Afghans raise concerns over growing ISIS activity in western provinces

By Emran

A wounded man receives treatment at Herat Regional Hospital August 3 after he was injured in a suicide attack a day earlier near the Gazar Gah mosque in Herat city. [Emran/Salaam Times]

A wounded man receives treatment at Herat Regional Hospital August 3 after he was injured in a suicide attack a day earlier near the Gazar Gah mosque in Herat city. [Emran/Salaam Times]

HERAT -- Signs of the expanding presence and activities of the "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" (ISIS) in Afghanistan's western provinces, especially Herat, have stoked fears among the public, observers say.

Authorities on August 13 killed three suspected ISIS affiliates in a hideout in Herat city's third district. The suspects were reportedly planning a terrorist attack.

ISIS's shadow governor of Farah was killed in another clash in Farah city on August 14.

The deaths come after a suicide attack close to the Gazar Gah mosque in Herat city on September 2 killed 18 civilians and wounded 23 others.

No group claimed responsibility for the attack, but it bore the hallmarks of ISIS, which several times has targeted mosques and other targets, especially in Kabul.

ISIS targets minorities like Hazaras, who are mostly Shia.

Abdul Khaliq Nazari, a resident of Herat city, saw first-hand ISIS fighters who were hiding near his home and were later killed while conducting an attack.

They were wearing suicide vests and carried weapons, he said.

"I couldn’t believe on the day of the attack that ISIS fighters were hiding so close to my house in the centre of the city," he said.

"The situation has deteriorated so badly that we don't even feel safe inside our homes."

ISIS members may be hiding in other parts of Herat city as well, he said.

Stoking fear

Ghulam Yahya Azizi, a Herat city resident, said he fears recent ISIS activities in Herat and other provinces and is concerned about future attacks.

"ISIS was not active in Herat in the past, and we were not concerned about it, but it has become a serious threat now," he said. "I witnessed ISIS attacks multiple times in Herat city in the last month."

"Fear of ISIS has reached a point that every morning when I leave home, I don’t know if I will make it back alive," he added.

He is concerned because ISIS affiliates live and operate in Herat city, Azizi said.

Ghulam Farooq Mahmoodi, another resident of Herat city, said he has decided not to go to the mosque for prayers out of fear of ISIS attacks.

"ISIS is a brutal and dangerous terrorist group that has no mercy," he said. "With increasing ISIS activities in Herat, everyone is at risk."

"ISIS's presence in Herat is really scary ... this terrorist group is becoming stronger and stronger every day."

ISIS was suppressed by former security forces in the past, but it has regained strength in the last few months and has recruited new fighters, Mahmoodi said.

The killing of the ISIS shadow governor of Farah means that the group is very active in the province, said Farid Ahmad Saeedi, a resident of Farah city.

"The majority of ISIS attacks take place in mosques," he added. "These attacks have deprived Afghans of a sense of peace, and fewer worshippers now dare to go to the mosque."

"We have suffered from terrorism and suicide attacks and bombings," he added. "We do not want another terrorist group to gain momentum and massacre innocent civilians."

Saeedi said that he does not feel at peace because of ISIS attacks and has lost hope about his future.

A serious threat

Political and military analysts consider ISIS a serious threat to Afghanistan's security and warn about the group's expanding activities.

The threat of ISIS in Afghanistan should be taken seriously and an international coalition should be created to fight the terrorist group, said military analyst Mohammad Naim Ghayur.

"ISIS, a dangerous extremist group, has carried out dozens of attacks across different provinces in recent months," he said. "It shows that the threat of ISIS in the country is serious, and if not suppressed, it will carry out more attacks."

"More extremists have joined ISIS in the last year because of the crisis in Afghanistan, and several ISIS prisoners were freed [in August 2021]," he added. "These two factors made ISIS stronger than before."

There is no professional military in Afghanistan capable of suppressing ISIS and stopping its attacks, Ghayur said.

The world must rapidly thwart ISIS's expanding activities in Afghanistan so that the country does not turn into another Syria, he added.

ISIS wants to turn Afghanistan into a centre of international terrorism, said Abdul Qader Kamel, a political analyst in Herat city.

"International terrorism grew greatly in the last year in Afghanistan," he said. "ISIS and al-Qaeda have become stronger quickly. These terrorist groups become stronger and stronger every day and threaten global security."

"Right now, ISIS aims to cause terror by attacking civilians in mosques and crowded places, but it will try in the future to expand its rule by occupying territory," he added.

ISIS activities were limited to some provinces in the past, but they have expanded to the entire country now, making them very difficult to contain, Kamel said.

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Next October, the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) is reviewing Pakistan's actions; As a result of this review, it will be decided whether Pakistan will remain on the gray list of the said organization or if it will leave the gray list. To get out of the gray list, Pakistan is trying to prove the presence of Masood Azhar, head of the Jaish-e-Mohammad group, in Afghanistan after killing the leader of Al-Qaeda very expertly. Although the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Taliban has denied this claim about Pakistan and Masood Azhar's presence in Afghanistan, it seems that Pakistan will make several other accusations against them until the FATF review. The Taliban authorities should pay attention to such accusations of Pakistan in the next few weeks and should show a strong reaction against them. with regards Asad Mobarez


ISIS was eradicated during the republic, and all its members were killed or imprisoned. With the collapse of the republic, the Taliban freed thousands of criminal and dangerous prisoners, including hundreds of ISIS prisoners. These ISIS members have caused danger to the security of Afghanistan in a significant degree. If the Taliban had taken power through a peaceful agreement and had not occupied power by force, then the ISIS would not be that strong. On the other hand, I believe that various intelligence agencies are trying to support ISIS because they cannot tolerate a powerful central government in Afghanistan. This is why they would like to utilize ISIS or the so-called resistance group to make the Taliban to fulfil their demands.


It's all a series. These are episodes of the drama that Pakistan and the West started 40 years ago to suppress Afghanistan. First, they created the Muslim ‌‌‌‌Brotherhood's organizations. They created the Taliban, then they eliminated the Taliban, and they brought technocrats from the West. They brought the Taliban, now they want to bring ISIS, and Iran will send their Fatemiyoun; the war will continue, and Afghan Man will burn in the flames of war. The weapons business of China, America, Pakistan, Iran, and Russia will be well organized. Afghans will sell their minerals and other equipment in exchange for weapons, buy weapons and kill their fellow citizens. All this means that the Afghan man has no right to live in this world. This is the humanitarianism of the world; this is humanity. :(


In Afghanistan, it is not only the issue of ISIS that worries the people but there are some futures that the rulers should also be afraid of and consider on a large scale. ISIS is carrying out guerilla attacks where they will kill one soldier or several soldiers and civilians. The biggest problem that threatens the current government is the hunger that most Afghans are facing. People still have some patience, they don't say anything, but a day is coming when people will rise against the ruling system and uproot it. Because there is no place to work in the homeland and no possibility to go to other countries, because the current rulers have closed the roads, people cannot go out. They leave home in the morning and come home in the evening with a broken heart, which will surely become a headache for the government one day. Because humans cannot eat the soil, and they cannot get food. People are so much under pressure that I have heard from many people that even if war exists, there should be jobs.


Seeing the ongoing situation has made me disappointed and heartbroken. What can we say, and what can we do? We don't have the authority to do anything. One day we are killed by one name, and the other day by another name. It is unclear when this killing will end and to what degree the people of Afghanistan must be killed? Our murderers have been killing us every day for 50 years; still, they aren’t tired of killing us. Afghans are being punished for the sin they have never committed. :(