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The Rise of ISIS-K Presents a Unique Chance at Unity

Islamic jihad is once again on the rise.

The group most concerning to all is ISIS which has gained a strong foothold in Afghanistan following the U.S. pullout in 2021. With virtually no U.S. presence and only the fledgling Taliban controlling the large Asian nation, ISIS’s Khorasan Province branch (ISIS-K) has grown tremendously.

As it stands, ISIS-K is already responsible for attacking Americans including the 13 fallen American military personnel as a result of a bomb attack at the Kabul Airport in 2021.

Therefore, ISIS-K attacks all nations no matter their religious affiliation or their political alliances. However, ISIS-K has been increasingly focused on three main targets as of late: Afghanistan, Iran and Russia.

In Afghanistan, ISIS-K has a goal to conquer the nation by making the Taliban look inept, creating fear and desperation in the people and striking the minority Shia-majority Hazaras. 

ISIS-K views Iran as a mortal enemy due to their Shia background and support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Syria.

Russia, however, is seen as an equal enemy to America because Russia also supports President Bashar al-Assad and has crushed ISIS in Syria. In addition, ISIS also claims Russia discriminates against their own Muslims across their various republics.

For this reason, ISIS-K has been very strategic in recruiting Muslim Russians and other Muslims from Muslim-majority former Soviet republics that have antipathy toward Russia but also access to Russia. 

The recent Moscow attacks were carried out by Central Asians from Tajikistan who had visa-free travel to Russia, with many Russians involved in the plan as well. While this tragedy created heartache around the world, it also provided an opportunity for unity and trust that could go a long way toward peace.

The three nations most affected by ISIS-K all feature hostile governments to U.S. interests. Afghanistan is led by the Taliban and harbors al-Qaeda, Russia is fighting in Ukraine and Iranian proxies are fighting our interests in the Middle East and destabilizing Israel and Palestine. 

These governments all view America as untrustworthy and a sworn enemy to their nations, and they justify their crimes against humanity and our interests as ways to strike out American imperialism.

However, all of these nations and America, Pakistan and Mainland China feature the common enemy of ISIS-K. The U.S. can use this enemy to show goodwill to the governments in question similar to what has happened in the past.

For example, the invasions of Afghanistan to restore the de jure government were initially supported by Iran and Russia who too viewed al-Qaeda as an enemy.

The American intelligence community has received support from Russia and vice versa in stopping terror plots in each other’s nations. These actions can go a long way in establishing trust and creating temporary alliances that prove we can all be on the same team. 

These temporary alliances and the trust they foster can push against the narratives these nations use to destabilize or attack our interests around the world. It also allows us to better understand these nations’ points of view leading to greater chances of acceptable compromises that America can use to create lasting peace plans. And, through this all, this potential coalition can crush ISIS, which would be beneficial for all nations involved.

Therefore, we should use the ISIS-K attacks to create a common defense for our six nations to generate trust and decrease tensions to stop the proliferation of greater war. This would strengthen the U.S. and make the whole world safer. 

Acknowledgment: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the individual author.


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