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Afghanistan: Taliban labels Islamic State affiliate a ‘false sect’

The Taliban said, “We are calling out to the nation that the phenomenon of sedition called ISIS-K is invalid in today’s age and that Islam is a false sect that spreads corruption in our country. It is forbidden to have any kind of assistance and relations with them.” In a decision on Saturday.

The decision came after a three-day conference of religious leaders and elders in Kabul, according to Afghanistan’s state-owned news agency Bakthar.
ISIS-K (k stands for Khorasan, the name of a historical region encompassing parts of modern-day Afghanistan and Pakistan) has been operating in Afghanistan for the past few years.

According to the Wilson Center, a non-partisan policy forum, it is a branch of ISIS – the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.

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It has carried out numerous attacks on Afghan civilians and is thought to be responsible for thousands of deaths since its 2015 formation.

The Taliban’s decision said that Afghanistan follows an Islamic system of governance and that “armed opposition to this system is regarded as insurgency and corruption”.

He added that any opposition to this Islamic system of government, which conflicts with Islamic Sharia and national interests, is corruption and illegal action.

The link between ISIS-K and its apparent main group, the Islamic State, is not entirely clear; members share an ideology and tactics, but the depth of their relationship in terms of organization and command and control has never been fully established.

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U.S. intelligence officials previously told CNN that the U.S. identified 10 to 15 of its top agents in Afghanistan, saying ISIS-K affiliation includes “a small number of veteran jihadists and other foreign terrorist fighters from Syria.”

According to the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), the organization’s early members included Pakistani militants who emerged nearly a decade ago in Afghanistan’s Nangarhar province, many of whom had fled Pakistan and fled other terrorist groups.

Last year, counter-terrorism analysts estimated its strength to be around 1,500-2,000, but that number may have increased.

Recognition calls

The Kabul meeting, attended by 3,000 people, all men, according to state media, concluded on Saturday with a call for the international community to recognize Afghanistan’s Taliban-led government as legitimate.

The United States and other countries were reluctant to recognize the Taliban after they quickly seized the country in August 2021, just weeks after the withdrawal of US troops began.

Since then, the Taliban have imposed new restrictions on women, banning them from working in most industries and requiring them to cover their faces in public and to have a male guardian for long-distance travel. Girls were banned from returning to secondary school.

“Women and girls in Afghanistan are experiencing the most significant and rapid turnaround in the enjoyment of their rights in decades,” UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet warned on Friday. The World Bank has frozen hundreds of millions of dollars of projects on the subject.

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In an 11-point resolution issued at the end of the meeting, Bakthar called for the recognition and opening up of foreign aid, while promising “to take valuable steps towards realizing the national interests and the well-being of the people and preventing poverty and unemployment”.

“We call on the United Nations and other international organizations, especially Islamic countries and organizations, to recognize the Islamic emirate as a legitimate system, interact positively with it, lift all sanctions on Afghanistan, release the frozen funds of the Afghan nation and promote the economic situation. According to Bakhthar, the development and rebuilding of our nation,” he said.

In the resolution, the Taliban also pledged allegiance to the reclusive religious leader, Mevlevi Haybatullah Akhundzade, whom the group called “the people’s leader”.

Making a rare speech at the meeting, Ahundzada praised the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan last year as “a source of pride for Afghans as well as Muslims around the world.”

“Thank God, we are now an independent country. (Foreigners) don’t give us orders, it’s our system and we have our own decisions,” Ahundzada said.

Addressing the clergy, Ahundzada reiterated his commitment to the implementation of Sharia law, Islam’s legal system derived from the Qur’an, while expressing his opposition to the “lifestyle of unbelievers”.

The Taliban’s harsh interpretation of Sharia law when most recently in power led to numerous severe punishments, including stoning of alleged adulterers, public executions and amputations.

CNN’s Hannah Ritchie contributed to the reporting.

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