Beyond its radical expansionist tendencies, there is a much more nefarious reason ISIS desperately wants to expand its foothold in Afghanistan.
According to recent reports, the Islamic State has been expanding its footprint in Afghanistan “with thousands and thousands” of fighters after losing its so-called caliphate in Syria and Iraq.
But maintaining a so-called “province” in Afghanistan is small change compared to the group’s grand strategy. According to comments of U.S. intelligence officials in Afghanistan, the recent wave of attacks in the capital of Kabul were merely “practice runs” for even bigger assaults in Europe and the United States.
“This group is the most near-term threat to our homeland from Afghanistan,” said one American official on condition of anonymity, adding that ISIS’s “core mandate” has always been to conduct “external attacks.”
This is indeed a very important point to recognize regarding the Islamic State and the nature of the threat they pose to global security. The geographical “caliphate,” while certainly in important target for the West to annihilate, is not the primary concern. The real danger is the group’s ability to inspire and organize attacks on foreign soil.
From this perspective, ISIS is much more of a danger than the Taliban, the group that garners the most press vis-a- vis Afghanistan. In the end of the day, the Taliban only want control over their own territory. Their global ambitions are basically non-existent. ISIS on the other hand is very much the opposite. Their local territorial aspirations are merely a stepping stone in a bigger vision. They need their provinces only as bases of operation for launching bigger-scale attacks.
Concerns about ISIS run so deep that some officials have allegedly come to see the Taliban, which has also clashed with the group, as a potential partner in containing it. That would be an ironic twist to the 18-year-long Afghanistan saga.