Concurrent with the rise of ISIS in East Syria, there were almost no speculations about the controversial future of this extremist group. However, after a series of events when the ISIS succeeded to expand its territory and strongly resisted the military attacks, alarm bells rang that the ISIS might reproduce its methods in other parts of the Muslim world. As one of the historical hotbeds of extremism, Afghanistan has been at the forefront of this threat. Undoubtedly, parts of this effort for the spread of the terrorist group to other areas were aimed to reduce the vulnerability of the ISIS and stabilize its regional position through ‘exporting’ its caliphate. Moreover, the leaders of ISIS were also looking for safe places so that if they failed in one geographical area, they can relocate to other areas.
Making use of various methods to spread, ISIS has taken significant measures in Afghanistan which are in its early stages. Today, no one can deny the presence of ISIS elements and its extremist allies in Afghanistan. Basically, there are very strong indigenous capacities in Afghanistan which give way for spread and growth of such phenomena. However, as the legitimacy of the ISIS in its homeland namely Iraq and Syria depends on its achievements, it should be able to make a major breakthrough in Afghanistan in order to gain legitimacy. Therefore, although ISIS is working in Afghanistan, the group will refrain from officially declaring the “Great Emirate of Khorasan” affiliated to ISIS caliphate, until it has established its social network and military position in Afghanistan.
It appears that Afghanistan is not defined as an ultimate goal for ISIS, but the ISIS seeks to make parts of Afghanistan a secondary center for the spread of its caliphate. In this case, the next destination for ISIS to transfer and spread his members is the surrounding area of Afghanistan, including the eastern border areas of Iran, Central Asia (Russia) and Xinjiang province of China. The spread of ISIS phenomenon into Afghanistan would not probably lead to the extension of ISIS caliphate in Afghanistan and its ruling over the country; however it seems that Afghanistan will serve as a path or a launch pad in strategies of the ISIS and its supporters.
With regard to strategies of international policies, the presence of hundreds of Central Asian nationals including Uzbeks, Tajiks, etc., in northern Afghanistan among the ISIS forces and their longstanding collaboration with the ISIS terrorists, it is quite likely that they may be used in the next two to five years to promote the geopolitical objectives of the US in Central Asia and southern borders of Russia.
With regard to the consequences of spread of ISIS into Afghanistan, the following strategic considerations are worth mentioning:
1. To adopt multilateral diplomacy and to resort to patterns of ‘collective security’ should be on the agenda of the countries of the region. In general, the mechanism of collective security is one of the main strategies to address the regional and cross-border threats. In order to prevent, control and repress the ISIS terrorist group in Afghanistan, collective cooperation is quite necessary. This pattern could be followed in East Iran through trilateral cooperation between Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan or through bilateral cooperation between Iran and each of the other two countries.
2. To adopt a very strong political determination against the ISIS in Afghan security and government organizations. This is quite necessary and would serve as deterrence, and would help to control ISIS movements and suppress its growth in some areas. Security in Afghanistan and its environment follows the rule of ‘mutual security’ and countries should not assume that with the transfer of insecurity to the surrounding areas, they can provide security for themselves. Therefore, any waiver or negligence in preventing the consolidation of the ISIS terrorist group in Afghanistan, would be too risky and might affect many countries.
3. To define and determine formal and informal mechanisms for military-security cooperation of Afghanistan with neighboring countries in the West Asia, particularly with the Islamic Republic of Iran, to address the issue of ISIS. Such a mechanism would probably receive the support of the Afghan people, and would also remove threats of the ISIS.
4. To uncover and publicize the hidden aspects, nature, objectives and functions of the ISIS in the region by making use of the Iranian, Afghan and Pakistani media.
5. To benefit software and ideological capabilities, and to encourage the clerics, scholars, tribal leaders, and intellectuals, etc., to take position against the ISIS terrorist group and intellectually fight back the ISIS.