Abstract: The launch of the Islamic State Khorasan (ISK) brand in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region in 2014-2015 attracted droves of opportunistic and disgruntled militants from local groups. But the arrival of a new entrant in a crowded space also threatened existing groups’ regional power and resources, leading to the inception of multiple rivalries, as evidenced via expressions of leaders’ disapprovals and warnings toward ISK between 2014 and 2017. A close look at the incompatibilities between ISK and its rivals suggests continued resistance by groups whose relevance and resources are directly threatened by ISK’s mission of a global caliphate.
Expanding into new operational theaters can be a rewarding yet risky venture for transnational terrorist groups. Establishing a meaningful presence in a new region often depends on a new entrant’s ability to build alliances, especially in militant-saturated areas like Afghanistan and Pakistan. Excessive rivalries, however, can get in the way. Islamic State Khorasan’s (ISK) arrival in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region in 2014-2015 triggered a number of defections from regional militant organizations and individuals eager to exploit the ISK brand.1 A notable tide of pledges of allegiance (or bay`a) followed, which included six Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) leaders who publicly expressed their commitment to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in October 2014. Other groups’ reactions ranged from pledging bay`a to offering general support or remaining neutral.2
However, ISK’s attempts to set up shop in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region by poaching discontented militants and establishing links with opportunistic leaders of local groups has also met resistance, often resulting in bloody clashes. Most notably, ISK militants have continually clashed with Taliban fighters in Afghanistan and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas of Pakistan (FATA).3 In 2015, a cycle of violence between the groups resulted in ISK militants beheading 10 Taliban members in Nangarhar, which was subsequently met with a surprise attack by Taliban fighters on Islamic State supporters in Mohamand Agency.4 ISK fighters retaliated a week later by brutally killing several Taliban leaders and publicizing scenes of their killings online.5 Ongoing fighting between the two groups has caused much destruction and displacement of local families.6 The fighting continued in 2018 when the Taliban attempted to recapture areas in Jawzjan controlled by Qari Hekmetullah, a former Taliban commander who defected to ISK7 and was recently killed in a U.S. airstrike.8
ISK’s linkages with and recruitment from local battle-hardened jihadi groups with local know-how is likely to determine the group’s longevity and lethality in the region. An escalation of rivalries between ISK and competing groups, however, is likely to affect the overall trajectory and nature of terrorism in the region. Rather than simply resulting in self-destruction, rivalries between groups can induce splintering and outbidding as well as result in the emergence of increasingly radical militant leaders.9 In an attempt to better understand the rivalry landscape, this article takes a bird’s-eye view to highlight enmities between ISK and key regional groups as evidenced via expressions of disapprovals and warnings toward ISK between 2014 and 2017. In addition, the article sheds light on the incompatibilities between ISK and its rivals by analyzing the extent to which these groups have divergent goals and targets. This article is not necessarily an exhaustive assessment of all the groups in Afghanistan-Pakistan that may have reservations about ISK’s mission, strategy, and tactics. Rather, it seeks to highlight the incompatibilities between ISK and prominent groups in the region, which have publicly criticized ISK.
A Hostile and Incompatible Message
The core message of ISK, disseminated via a variety of media platforms, includes the pursuit of an international jihad in the Khorasan Province,a including the Afghanistan-Pakistan region. It establishes the Islamic State as the legitimate leader of a transnational ummah whereby all followers pledge allegiance to al-Baghdadi as the caliph. Central to the Islamic State’s vision of a caliphate is gaining control of physical territories, or wilayat, which includes Khorasan as the “blessed battlefield.”10 Propaganda by the Khorasan branch remains true to the Islamic State’s takfirib message and calls for attacks on not only other sects such as Shi`a and Sufis but also on other Sunni sects that do not strictly adhere to the Islamic State’s ideology.11 Nationalist movements are framed as anti-caliphate movements; the Taliban are branded as “filthy nationalists”12 while Kashmiri militant groups are mere “agents of Pakistan.”13 Various ISK propaganda materials express hostility toward the apostate state of Pakistan, and call on its followers to target the Pakistani Army.14
The aforementioned characteristics that are the essence of the ISK brand also make it inherently incompatible with the underpinnings of key regional players. Of course, adopting the ISK brand is an attractive option for groups seeking to enhance their reputation and connect to a grander cause. But ISK’s message delegitimizes and threatens autonomous groups with limited goals such as the Afghan Taliban and Laskar-e-Taiba (LeT), who are dominant players in their respective spheres of influence and enjoy the Pakistani state’s passive or active support. Leaders of the Afghan Taliban and LeT have little interest in establishing a global caliphate or antagonizing the Pakistani state. Other groups operating in the Afghanistan-Pakistan space are having a harder time picking sides; for the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) and TTP, the arrival of ISK has resulted in internal turmoil and splintering amongst their leadership.15
Examining open-source reporting and analysis between 2014 and 2017, the authors identified six ‘rival groups’ of ISK (i.e., groups that directed inimical statements toward the latter). These are LeT, Jamaat-ud-Dawa, Afghan Taliban, Haqqani Network, IMU, and TTP.c The data for this article was collected by reviewing relevant newspaper reports, academic articles, and policy reports (published between January 2014 and December 2017) to compile a list of militant groups in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region that had any affiliation with ISK. They then focused their analysis on those groups whose leaders had publicly written or spoken negatively about ISK. Such statements included direct warnings to ISK, reaffirmations of preexisting loyalties, and criticisms of ISK’s brutal tactics (discussed further below). The authors used such statements as a basis to delve deeper into select cases to understand the sources of incompatibilities between each group and the ISK brand. Figure 1 indicates whether a rival group publicly criticized ISK in a given year between 2014 and 2017 whereas Figure 2 indicates if there were any reports of a rival group’s members defecting to ISK in a given year between 2014-2017.d
Figure 1: Rival Groups: Years in Which Leaders Publicly Criticized ISK
Figure 2: Rival Groups: Years in Which Members Were Reported to Have Defected to ISK
Rivalries and Divided Loyalties
A closer examination of ISK’s rivals suggests that groups unsympathetic toward ISK fall into two main camps: a) those whose central leadership collectively does not want ISK in their backyard, and b) those whose leadership has divided loyalties. In general, recent research suggests that violent rivalries between groups are generated by civil conflicts, drug trafficking, state sponsorship, and ethnic motivation.16 Indeed, such factors define the milieu of jihad in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region. The more granular approach of ISK’s rivals identifies five key factors that make ISK an undesirable entity for some:
ISK’s territorial ambitions encroach upon existing spheres of influence of dominant groups;
ISK’s strategy to poach militants from other groups via defections directly threatens the resources of targeted groups;
ISK’s tendency to instigate sectarian violence to establish a transnational caliphate derails existing groups’ more limited nationalist agendas that are not necessarily takfiri in nature;
ISK’s message disrupts preexisting traditional loyalties or alliances in the region;
ISK’s vehement criticism of the Pakistani state threatens the passive or active support that some of its rival groups are afforded by elements within the Pakistani state.
Not in My Backyard: The Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani Network
Since being toppled from power in 2001 during the U.S.-led invasion, the Afghan Taliban remains the dominant insurgent group in Afghanistan and a major threat to the Afghan government and Western forces within the country. Its main leadership structure, the Quetta Shura, has been based in Quetta, Pakistan, since 2001, and the Pakistani intelligence agency, Inter-Services Intelligence directorate, is believed to have maintained ties with the group, even post-2001.17 A recent report indicated that Taliban fighters have full control of at least 14 districts and are openly active in another 263; this makes them operational in an area inhabited by 15 million civilians.18 The Taliban primarily seeks to rid Afghanistan of U.S. and NATO forces, and establish a Taliban-controlled government with sharia law. Moreover, the group has long-standing ties with al-Qa`ida; in 2015, the Taliban publicly accepted al-Zawahiri’s pledge of support.19 While the Afghan Taliban have maintained a reputation for being internally cohesive, the group has not been immune to internal divisions. In particular, the revelation of the death of the Taliban leader Mullah Omar in July 2015 split the group into two main blocs.20
In 2014, ISK began an active recruitment campaign in 25 of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces, and the Afghan National Defense and Security force began to report more frequent encounters with Islamic State-affiliated fighters.21 In 2015, Islamic State recruitment gained momentum in Afghanistan as Taliban fighters defected to al-Baghdadi.22 A former Taliban commander, Abdul Rauf Khadim, who was appointed as the deputy of ISK, set up his own group in Helmand and Farah, offering financial incentives to Taliban defectors.23 The Haqqani Network, closely linked with the Afghan Taliban, initially attempted to maintain a neutral position toward ISK as long as it stayed out of its stronghold of Loya Paktia.24 The Haqqani Network is considered to be a semi-independent but critical component of the Afghan insurgency with long-standing relationships with other groups such as the LeT, al-Qa`ida, and TTP.25 Sirajuddin Haqqani, who runs the Haqqani Network, is also the second in command within the Afghan Taliban movement.26 Reports of defections from the Haqqani Network emerged in 2016, when senior commanders were said to have taken sides with ISK as well as with the breakaway Taliban faction led by Mullah Rasul.27
While the Haqqani Network has not issued an independent statement against ISK, the Taliban made its collective disapproval clear. After many failed negotiations between the Taliban and ISK through private channels to resolve tensions and violent clashes, in 2015, the Taliban leader Akhtar Mohammad Mansour issued a public statement to Islamic State. The statement warned Islamic State leadership against dividing the Afghan movement and poaching its members, and also threatened to react to its behavior. The statement was released on the Taliban’s official website, the Voice of Jihad.28 In retaliation, then Islamic State spokesman, Abu Muhammad al-Adnani, accused the Taliban of being allies of the Pakistani state, warning the Taliban to either repent or become a target of the Islamic State.29 With regard to the splinter Taliban faction (also known as the High Council of Afghanistan Islamic Emirate),30 Mullah Rasul made it clear in 2015 that while he did not oppose the Islamic State operating in other countries, it was not welcome in Afghanistan.31
Why Don’t They Get Along?
Several factors drive the severe hostility between the Afghan Taliban (and its close ally, the Haqqani Network) and ISK. ISK’s claims on the Afghanistan-Pakistan region as a fundamental part of its transnational caliphate delegitimize the existence and purpose of the Taliban whose primary focus is liberating Afghanistan from Western ‘occupation.’ The Taliban holds limited nationalist goals and generally steers clear of targeting other sects. Further, the Taliban and the Haqqani Network are widely believed to be allies of the Pakistani state, for whom they serve as useful instruments of foreign policy, and have much to lose by jeopardizing this relationship by aligning with ISK. Open recruitment for the Islamic State eventually culminated in clashes with the Taliban and led to the collective public warning issued to the Islamic State leadership. Reportedly, the Haqqani leadership has played an important role in assisting the Taliban in targeting Islamic State affiliates.32 Thus, the rivalry between the Taliban and ISK runs wide and deep; a powerful ISK not only directly threatens the Taliban’s sphere of influence and resources, its anti-nationalist and sectarian mantra directly clashes with the Taliban’s regional goals. In addition, links between the Taliban and al-Qa`ida have endured despite years of war, which reinforces the rivalry between the Afghan Taliban and ISK.33
Afghanistan/Pakistan (Rowan Technology)
Not in My Backyard: Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jamat-ud-Dawa
Lashkar-e-Taiba was founded in 1990 and Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD), the group’s political wing, was formed 12 years later. JuD has long been viewed as the political and charity front of LeT, or simply an alias of LeT. JuD, however, has denied that it is a front for LeT.34 While LeT operates over a fairly broad area in South Asia, and JuD in Pakistan’s northern provinces, both groups’ operational focus remains Jammu and Kashmir.35 The primary goal of LeT continues to be the liberation of Indian-administered Kashmir and its mergence with Pakistan.36
LeT spokesman Mehmood Shah first made a statement dismissing links with the Islamic State in 2015, emphasizing LET’s goals of liberating Kashmir and claiming that links between LeT and ISK were propaganda generated by the Indian Army to delegitimize the Kashmiri jihad.37 In mid-2017, the emergence of Islamic State flags in the Kashmir Valley once again led LeT’s Mehmood Shah to condemn the Islamic State in a public statement sent to a local news agency emphasizing that, “ISIS is an anti-Islamic terrorist organization.”38 Hafiz Saeed, the leader of LeT, explicitly labeled groups such as al-Qa`ida and the Islamic State as terror groups, clearly in an attempt to distance LeT from transnational jihadi movements.39
JuD has also tried to distance itself from the Islamic State. In early 2016, JuD released an open letter to the public via social media denying any links with the Islamic State. In its view, ‘Daesh’ has harmed the cause of Islam and considers JuD an enemy.40 It appears that this letter was specifically in response to rumors of JuD members defecting to ISK. In mid-2016, JuD’s spokesman Attiqur Rahman Chohan remarked that some of the group’s personnel had been attacked in a mosque in Peshawar, specifically due to JuD’s public rallies in Malakand during which JuD had expressed support for the Pakistani Army and criticized the Islamic State.41
Why Don’t They Get Along?
There are both material and reputational factors that form the basis of LeT’s incompatibility with ISK. Officially announced as a branch in February 2016,42 the formation of the Islamic State in Jammu and Kashmir directly encroaches upon LeT’s sphere of influence, as does its sectarian stance and anti-Pakistan propaganda. LeT, a dominant terrorist organization in Kashmir and in South Asia, has an enduring relationship with the Pakistani state, and refrains from targeting other Muslim sects. In fact, LeT actively defends its connections with the Pakistani state and counters arguments of Deobandie groups who justify attacks on Pakistani civilians.43 As such, any affiliation with the ISK brand could seriously harm LeT’s mutually beneficial relationship with the Pakistani state. Moreover, the Islamic State has attempted to poach militants’ from both LeT and JuD, and has hurled direct criticism at LeT. In 2015, the Punjab Counter Terrorism Department dismantled an Islamic State aligned group in the city of Sialkot, which was believed to be a breakaway faction of JuD.44 More recently, Islamic State propaganda has specifically called for supporters to abandon militant groups in Kashmir which act on behalf of the Pakistani state.45
Since LeT/JuD are not organizationally linked to al-Qa`ida or the Afghan Taliban at a strategic level,46 their hostility toward ISK is primarily driven by the threat the group poses to their independent agenda and influence in the region. An effective campaign by ISK can potentially result in a loss in LeT/JuD’s members and resources, and adversely affect their reputation and sway in the region.
Divided Loyalties: Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan
The IMU was founded in 1998 with the intention of replacing the secular Uzbek government with sharia law and establishing Islamic rule throughout the region.47 It is one of Central Asia’s largest and most violent organizations, with connections to other prominent terrorist organizations in the region, including the Haqqani Network, TTP, and al-Qa`ida.48 Over time, the IMU turned its gaze away from Tashkent, pledged allegiance to the Taliban leader Mullah Omar49 and focused on areas surrounding their base in Tajikistan and Afghanistan.50 In 2013, Afghan and Coalition forces reported significant cooperation and joint operations between the Taliban and the IMU in northern Afghanistan.51 More broadly, an increasingly repressive regime has fanned militant salafism in Uzbekistan, and boosted the supply of Uzbek fighters to both Afghanistan and Syria.52
Signs of an internal split within the IMU and disenchantment with the Taliban became visible in 2014.53 In a statement dated November 2014 and first circulated in March 2015, IMU’s emir, Omar Ghazi called into question whether Mullah Omar was still alive and officially recognized al-Baghdadi as caliph.54 Upon the confirmation of Mullah Omar’s death, the IMU aired their grievances with the Afghan Taliban, which it accused of collaborating with the Pakistani intelligence.55 On August 6, 2015, Ghazi and a large group of IMU fighters pledged allegiance on camera to the Islamic State.56 In acknowledgement of Ghazi’s pledge, the Islamic State released a video featuring an Uzbek fighter in Iraq congratulating the IMU on its decision.57 Around this time, IMU fighters already in Syria were absorbed into the Islamic State, and many relocated from Afghanistan to the Syria theater.58 The defecting faction of Ghazi took hundreds of IMU members with it,59 who eventually suffered significant losses after becoming embroiled in clashes with the Taliban in November 2015.60 The subsequent killing of Ghazi, however, renewed unrest within the IMU, and commanders who had trailed him regrouped again under the banner of IMU.61
By June 2016, a ‘new’ IMU publicly denounced ISK, reaffirmed its loyalty to the Taliban and al-Qa`ida and criticized ISK.62 This IMU faction emphasized their ongoing relationship with the Taliban and referred to al-Baghdadi only as an emir of the Islamic State group rather than a caliph of all Muslims. Thus, Ghazi’s allegiance to ISK resulted in the emergence of a new IMU faction, one that has been vocal about its loyalty to the Taliban. By mid-2016, the majority of Central Asian fighters in Syria were believed to be mostly aligned with al-Qa`ida.63
Internal turmoil and uncertainty within the IMU has not yet abated. There appear to be continued disagreements amongst IMU members as to whether to join the ISK movement or to remain loyal to al-Qa`ida.64 In early 2017, there were reports that an IMU faction in Afghanistan under Commander Abdul Haq Samarkandi, was working closely with an IMU religious leader, Abu Dher al-Barmi, who had cooperated with the Islamic State in Syria.65 There are also reports that al-Qa`ida has actively encouraged growth of the loyal IMU faction in opposition to the one which is leaning toward the Islamic State.66
Why Are They Divided?
The main attraction of ISK for defecting IMU jihadis appears to be the uncertainty of their future if they stay aligned with the Taliban rather than switch allegiance to ISK. The Taliban have nationalistic aims, a general policy of non-interference in neighboring countries and the possibility to reach a political settlement with the Afghan government.67 ISK, however, intends to expand into Central Asia. Given IMU members’ migrant status within the Afghanistan-Pakistan region, it makes sense why the notion of a borderless jihad would be more to IMU’s liking.68 The Islamic State has been building up its presence via recruitment efforts inside Uzbekistan in 2016 and 2017, which could be especially appealing to IMU commanders.69 As such, IMU members are likely to be more willing to align with ISK if doing so can reinvigorate their presence in Uzbekistan, such as by channeling IMU fighters from Syria. However, given the material and reputational demise of the Islamic State in the Middle Eastern theater, a majority of the fighters returning to Afghanistan, regardless of their prior affiliation, may well choose to align with the Afghan Taliban instead of adopting the ISK brand. Finally, because the IMU has been subjected to military operations by the Pakistani military,70 ISK’s hostility toward the Pakistani state does not endanger any state-provided benefits for the IMU. Instead, it can help facilitate IMU’s violent campaign against Pakistani security forces.71 Taken together, the above dynamics suggest that divisions amongst IMU members are likely to remain in the short and medium-term as commanders and fighters assess the pros and cons of aligning with ISK. Sustained divisions amongst the IMU in the long term however will likely dissolve the IMU brand into its competing factions.72
Overall, ISK’s mission of establishing a global caliphate and its sectarian tactics do not contradict the goals of IMU, in ways that it does for LeT or the Afghan Taliban. Nor does the presence of ISK encroach upon any territorial turf of IMU—as it mostly operates within Afghanistan. On the contrary, aligning with a rising ISK not only has the potential to revive the IMU brand but also provides it with an enduring political platform, which extends beyond the nationalistic goals of the Taliban. As such, the opposition of the IMU faction, which has thus far resisted joining ISK, appears to be largely rooted in its preexisting loyalties with the Afghan Taliban and al-Qa`ida.
Divided Loyalties: Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan
The TTP is a loose alliance of multiple militant factions, which first formed in 2007 in a united front against the Pakistani military. Its primary stated goals are to overthrow the government, establish sharia in Pakistan, and combat Coalition forces in Afghanistan.73 Increasingly, the group has also targeted Shi`a and other minorities in Pakistan.74 The group remains one of the most lethal groups in Pakistan. Between 1989 and 2012, the total number of civilian killings by non-state actors within Pakistan tallied up to 2,122.75 Of these, 70.2% were attributed to various factions of the TTP at a total of 1,490.76 Based in Pakistan since its founding, the group moved its headquarters to Afghanistan in 2017.77
The very nature of the TTP makes it more vulnerable to internal disagreements and splintering. The TTP is unique from the groups discussed above in that it was created in opposition to the Pakistani state (although there were intermittent peace talks), and the group remains highly active in conducting terrorist activity against Pakistani security and civilian institutions. Since 2009, the TTP has been consistently targeted by the Pakistani military.78
In 2014, the TTP ran a propaganda and recruitment campaign for ISK.79 Rampant internal discord and Pakistani military operations resulted in members of the Fazullah-led TTP joining ISK, including TTP leaders from the Orakzai, Kurram, and Khyber regions.80 Internal disputes combined with an anti-Pakistan stance gave some key TTP leaders sufficient reason to be at the forefront in pledging allegiance to ISK. However, despite the pledge of allegiance by six TTP commanders (including TTP’s spokesman Shahidullah Shahid who was subsequently sacked from his position), TTP’s Umer Khorasani denied the defection of the complete group to ISK and reaffirmed TTP’s allegiance to Mullah Umer.81 Furthermore, in May 2015, a 60-page statement released by the TTP disputed al-Baghdadi’s claim to be the head of a caliphate and sought to illuminate his erroneous ways.82 The essay criticizes the Islamic State’s overreach and strategy of fighting multiple enemies concurrently, as well as the destruction of shrines. Instead, it praises al-Qa`ida’s leadership.83
Why Are They Divided?
The TTP stands out as a highly attractive ally for ISK, given its status as the most lethal group within Pakistan. One of the primary areas of select TTP’s factions’ overlap with ISK (and disagreement with the Afghan Taliban) is their target selection: the Pakistani state and minorities. A series of state military operations unleashed between 2007 and 2009 in FATA resulted in internal strife within the group, while the army simultaneously negotiated with leaders who had splintered from the core group.84 Under the leadership of Hakimullah Mehsud,85 the TTP intensified its attacks on Pakistani security and intelligence, as well as on Shi`a and Ahmedi communities.86 This radical element within the TTP has framed the Pakistani state in terminology reminiscent of that used by ISK. In 2012, Hakimullah Mehsud called Pakistan “a slave of the U.S.,” which could not make independent agreements.87 TTP members who subscribe to this aggressive stance against the Pakistani state and view targeting minorities as fair game are likely to perceive greater advantages by siding with ISK than remaining aligned with the Taliban.
On the flip side, some factions’ points of divergence with ISK may stem from their preexisting loyalties with the Afghan Taliban and al-Qa`ida, as well as a willingness to work with the Pakistani state. To counter the increasingly anti-Pakistan factions within the TTP, Pakistan played a role in nurturing its relationship with Mullah Bahadur and Maulvi Nazir.88 The Mullah Nazir group was more closely linked to the Afghan Taliban and focused primarily on activity within Afghanistan.89 While Nazir was killed in 2013, his successor Bahawal Khan continued collaborating with the Pakistani military. TTP members who fall in this camp are likely to resist being subsumed by ISK.
Thus, the division between TTP factions that have defected to ISK versus those that have remained loyal to the Afghan Taliban seems to be a continuation of organizational disputes about the future of group, which includes their strategy toward the Pakistani state. Factions that remain staunchly anti-state and engage in sectarian violence are most likely to continue defecting to ISK. On the other hand, TTP commanders who remain critical of ISK’s approach are the ones who likely see better survival prospects by siding with the currently dominant Afghan Taliban, with the potential to reconcile with the Pakistani state.
Clashes of local militants with ISK affiliates, as well as ongoing defections in the swirling militant landscape of Afghanistan-Pakistan, are likely to continue into the foreseeable future. As a new entrant, ISK aims to break into a militant web composed of groups with divergent goals, targets, and tactics as well as decades-long relationships between them. Rivalries triggered by ISK’s arrival are likely to intensify as Islamic State’s territorial losses in Syria and Iraq push fighters into the Afghanistan-Pakistan region, and local groups compete to recruit or retain fighters. Recent evidence of violent clashes between ISK and the Afghan Taliban and both groups’ continued violence against state and civilian targets amidst an ongoing war in Afghanistan are warning signs of a deteriorating security environment. Governments seeking to negotiate with non-state actors in such an environment should be especially aware of competing groups’ incentives to engage in violent attacks to derail negotiations or peace talks.
An improved understanding of the dynamics surrounding the flow of militants and leaders between groups and localities can be useful in devising strategies to stem escalating violence. On one hand, defections will continue as ISK sustains its campaign to lure groups with any overlapping goals or targets, while promising a more lucrative jihadi career to individual militants. On the other hand, it can be expected that there will be continued resistance against ISK by groups whose relevance and resources are directly threatened by ISK’s mission of a global caliphate. The sheer diversity of the groups entangled in rivalries, loyalties, and defections calls for a cooperative regional security strategy, one that draws on the collective security apparatus of multiple governments in the region. CTC
Dr. Amira Jadoon is an assistant professor at the Combating Terrorism Center and the Department of Social Sciences at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. She specializes in international security, economic statecraft, political violence, and terrorism. Nakissa Jahanbani and Charmaine N. Willis are Ph.D. students at the Rockefeller College of Public Affairs and Policy at the University at Albany, SUNY. Jahanbani’s research focuses on states that support terrorist and insurgent groups, and political violence more broadly. Willis studies comparative politics and international relations, with an emphasis on contentious politics and region-building.
[a] The Khorasan province includes Afghanistan and Pakistan, as well Iran, Central Asia, and parts of China.
[b] Takfir is the practice of labeling other non-conforming Muslims as apostates (excommunication). A takfiri is a Muslim who practices takfir.
[c] Amongst these groups, commanders of IMU and TTP have disagreed on their support for ISK.
[d] The information in Figures 1 and 2 is based on an analysis conducted by the authors of media reports obtained via open sources, including but not limited to Lexis-Nexis, news stories, and think-tank reports. Figure 2 depicts defections from only those groups that have expressed criticism of ISK in some capacity (indicated in Figure 1), rather than all groups in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region whose members may have joined ISK. Based on the information available at this period, the authors are unable to quantify the exact number of defections from each group. Therefore, they are only able to indicate whether any defections were reported. All groups in the categories “Group Leadership Opposed to ISK” and “Groups with Divided Loyalties” are considered to be rivals of ISK. The key distinction between the two sub-categories reflects the general degree of cohesion amongst the leadership of each group in opposing ISK. Groups in the latter category have experienced factional divisions with different views on whether to join or oppose ISK. Groups in both categories have experienced individual-level defections to ISK as indicated in Figure 2.
[e] Deobandi is a revivalist movement within Sunni Islam, originating in India. Deobandis fall under the Hanafi school of Islam. See Luv Puri, “The Past and Future of Deobandi Islam,” CTC Sentinel 2:11 (2009).
 See “Say, Die in Your Rage!” address by the spokesman for the Islamic State, available at https://archive.org/details/SayDieInYourRage
 Don Rassler, “Situating the Emergence of the Islamic State of Khorasan,” CTC Sentinel 8:3 (2015).
 Dawood Azami, “The Islamic State in South and Central Asia,” Survival 58:4 (2016): pp. 131-158.
 Borhan Osman, “The Islamic State in ‘Khorasan’: How It Began and Where It Stands Now in Nangarhar,” Afghanistan Analysts Network, July 27, 2016.
 “Hundreds of Afghans Displaced after Fresh Clashes between ISIS, Taliban,” Daily Pakistan Global, November 27, 2017.
 Obaid Ali, “Qari Hekmat’s Island: A Daesh Enclave in Jawzjan?” Afghanistan Analysts Network, November 11, 2017.
 Rod Nordland and Zabihullah Ghazi, “ISIS Leader in Afghanistan Is Killed in U.S. Airstrike,” New York Times, April 9, 2018.
 Andrew H. Kydd and Barbara F. Walter, “The Strategies of Terrorism,” International Security 31:1 (2006): pp. 49–80; Reed M. Wood and Jacob D. Kathman, “Competing for the Crown: Inter-rebel Competition and Civilian Targeting in Civil War,” Political Research Quarterly 68:1 (2015).
 Borhan Osman, “ISKP’s Battle for Minds: What are its Main Messages and Who Do They Attract,” Afghanistan Analysts Network, December 12, 2016.
 Amira Jadoon, “An Idea or a Threat? Islamic State in Jammu and Kashmir,” Combating Terrorism Center, February 9, 2018.
 See Borhan Osman, “ISKP’s Battle for Minds” and Jadoon.
 Bill Roggio and Caleb Weiss, “Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan Faction Emerges after Group’s Collapse,” FDD’s Long War Journal, June 14, 2016; Ali Akbar, “From TTP to IS: Pakistan’s Terror Landscape Evolves,” Dawn Newspaper, March 15, 2015.
 Brian J. Phillips, “Terrorist Group Rivalries and Alliances: Testing Competing Explanations,” Studies in Conflict & Terrorism (2018): pp. 1–23.
 James Mozul, “The Quetta Shura Taliban: An Overlooked Problem,” International Affairs Review, November 23, 2009.
 Shoaib Sharifi and Louise Adamou, “Taliban ‘Threaten 70% of Afghanistan,’” BBC, January 31, 2018.
 Bruce Riedel, “The Taliban affirm their alliance with Al-Qaida: Afghan peace talks in doubt,” The Brookings Institution, August 20, 2015.
 Mathew Dupee, “Red on Red: Analyzing Afghanistan’s Intra-Insurgency Violence,” CTC Sentinel 11:1 2018.
 “Concerning the Taliban and Other Associated Individuals and Entities Constituting a Threat to the Peace, Stability and Security of Afghanistan,” United Nations Security Council (2015).
 “Taliban Fighters Divert to ISIS,” Khaama Press News Agency, February 1, 2015.
 Associated Press and Damien Gayle, “ISIS Sets up Base in Afghanistan Less than Three Months after British Troops Left,” Daily Mail Online, January 14, 2015.
 Antonio Giustozzi, “Taliban and Islamic State: Enemies or Brothers in Jihad?” Center for Research and Policy Analysis, December 14, 2017.
 Marvin Weinbaum and Meher Babbar, “The Tenacious, Toxic Haqqani Network,” Policy Focus, September 2016.
 Yochi Dreazen, “The Taliban’s New Number 2 Is a ‘Mix of Tony Soprano and Che Guevara,’” Foreign Policy, July 31, 2015.
 Antonio Giustozzi, “The transformation of the Haqqani Network,” Jane’s Terrorism and Insurgency Monitor, November 2, 2017.
 Aaron Zelin, “Letter from the Taliban To Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi From the Head of the Shura Council,” Lawfare, June 27, 2015.
 Osman, “The Islamic State in ‘Khorasan.’”
 For a more detailed discussion regarding divisions within the Afghan Taliban, see Dupee.
 “Afghan Taliban Splinter Group’s New Chief Backs Islamic State ‘Brothers’ – But Only Abroad,” RFE/RL’s Radio Free Afghanistan, November 8, 2015.
 Umair Jamal, “Why Won’t Pakistan Act against the Haqqani Network?” National Interest, May 7, 2016.
 Bill Roggio, “Designations highlight Taliban’s longstanding ties to Al Qaeda,” FDD’s Long War Journal, January 26, 2018.
 “Pakistan ‘gave Funds’ to Group on UN Terror Blacklist,” BBC, June 16, 2010.
 “Lashkar-e-Taiba | Let | LET,” South Asia Terrorism Portal, accessed April 11, 2018.
 Animesh Roul, “Pakistan’s Jamaat-Ud-Dawa Positions Itself for Politics,” Terrorism Monitor, October 12, 2017.
 “Nothing to Do with IS: Lashkar,” Greater Kashmir News Network, November 22, 2015.
 “Lashkar Says, ISIS A Terrorist Group,” Kashmir Observer, May 10, 2017.
 Praveen Swami, “Al-Qaeda Sets up Valley Wing with Chandigarh College Dropout as Chief,” Indian Express, July 28, 2017.
 “Daesh Caused the Most Harm to Islam: JuD,” Daily Regional Times, January 4, 2016.
 “Case of Mosque attack registered,” News International, May 3, 2016.
 C. Christine Fair, Fighting to the End: The Pakistan Army’s Way of War (New York: Oxford University Press, 2014).
 Asif Chaudhry, “IS Cell Busted in Sialkot, Claim Officials,” Dawn Newspaper, December 29, 2015.
 “Why We Should Leave the Militant Groups in Kashmir,” released by Al Qaraar, February 2018.
 “Country Reports on Terrorism 2015: Chapter 6. Terrorist Groups,” U.S. Department of State, June 2016; “Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU),” Mackenzie Institute, January 7, 2016.
 Michael Feldholm, “From the Ferghana Valley to Wazirstan and Beyond,” Monterey Terrorism Research and Education Program (MonTREP), Monterey Institute for International Studies, August 25, 2010.
 Goktug Sonmez, “Violent Extremist among Central Asians: The Istanbul, St Petersburg, Stockholm and New York City Attacks,” CTC Sentinel 10:11 (2017).
 Audrey Kurth Cronin, Huda Auden, Adam Frost, and Benjamin Jones, “Foreign Terrorist Organizations,” CRS Report for Congress RL32223, Congressional Research Service, February 6, 2004.
 “ISAF Launches Multiple Raids Against IMU as Fighting Season Heats Up,” FDD’s Long War Journal, May 8, 2013.
 Damon Mehl, “The Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan Opens a Door to the Islamic State,” CTC Sentinel 8:6 (2015).
 “IMU Leader Allegedly Questions Whereabouts of Mullah Omar, Recognizes Baghdadi as ‘Caliph,’” SITE Intelligence Group, March 31, 2015.
 “IMU Spells Out Grievances With Afghan Taliban,” RadioFreeEurope/RadioLiberty, August 4, 2015.
 “IMU Pledges Allegiance to IS Leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi,” SITE Intelligence Group, August 6, 2015.
 Thomas Joscelyn and Bill Roggio, “Central Asian Groups Split over Leadership of Global Jihad,” FDD’s Long War Journal, August 24, 2015.
 Antonio Giustozzi, “Shifting ground: Competition intensifies between the Islamic State and Al-Qaeda for Central Asian support,” Jane’s Terrorism and Insurgency Monitor, April 25, 2017.
 Bill Roggio and Caleb Weiss, “Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan faction emerges after group’s collapse,” FDD’s Long War Journal, June 14, 2016.
 Giustozzi, “Shifting ground.”
 Roggio and Weiss.
 Jacob Zenn, “The IMU is extinct: what next for Central Asia’s jihadis?” Central Asia-Caucasus Analyst, May 3, 2016.
 Giustozzi, “Shifting ground.”
 For a detailed discussion on how an IMU-ISK relationship could be mutually beneficial, see Mehl.
 Paul Staniland, Asfandyar Mir, and Sameer Lalwani, “Politics and Threat Perception: Explaining Pakistani Military Strategy on the North West Frontier,” Security Studies (forthcoming).
 Jeremy Binnie and Joanna Wright, “The Evolving Role of Uzbek-led Fighters in Afghanistan and Pakistan,” CTC Sentinel 2:8 (2009).
 See Sonmez for a more detailed discussion on IMU’s breakaway factions.
 Hassan Abbas, “A Profile of Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan,” CTC Sentinel 1:2 (2008).
 “Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan,” Mapping Militants, August 6, 2017.
 Kristine Eck and Lisa Hultman. “One-Sided Violence Against Civilians in War: Insights from New Fatality Data,” Journal of Peace Research 44:2 (2007): pp. 233–246.
 Dera Ismail Khan, “Pakistan Taliban reject ISIS leader’s claim to be ‘caliph,’” Reuters, December 19, 2015.
 Staniland, Mir, and Lalwani.
 Khyber Sarban, “Islamic State Khorasan Province: Pakistan’s New Foreign Policy Tool?” Diplomat, November 15, 2016.
 Rassler. See also Akbar.
 Thomas Joscelyn, “Pakistani Taliban rejects Islamic State’s self-professed caliphate,” FDD’s Long War Journal, May 27, 2015.
 Elias Groll, “In Battle of Jihadi Groups, Pakistani Taliban Prefers Al Qaeda Over ISIS,” Foreign Policy, May 28, 2015.
 Staniland, Mir, and Lalwani.
 Pir Zubair Shah, Sabrina Tavernise, and Mark Mazzetti, “Taliban Leader in Pakistan Is Reportedly Killed,” New York Times, August 7, 2009.
 “Pakistan Security Report 2009,” Pak Institute For Peace Studies (PIPS), January 2010.
 Saud Mehsud, “Pakistan Taliban Chief Says Group Will Negotiate, but Not Disarm,” Reuters, December 28, 2012.
 Staniland, Mir, and Lalwani.