounds and opportunities for the growth of Islamic extremism. By withdrawing from Iraq, the Americans created the conditions for the activities of ISIS. Now that they have left Afghanistan, ISISK is becoming increasingly powerful in this country.

The utilization of an Americanstyle approach to deescalation has historically resulted in the creation of new crises and the exacerbation of existing ones. Furthermore, the institution building efforts of the United States, particularly in Afghanistan, have been characterized as mechanical, corrupt, weak, and counterfeit. The institutions established by the Americans in Afghanistan crumbled even prior to the complete withdrawal of the U.S. military, thus indicating that the Americans have, in some capacity, contributed to the formation and fortification of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria Khorasan, even if unintentionally.

It can be hypothesized that the expansion of ISSK activities in Afghanistan may be part of a plan to transfer the war from Afghanistan to Central Asia, which Western intelligence agencies are attempting to implement in collaboration with various intelligence agencies in the region. From this perspective, ISSK is largely an intelligence game, and Afghanistan and Pakistan are countries that have the capability to extend this game to new territories.

The Taliban, which have a more localized presence than regional and global, is not an ideal choice for advancing this program; however, ISISK, which has created an imaginary geography of its sovereignty over parts of Asia, Africa, and Europe, and is attempting to establish anIslamic caliphate in a part of the world while disregarding the current national borders of Islamic countries, is a viable option for implementing the expansion plan and transferring the war to new lands. With its successes in Iraq and Syria, ISIS has demonstrated its capability to launch an offensive war and take everyone by surprise. This assessment, however, is only a hypothesis, and only with the passage of time can we determine if it is correct or not. Nevertheless, there is no doubt that the presence of ISISK in Afghanistan, for whatever reason, has more hazardous and deadly consequences than the AlQaeda and Taliban networks. With the goal of establishing anIslamic caliphate globally, ISIS has been more ruthless than any other terrorist group and instills Fear of excommunication, beheading, and mass killing before taking any action. In every place where they are present, ISIS terrorists have violently implemented the Sharia of Islam, and the kangaroo court of women and the beheading of their opponents are just a few examples of such violent and frightening actions. Terrorists are adept at monitoring people‘s lives like an everpresent shadow and destroying people‘s resilience and resistance by instilling fear among them.