Alleged Pentagon Leaks Say ISIS Regrouping in Afghanistan, Angering Taliban

islamic state fighters

Documents allegedly procured from a trove of Department of Defense leaks suggest the Islamic State’s Afghanistan operation, ISIS-Khorasan, has strengthened markedly under Taliban rule and is consistently plotting attacks around the world, the Washington Post claimed this weekend.

ISIS-Khorasan, or ISIS-K, has taken responsibility for multiple terrorist attacks in Afghanistan since leftist President Joe Biden abandoned the country to the Taliban, another jihadist terror outfit, in August 2021. Several of those attacks have targeted Chinese interests in the country, which have expanded as the Taliban seeks investment from the Communist Party, disregarding China’s ongoing genocide against Muslim people on the countries’ mutual border. Taliban officials enthusiastically reject all indications that the Islamic State is a threat to the stability of Afghanistan, however, and have repeatedly claimed that ISIS simply does not have a presence in the country.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid condemned the Washington Post’s reporting as based on a “fake document” in an extensive statement posted to Twitter on Sunday, declaring that ISIS “has been severely defeated and is in the process of being eliminated.”

The Post claimed that the ominous warnings of the Islamic State rebuilding from the destruction of its “caliphate” in Iraq and Syria using Afghan territory came from documents initially surfacing on the video game chat platform Discord. That set of allegedly classified intelligence and defense documents includes information regarding a wide variety of national security topics, from the status of the war in Ukraine to sensitive conversations attributed to South Korean officials.

FBI agents arrested 21-year-old Jack Teixeira, an Airman First Class in the Massachusetts Air National Guard, in mid-April in relation to the alleged leaks. Multiple corporate media outlets have accused Teixeira of stealing the documents and sharing them on Discord with online friends in an attempt to impress them. Pentagon officials said this month that they are not sure exactly how many documents are now in the public domain as a result of this one incident.

leaked documents

This photo illustration created on April 13, 2023, shows the Discord logo and the suspect, national guardsman Jack Teixeira, reflected in an image of the Pentagon in Washington, DC. (STEFANI REYNOLDS/AFP via Getty Images)

The Afghan documents, the left-wing newspaper reported, included warnings that ISIS-K has returned to “aspirational plotting” against America and Europe. The documents in question are allegedly assessments of the group by experts at the Defense Department.

“ISIS has been developing a cost-effective model for external operations that relies on resources from outside Afghanistan, operatives in target countries, and extensive facilitation networks,” an alleged “top-secret” assessment read. “The model will likely enable ISIS to overcome obstacles — such as competent security services — and reduce some plot timelines, minimizing disruption opportunities.”

The alleged documents included several examples of ISIS plots that never came to fruition, such as an attempt to bomb the FIFA World Cup soccer tournament, which took place in Islamic Qatar in November.

“Pentagon officials were aware in December of nine such plots coordinated by ISIS leaders in Afghanistan, and the number rose to 15 by February, says the assessment, which has not been disclosed previously,” according to the Washington Post.

The newspaper added that some documents also showed extensive, but failed, efforts on the part of the group to recruit members that could build or procure chemical weapons and drones, including contacting an alleged “Ukraine-based individual” for help in building an explosive drone.

Top Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid issued a lengthy rejection of the report via social media on Sunday, expressing particular disapproval of the Washington Post portraying Taliban-led Afghanistan as a “center for terrorism.”

“Afghanistan has become a safe country at the regional level, and Eid al-Fitr [the end of Ramadan holiday, which occurred on Friday] this year is a good example of that, as there were no security incidents in the entire country,” Mujahid claimed, “and we are also witnessing progress and dealing with different countries in the political and diplomatic arenas.”

“Spreading irresponsible and fabricated allegations at such a time is the work of intelligence circles that do not want Afghans to live in peace,” Mujahid continued. “The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan [the Taliban] enjoys complete control over the country and does not allow anyone to use the territory of Afghanistan against the security of another country, especially the sedition group ISIS, which has been severely defeated and is in the process of being eliminated.”

“Some circles in America have not overcome their hatred and hostility to the people of Afghanistan,” Mujahid concluded. “The public is not deceived by these failed attempts.”

Contrary to Mujahid’s assertions, however, the Islamic State has claimed to successfully penetrate the heart of Kabul to attack Taliban interests there. The Taliban have struggled to overcome concerns following a particularly shocking gun and bomb attack in December against a hotel known in the capital as the “Chinese hotel,” as it was popular with businessmen and other visitors from neighboring China. ISIS-K claimed responsibility for the attack and specified that it was interested in targeting the Chinese government, which has invested heavily in the Taliban’s success. A month later, ISIS-K claimed to have orchestrated a suicide bombing near the Afghan Foreign Ministry that it attempted to time with a meeting there between Taliban officials and representatives of the Chinese government, killing five and injuring 40, according to the Taliban (ISIS-K claimed it killed at least 20 people).

Following the attacks, multiple reports surfaced claiming that the Chinese Communist Party was ramping up pressure on the Taliban to protect its interests in Afghanistan. Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang, in a conversation with Taliban leaders in January, “said that China attaches great importance to the safety of Chinese personnel, institutions and projects in Afghanistan as the Spring Festival approaches,” according to China’s state-run Global Times newspaper, a public statement urging the Taliban to improve its security operations.

Speaking to the Washington Post for its report on Saturday, an anonymous “senior U.S. defense official” confirmed that the Taliban and ISIS-K are in a state of conflict and went as far as to credit the Taliban with keeping ISIS-K from expanding internationally.

“I would never want to say that we had mortgaged our counterterrorism to a group like the Taliban, but it’s a fact that, operationally, they put pressure on ISIS-K,” the anonymous official was quoted as saying. “In a strange world, we have mutually beneficial objectives there.”

Follow Frances Martel on Facebook and Twitter.



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