Iran-Taliban Disagreements Over IS-KP’s Increasing Foothold in Afghanistan


Recently, Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian claimed that ISIS fighters from Syria, Libya and Iraq had been transferred to Afghanistan. The Taliban rejected the claim and asserted that it remains fully committed to fighting terrorist groups within its borders. The disagreements between Iran and the Taliban over the presence of IS-KP in Afghanistan reveal Tehran’s growing border security concerns and the Taliban’s limitations in eliminating terror groups like IS-KP operating within its borders.

Abdul Qahar Balkhi, the Taliban’s spokesman at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, stated on Twitter, “If Iran has any intelligence that Daesh members have been transferred to Afghanistan, we hope (they) share it so the Afghan security forces can take necessary steps.” Balkhi urged Iran to take constructive measures to strengthen border security. In Afghanistan, IS-KP has been one of the biggest challenges facing the Taliban.

 IS-KP has repeatedly targeted Afghanistan’s religious minorities, especially the Hazaras by attacking their mosques and schools.  It has adopted extreme measures like suicide bombings to increase the horrific impact of their attacks.

  Reports indicate that ever since the Taliban took over Afghanistan in 2021, IS-KP has claimed responsibility for 13 attacks and is linked to attacks killing and injuring at least 700 people. Last year, IS-KP  claimed responsibility for the bomb blasts in Kabul that killed and injured more than 120 people, largely from the Hazara community. Another suicide bombing at Abdul Rahim Shahid High School in Kabul killed six and injured 20, including students. Last year, the attack at Seh Dokan Mosque in Mazar-i Sharif killed  at least 31 people. As per reports, IS-KP claimed responsibility for  also killing Taliban officials, including the governor of Balkh Province and the acting governor of  Badakhshan Province.

In the current context, the Taliban’s and Iran’s concerns regarding IS-KP  are based on several factors. First, the Taliban sees IS-KP and other violent groups as a threat to domestic  security and  a spanner in its efforts to achieve international recognition and legitimacy. IS-KP has utilized propaganda to expand its campaign against aid workers and international organizations.

Amid Afghanistan’s worsening socioeconomic and humanitarian conditions, the Taliban understands the importance of international aid in helping to mitigate the aforementioned conditions; hence, it remains concerned about IS-KP’s threats against aid and humanitarian workers. Last year, IS-KP attacked the Russian embassy in Kabul, killing six people, including two Russian staff members, in addition, it attacked the Pakistani Ambassador to Afghanistan Obaid ur Rehman Nizamani, his bodyguard was injured. These high-profile attacks raised question marks once again over whether the Taliban was doing enough to eliminate this terror group on its soil.   Second,  the presence of IS-KP  poses a significant risk to Iran’s domestic security, especially considering the attack on the Shah Cheragh Shrine in Shiraz in 2022 that killed 15 people. 

Third, IS-KP  adds another complication to Iran-Afghan relations and this is compounded by the fact that Tehran fears that the Taliban is incompetent and has  inadequate resources to contain and eliminate the terrorist group at a time when ISIS  leaders have repeatedly called for attacks on Iran.  Fourth, the worsening economic and security conditions in Afghanistan pose a serious challenge to Iran as they could increase the Afghan refugee influx into the country.

Iran had recently deported more than 4,700 Afghan migrants. Moreover, mass displacements against the backdrop of severe socioeconomic crises could lead to worsening poverty rates in the region, hence creating fertile conditions for terror groups like IS-KP to recruit. Fifth, it is currently difficult for Iran to confront the security challenges posed by IS-KP as it  does not wield much military influence in Afghan territories, and there is only scant information concerning the group’s organizational structure, weapons supplies and size. This makes it difficult for Iran to ascertain the capacity and threats posed by IS-KP.

Despite the aforementioned disagreements and concerns, Iran and the Taliban over recent months have intensified efforts against IS-KP.  Recently, the IRGC Intelligence Department arrested people linked to the media and operational network of ISIS.  In addition, the Taliban has carried out raids on IS-KP hideouts in Afghanistan. Regardless of their tense relations, Iran and the Taliban will continue to have mutual concerns regarding domestic security, particularly the growing challenges and risks posed by terror outfits like IS-KP.

Editorial Team