Security

ISIS-K exploits poverty to recruit youth amid surge in attacks

By Muhammad Qasem

Municipal workers clear the area where a sticky bomb detonated near a security convoy on May 8. The blast, in the Badakhshan provincial capital of Faizabad, killed three policemen and wounded five. [Omer Abrar/AFP]

Municipal workers clear the area where a sticky bomb detonated near a security convoy on May 8. The blast, in the Badakhshan provincial capital of Faizabad, killed three policemen and wounded five. [Omer Abrar/AFP]

KABUL -- The "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria"'s Khorasan branch (ISIS-K) is exploiting worsening poverty in Afghanistan to recruit new fighters and carry out attacks, analysts warn.

The extremist group has become a real threat in Afghanistan, Türkiye-based Afghan political analyst Abdul Wasi Niazi told Salaam Times.

Afghan youth are joining the group's ranks out of desperation, he said.

"Unfortunately, most Afghans are living below the poverty line," he said. "Our educated youth are unemployed, and some of them will now be forced to choose the wrong path to making a living."

As the economic situation in Afghanistan worsens, this gives ISIS and other extremist groups the opportunity to entrap youth, Niazi said.

The increase in poverty and unemployment has made it easier for ISIS recruiters, Belgium-based Afghan political analyst Ali Reza Esmati told Salaam Times.

ISIS-K's recent attacks, amid Afghanistan's political and economic uncertainty, have raised concerns that the group is expanding its recruitment campaign, posing a serious problem for the country and region, he said.

"My information indicates that several other foreign terrorist groups, including Jundallah [based in Iran], Jamaat Ansarullah of Tajikistan and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, have now joined forces with ISIS," Esmati said.

"If ISIS further increases its recruitment efforts, Afghanistan's security will be at even greater risk, and [ISIS-K] will become even stronger in the country," he warned.

'An enemy of our people'

ISIS-K has accelerated its recruitment of youth in Kunduz province in recent months, sources told Salaam Times, expressing alarm about the situation.

"It will be very painful to see our educated youth acting against our own people and destroying public infrastructure in exchange for money and resources," said Kunduz resident Murtaza Ahmadi, 41.

"If the current situation continues, we will soon witness significant and destructive activities, and ISIS will turn Afghanistan into its main base," he said.

Increasing poverty and unemployment are one factor that has made it easier for terrorist groups to recruit young Afghans today, said Badakhshan province native Abdullah Haqjo, 36, who now lives in Kabul.

"The current situation in Afghanistan has facilitated ISIS's recruitment of individuals," he said, urging the authorities to address this situation.

"ISIS is an enemy of our people and our religion," Haqjo said. "This group constantly targets civilians and poses a significant threat to the stability, security and sovereignty of Afghanistan."

"Therefore, Afghans should not be deceived by this terrorist group and should not pledge allegiance to such an enemy," he said.

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Poverty forces the people to commit crimes. With the withdrawal of foreign agencies such as USAID, GTZ, … tens of thousands of Afghans lost their jobs. Also, with the dissolution of the Afghan National Army, which had more than 300,000 members, and 100,000 police, a total of more than 400,000 families were left without a living because the salaries that Afghan soldiers and police received from the government were cut. The fact is that Afghanistan has been a victim of the East-West (Russia and America) war over the past fifty years. As soon as the government gets dissolved, the Afghan people become unemployed, resulting in all their family members going hungry, and this is what happened in the recent years. ISIS is indeed a big conspiracy. The new Afghan government must work with the international community to eliminate this foreign conspiracy being implemented by regional and international intelligence agencies. The Afghan youth, especially the youth of our country, will be victims of foreign wars in Afghanistan until that ISIS is destroyed and the recruitment of youth by ISIS and other terrorist groups get stopped.

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The Afghans are not so helpless that the insurgents would deceive them due to poverty. The insurgents cannot progress in Afghanistan, but some countries are trying to keep this project ongoing for their purposes. However, it is unlikely that activities in Afghanistan will increase because Afghans were not previously with ISIS. The lobbyists and financiers of the ISIS group are known; Tajiks provide them with personnel, Punjab gives them training, and some malicious countries provide financial support.

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It's just like that

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So far, I don't see any strength in ISIS that could be used against the Taliban, nor anyone who would willingly join ISIS. This is because both the young and the old understand that war brings harm, not benefit and that whatever Afghanistan has, it will lose in war. Although the current economic situation is terrible, people are happy because there is peace and their lives are safe. If someone dies, it is a natural death... There are rare incidents of domestic violence and enmity where someone might be killed with a bullet, but by the grace of God, we haven't heard the sound of bullets for the past three years. However, there is one concern: if the economic situation of the people does not improve and their employment needs are not addressed, it is not far-fetched that people might join a group for as little as five thousand Afghanis, either openly or secretly, and take up arms for them. It is crucial that the government quickly addresses people's employment needs and keeps them occupied; otherwise, once an arrow is released from the bow, it cannot be stopped. While we are grateful for the current situation, there are still concerns.

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