ISIS-K in Afghanistan has worldwide goals, is more dangerous than Taliban

Aug 25, 2021, 6:17 PM | Updated: 6:18 pm
Hundreds of people gather outside the international airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, Tuesday, Aug. 17, 2021. The Taliban declared an “amnesty” across Afghanistan and urged women to join their government Tuesday, seeking to convince a wary population that they have changed a day after deadly chaos gripped the main airport as desperate crowds tried to flee the country. (AP Photo)
(AP Photo)

SALT LAKE CITY — An old enemy on the battlefields of Syria, now called ISIS-K, has reconstituted itself in Afghanistan and could prove to be a greater threat to the wider world than the Taliban. 

After 20 years of war, as the United States and its allies pull out troops and speed up evacuation at the Kabul airport before an Aug. 31 withdrawal deadline, Islamic State militants in Afghanistan, known as ISIS-K (for the Khorasan region of Iran), are moving in.

Some had never heard of ISIS-K before a briefing by President Biden this week.

“The longer we stay, starting with the acute and growing risk of an attack by a terrorist group known as ISIS-K, an ISIS affiliate in Afghanistan — which is the sworn enemy of the Taliban as well — every day we’re on the ground is another day we know that ISIS-K is seeking to target the airport and attack both U.S. and Allied forces and innocent civilians,” said President Joe Biden during a briefing at the White House on Tuesday.

Retired Salt Lake City FBI supervisor Karl Schmae, who was deployed to Afghanistan, spoke with KSL NewsRadio hosts Dave and Dujanovic about the terror group and the collapse of the country.

ISIS-K in Afghanistan is ‘more dangerous’

To put things in clearer focus, Schmae used a comparison. Al-Qaida, the terror group that attacked the US on Sept. 11, 2001, wants to carry out home-run attacks, he said. Whereas ISIS is willing to settle for base hits.

“They (ISIS-K) are willing to go for those lower-level attacks because they figure any sort of terrorism is going to get media attention. It’s good for the recruiting. It’s good for their fundraising. They’re willing to take the fight to the enemy anywhere they can, which makes them more dangerous,” he said.


He explained that the Taliban is focused on Afghanistan and pushing foreign powers out of the country as they did to the Soviet military during the 1979-1989 war. But ISIS has a global focus.

And while the focus of ISIS-K is on Afghanistan for now, Schmae said their goal is to bring terror to the United States. 

Right now, Schmae said, “[ISIS-K] would be focused on trying to attack American troops or American citizens that are trying to get to the (Kabul) airport.”

Kiss US weapons goodbye

Since 2001, the United States has provided an estimated $83 billion worth of training and equipment to Afghan security forces, according to Forbes.

“. . . 75,000 armored vehicles, 600,000 small arms. Are these weapons going to end up in the hands of ISIS-K?” Dave Noriega asked.

“Those weapons are gonna end up all over the place,” Schmae said. “We had to pull back so quickly, stuff was left behind. Some stuff got destroyed, but undoubtedly some stuff is gonna fall into the hands of the Taliban. It wouldn’t surprise me if some other groups like ISIS also get some of these weapons.”

Dave & Dujanovic can be heard weekdays from 9 a.m. to noon. on KSL NewsRadio. Users can find the show on the KSL NewsRadio website and app, a.s well as Apple Podcasts and Google Play.  


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ISIS-K in Afghanistan has worldwide goals, is more dangerous than Taliban