I have been watching the fast growth of Daesh in the region and I was the first one who pointed out the presence of ISIS, but successive governments have been refusing to accept its presence just as a policy. In fact, I have always been advocating that Daesh is very much in Pakistan. The Daesh handlers recruited over 80 thousand Pakistanis mostly from south Punjab. The recent ouster of Pakistani Daesh operators from Syria finally landed in Turkey where they were checked and interviewed by our agencies in Istanbul, which was coordinated by the Council General Pakistan embassy. The last I heard, there were around 8000 operators who had reported for help to return to Pakistan. In fact, we have already got thousands of trained boys from Daesh. It is an alarming situation for the government as these trained ones are the asset of ISIS present in Pakistan and after returning from Syria/Turkey they have gone to their home districts. We have another potential threat of ISIS and Pakistani Taliban relations.

Now, the estranged Pakistani Taliban leaders have also shunned their differences in light of Daesh’s growing foothold and joint anti-terror operations by the US, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. On August 17, the Jamaat-ul-Ahrar (JuA) and the Hizb-ul-Ahrar(HuA)—the two militant groups that splintered from the TTP—announced they would merge back into one fearsome terror outfit, pledging their allegiance to its chief Mufti Noor Wali. Daesh’s Khorasan chapter, also known as ISIS-K, also poses a new challenge to the TTP. It has caused further splintering in the group because Daesh’s extremely radical ideology and substantial financial resources have attracted a number of disgruntled leaders from the TTP, including senior commanders like Hafiz Saeed Khan and Haji Daud, the former chief of the Taliban in Karachi. Khan, who operated in a tribal district Orakzai, joined Daesh in October 2014 and he was killed in 2016 in a US drone attack. The JuA had also briefly joined Daesh for a few months in late 2014.

In July, the UN Security Council also put Wali on the Daesh and Al Qaeda sanctions list, designating him as a global terrorist for “participating in the financing, planning, facilitating, or perpetrating of acts or activities.” The recent UN report was a trigger factor behind this unification alongside long-term future development under Wali. It is estimated that more than 10,000 Daesh terrorists remain active in Iraq and Syria two years after the extremist group’s defeat, and their attacks have significantly increased this year. The Daesh/ISIS terror group has increased its attacks in Iraq, especially in rural areas, amid political instability and security weakness in the country as well as the US-led coalition forces’ withdrawal due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Daesh has been trying to strengthen its operational capability in rural areas since mass protests against the Iraqi government erupted in October in the capital Baghdad and southern provinces. The pandemic’s impact on Daesh recruitment and fundraising activities remains unclear, and there is no clear indication of a change in the terrorist group’s strategic direction under its leader, Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Quraishi.

The attacks on mosques in Pakistan, election rallies, and security forces have killed dozens of people, affecting Pakistan’s economic ambitions, and making it very clear that the Daesh is a bigger threat to Pakistan than to India. I am sorry to say it will grow to become more lethal.

The group’s ability to strike alliances with militant organisations like Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and an Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan splinter group is continuously expanding its longevity and resilience, and becoming a threat not only to Afghanistan and Pakistan but also other regional countries, Central Asian republics, Russia, and China. Amid its blame games, India is facing the same threat. The President of Tajikistan and its interior minister told me how Daesh is expanding in his country and most of them have trained in Afghanistan. There are nearly six Daesh training centres where ETMI and some Iranians are getting training to be launched in their respective home countries. Turkey recognised Daesh as a terrorist organisation in 2013 but I blame Turkey as they were part of the collation countries to help in raising Daesh against Syria and I advised President Gul and his foreign minister in the presence of President Asif Ali Zardari to not to support this terrorist group as they will come against Turkey as the Taliban came at our throat. The world witnessed the suffering of Turkey in the hands of ISIS. Since then, the country has been attacked by Daesh terrorists numerous times, including 10 suicide bombings, seven bombings, and four armed attacks that killed 315 people and injured hundreds. In response, Turkey has launched military and police operations inside the country and abroad. Turkey also captured top Daesh terrorists in counterterror operations at home and Syria.

On March 6, 2020, ISIL gunmen killed 32 people and injured over 80 people at a ceremony in Kabul, on 25 March 2020, ISIL killed 25 people in a Gurdwara in Kabul, and on 12 May 2020, gunmen executed a mass shooting at a hospital’s maternity ward. 80 patients were evacuated, 24 victims, including newborn babies, mothers, and nurses, killed by the gunmen, and all three attackers killed by the army; An hour after the Kabul attack, a suicide bombing took place in Kuz Kunar, Nangarhar Province at the funeral of a police commander, killing 32 mourners and injuring 133 others. ISIL was thought to be responsible for the Kabul shooting although the Afghan government blamed the Taliban for it; ISIL claimed responsibility for the Kuz Kunar bombing. On August 3, 2020, ISIL launched an attack on an Afghan prison that left at least 29 dead.

Whereas now the United States is providing support to the Taliban in its fight against ISIS but according to reports, ISIS is also being used against the Taliban and selectively against governments. Taliban units actively engaged in fighting with ISIS-K,” the ISIS branch in Afghanistan. The U.S. also carried out strikes on known ISIS-K locations but emphasised that those strikes were not coordinated with the Taliban and there was hardly any damage but an eyewash planned operation to show that the USA is not on the side. Although the US is emphasising that the Taliban would defeat ISIS, should the US leave the territory but some analysts caution that the US clearly knows about ISIS real motives as the leaders of IS-Khorasan, like their counterparts in Iraq and Syria, seem to be less focused on holding territory, instead of looking to lay the groundwork for a larger resurgence after US forces leave Afghanistan and the USA will inverse the funding for ISIS and ISIS will be used against Pakistan and China and partly against Russia. US intelligence indicates that despite having lost territory in Nangarhar and Kunar provinces, IS-Khorasan still has strongholds in Herat province and parts of Kabul, while maintaining smaller cells in Helmand, Kapisa, and Baghlan provinces.

There are also indications that IS-Khorasan is focusing on more global ambitions. There have been many attacks on President Ashraf Ghani and reports are that these are usually combined operations of ISIS and Taliban and those who want to eliminate him. I foresee more attempts on Ashraf Ghani in the near future and we will yet see a new group of followers of late Dr Najeeb Ullah emerging with some others duly sponsored by certain countries including RAW which has already established a deep relationship and RAW demonstrated its action with ISIS in Sri Lanka to ensure Sri Lanka to follow Indian policy.

I warn the government and the agencies to please prepare an anti-Daesh Counter National Action Plan as it is likely to be used against us. It is shocking to note that ISIS has been carrying out attacks worldwide except for the US lately and ISIS will never attack against the USA & more lover USA will further destabilise South Asia and the Middle East through proxy wars.

ISIS claimed to have done the deadliest attacks on Niger’s military, which left 71 soldiers dead and 12 wounded. The attack happened when several hundred heavily armed militants ambushed soldiers at an outpost in the west of the country near the Mali border, according to the defence minister, Daesh picks those countries as its targets where there is grouping because of the political instability. Niger which is named after the long river called Niger. This entire region remained under the influence of Libya but after the fall of Col. Al-Gaddafi it is now gone under the influence of France and Nigeria and also under USA influence but both the countries are the targets of ISIS whereas the Ivory coast, DRC Congo, Burkina Faso, Uganda, Somalia and Sudan continue to under intense internal fights and ISIS will be used in these countries as ISIS has turned out to be the best tool for proxy war especially in the Muslim States.

On February 2, 2020 two people were stabbed in Streatham, London, and one more had minor injuries and the perpetrator, Sudesh Amman, who was a fighter of Islamic State and had previously praised it, was shot dead by police. It looks as if the USA itself does not want immediate peace in Afghanistan and is playing a game to keep Pakistan and President Ashraf Ghani under pressure.

Author’s note: Opinions expressed are solely my own and not necessarily to reflect the views or opinions of my party.