“Taliban Fears Over Young Recruits Attracted to ISIS in Afghanistan”
The Guardian, May 7, 2015
“Foreign fighters who claim allegiance to Islamic State are gathering dozens of recruits in eastern Afghanistan, luring would-be jihadis with generous resources and the group’s powerful brand, according to a Taliban fighter who has met several of their commanders. The rapid and dramatic victories clocked up by Isis in Iraq, Syria and Libya have attracted some young men with specific grievances against government or foreign forces, who simply want the strongest possible allies. Others seem drawn by the novelty of an upstart force, the Taliban veteran said, or by the apparently deep pockets of a group that boasts laptops, benevolent funds to help fighters’ families when in need and pick-up trucks instead of the Taliban’s more modest motorbikes. … Initial gains in southern Helmand, where the group recruited a former Taliban leader who had been held in Guantánamo Bay and had connections to the Middle East, were undermined when he was killed by a drone strike after just a couple of weeks. … Many of the foreign fighters in Ghazni and neighbouring areas only crossed into Afghanistan to escape a recent Pakistani military campaign, an elder from the area said, and it is unclear if they have genuine links to Isis, or are just hoping to capitalise on the group’s aura of success. Even without direct connections, however, the successful recruiting campaign in eastern Afghanistan suggests that the Isis brand may be as much of a threat to the government and the Taliban as the movement itself. … Taliban commanders reluctant to open up a second front while fighting the government, and well aware that their fighters have been impressed by Isis victories in the Middle East, are warily tolerating the new arrivals. For their part the Isis leaders insist that they are fighting for a larger Khorasan and have no permanent ambitions in the area, despite rich mineral deposits there. … That warmth is unlikely to last if the foreigners have or forge real Isis links, and stay any length of time, as the two groups do not make natural allies in faith or politics. Both want to set up states governed by sharia law, but the Taliban are essentially a nationalist group that wants to transform Afghanistan, while Isis does not recognise nation states and instead claims to be fighting for a regional caliphate. And while to outsiders they might seem united by an ultra-conservative interpretation of Islam, in fact they have serious religious differences. Most Taliban follow the Hanafi school; to the Salafi purists of Isis their beliefs are flawed.”
Quickie analysis: Interesting look at how ISIS is faring in the fight for jihadi market share in Afghanistan (with probably similar dynamics in Pakistan).