‘Islamic State’ Forces in Afghanistan Not ‘Monster’ as Some Portray Them, Stolpovsky Says
November 8 – Many Russian and Central Asian commentators treat the forces of
the Islamic State in Afghanistan as a powerful, well-integrated and tightly
controlled military organization that can intervene in the countries of Central
Asia at will and overturn the governments there, Oleg Stolpovsky says.
the defeat of IS forces in the Middle East, he says, some officials and many
media outlets have pushed the notion that thousands of IS fighters have left
that region and moved to Afghanistan where they have reformed as a unified and
disciplined army in preparation for advancing northward into the former Soviet
a notion may serve the interests of some officials by frightening the
populations of the countries in Central Asia and getting them to agree to
anything as long as they are to be protected from a horde of Islamist fighters emanating
from Afghanistan. But it simply isn’t an accurate description of the situation,
one says that there are no ‘Islamic State’ militants in Afghanistan or that the
widely varied ‘terrorist international’ isn’t seeking to go there,” he
continues. “On the contrary, the Afghan direction as before is the most
unstable from the point of view of external threats for the Central Asian
region. Not to take note of this … would be an inadequate reaction.”
at the same time, the military analyst continues, “it is necessary to separate ‘the
wheat from the chaff’ in considering the issue of the transformation of
Afghanistan into a new base of ‘the Islamic State’ by specifying the size of the
IS detachments there and the tasks standing before them.”
IS presence in Afghanistan has been noted since mid-2014, he continues, but
significantly, reports about it in the form of the Vilayat Khorasan have come from Syria rather than from local
sources, an indication that these reports were more about propaganda for the
cause than a description of literal reality.
there are more problems than that. Many of those heading to Afghanistan resembled
those leaving Syria and Iraq: they were heading home rather than transferring
the international operation to Afghanistan. According to various estimates,
from several hundred to a thousand such returnees went back to Afghanistan or
Pakistan. They weren’t a new infusion.
Stolpovsky insists, both among these and among other militants who did come to
Afghanistan were representatives of a wide variety of often-competing groups of
fighters. They were no unified force ready to take orders from a single center
or to march northward into Central Asian countries. Instead, each of the small
groups had its own command and agenda.
one knows” the exact number of militants in Afghanistan, he points out.
Estimates range from 2,000 to 10,000. “Probably the truth lies somewhere in
between.But even if the real number is
higher than the mid-point, this number means that the radicals do not constitute
any overwhelming force but only can field “partisan” operational groups.
that doesn’t mean that they cannot cause trouble, but it will be difficult if
not impossible for them to launch any coordinated and prolonged operation, “especially
if they sense opposition of a stronger opponent,” as they would from the nation
states of Central Asia and Russia behind them.
can certainly raise the level of terrorist activity in Central Asia, exploiting
the domestic problems of the countries in that region, and such activity could lead
to explosions within these countries but those domestic issues would be primary
rather than secondary causes. The IS forces from Afghanistan won’t be able to
create them where they don’t exist.
officials and analysts who think otherwise are promoting their own agendas, the
military analyst says, rather than offering an accurate picture of the nature
of the problem. In doing so, they are unwittingly helping exactly the forces
that they claim to be fighting against.