After the American invasion of Iraq in 2003, a branch of Al Qaeda broke away and established a so-called caliphate, an Islamic theocracy, in large parts of Iraq and Syria. At its peak, the territory was the size of Britain. That breakaway faction, called the Islamic State, or ISIS, was savvier about social media than Al Qaeda, which recorded long, crudely made videos, sometimes from its cave hide-outs. ISIS also appealed to a younger generation of fighters, in part by promising immediate glory and rewards for those willing to fight its enemies.
In 2015, ISIS announced that it was expanding into the Khorasan region.
Who are its enemies?
Like other terrorist groups, ISIS-K has targeted U.S. forces, their allies and civilians. But unlike the others, ISIS-K openly fought with other extremist Islamic organizations, like the Taliban.
In fact, among those killed in the attack at the airport in Kabul this week were at least 28 Taliban fighters, Reuters reported.
ISIS-K has been antagonistic mostly toward the Taliban, and the two groups have fought for turf, particularly in eastern Afghanistan. Since 2017, experts say, ISIS-K has been responsible for roughly 250 clashes with the U.S., Afghan and Pakistani security forces.
Understand the Taliban Takeover in Afghanistan
Who are the Taliban? The Taliban arose in 1994 amid the turmoil that came after the withdrawal of Soviet forces from Afghanistan in 1989. They used brutal public punishments, including floggings, amputations and mass executions, to enforce their rules. Here’s more on their origin story and their record as rulers.
More recently, ISIS-K leaders have denounced the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan, saying that the group’s version of Islamic rule was insufficiently hard line.
But didn’t Trump destroy ISIS?
In October 2019, President Trump announced the killing of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, saying in a speech that he was “the founder and leader of ISIS, the most ruthless and violent terror organization anywhere in the world.” Mr. Trump went on to say, “We obliterated his caliphate, 100 percent, in March of this year.”
In January 2020, Mr. Trump again bragged about having destroyed “100 percent of ISIS and its territorial caliphate.” He also said that Mr. al-Baghdadi “was trying again to rebuild the ISIS caliphate and failed.”