ISIS 'Leadership Struggle' against Al-Qaeda and Taliban

Al-Qaeda (The Base) and ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) have maintained closer ties for almost a decade, until Al-Qaeda leadership disowned the ISIS in February 2014. Originally ISIS operated under the banner of Al-Qaeda in Iraq; however the restrictions imposed by Al-Qaeda on its Iraq franchise led to the split within the network.

Initially after the split, Al-Qaeda attempted to resolve its dispute with ISIS, however these efforts failed as ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi directly challenged the authority of Al-Qaeda’s leadership, including Dr. Aiyman al Zawahiri.

Shortly after declaring himself the caliph of ISIS, Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi urged the Al Qaeda leadership as well as Taliban militants to pledge allegiance to him and leave the founder of the Afghan Taliban, Mullah Mohammed Omar. Moreover, he called Taliban’s “commander of the faithful” an ignorant, illiterate warlord, unworthy of spiritual or deserved any political respect.

At the same time Al-Baghdadi also denounced Al-Qaeda leader by adding: “I have to choose between the rule of God and the rule of Zawahiri, and I choose the rule of God.” (Time)

In response, some prominent jihadi preachers like Abu Muhammad al Maqdisi and Abu Qatada have blasted ISIS for deviancy from Islamic path (CNN).

A well-known political scientist, Barack Mendelsohn noted that the relationship between Al-Qaeda and ISIS “had always been more a matter of mutual interests than of shared ideology”(CFR).

Although, both Taliban and Al-Qaeda rejected Islamic State and its’ caliphate, while majority of the Afghan Taliban militants remained faithful to Mullah Omar, whereas Al-Qaeda top leaders issued a statement and reiterating their adherence of allegiance to Aiyman al Zawahiri. However, the younger generation of jihadists appears to be more impressed by ISIS, as young fighters are eager to get into direct action rather than hearing sermons and fatwas.

The ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s order to its militants to launch offensive campaign, confront its enemies — the so called infidels and traitors — and kill anyone who stand in their way, which not only caught the attention of international community and media, but also flocked the militants under ISIS banner. New generation of jihadists are lured by ISIS violent expansion and believe that Al-Baghdadi is building the Caliphate, while Mullah Omar and Ayman al Zawahiri are just making empty threats.

Currently, ISIS is struggling Al-Qaeda and Taliban for the leadership of global jihadist movement and to win influence over Islamist extremist factions around the world. Few people are aware that armed actions between ISIS, Al Qaeda and Taliban have resulted in hundreds deaths. While some experts believe that ISIS may overtake Al-Qaeda and Taliban leadership as the most influential group in region.

Although, at this stage it's difficult to collect exact details of militants’ exodus from one influence to another, but some reports confirmed that several Al-Qaeda and Taliban loyalists have already changed their allegiance to al-Baghdadi. Others Jihadis have also recognized ISIS leader as the “Caliph of the Muslims”. According to Middle Eastern sources, even some of Al-Qaeda’s most effective affiliates have now expressed solidarity with ISIS fighters and called for a unity among all Islamic groups to support their brothers (referring to ISIS).

ISIS in Afghanistan
The ISIS turned their focus towards Afghanistan by the end of 2014 and early 2015 considering it as a fertile ground for expansion of its influence. But Afghan Taliban leadership stick to its policy to remain limited to Afghanistan, while firmly rejecting ISIS caliphate and its model of jihad, and censuring the cruel ideology of Islamic State.

However, a former Taliban official, released from American custody at Guantanamo Bay in 2007, Mullah Abdul Rauf Khadim along with some other radical elements switched their support to the ISIS and allegedly forced local residents to stage a show against Taliban leader Mullah Omar. Mullah Abdul Rauf Khadim attempted to convince local militants that Taliban leader no longer exist, thus they should pledge allegiance to him. Later on Mullah Khadim took local command by recruiting hundreds of fighters, organizing cells in some Afghan provinces for ISIS.

By late 2014, ISIS had secretly managed to penetrate in Afghan provinces of Loya Paktia, Ghazni and Helmand where it met strong confrontation from Taliban.

By January 2015 Mullah Khadim’s representatives had been dispatched to different villages of Afghanistan to recruit people. According to local reports Mullah Khadim and his masked gunmen travelled different districts of Afghanistan and approached tribal leaders, jihadi commanders and religious council members to persuade them to join ISIS. However, Taliban soldiers warned residents that Rauf Khadim was an ‘infidel’ and that no one should support him.

Afghan General Mahmood Khan, the deputy commander of the army’s 215 Corps, also confirmed that residents of a number of districts in the southern Helmand province had told him that Mullah Khadim was recruiting fighters for ISIS. However tough resistance by Afghan Taliban blocked the spread of ISIS in most southern and southeastern Afghanistan.

In late January 2015, Taliban claimed that they have captured the renegade insurgent, ISIS leader in Afghanistan Rauf Khadim and his 45 supporters for recruiting fighters for ISIS and turning locals against Taliban (Pajhwok). Taliban Governor Mullah Abdul Rahim Akhund claimed that, “he [Mullah Abdul Rauf Khadim] was against the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, the Taliban’s official name” and “involved in anti-Islamic activities.” Taliban announced that the fate of Mullah Rauf Khadim and his 45 supporters would be decided by Taliban religious leaders and judges. However a few days later it was reported that Mullah Rauf Khadim and five others militants were hit in a drone strike in Afghanistan in mid-February (CNN).

According to some reports ISIS militants are also confronting the Afghan National Army in Farah province, while daily clashes between Taliban and ISIS militants have also been reported from many southern provinces (Pajhwok). According to Afghan army General Murad Ali Murad, “Masked men active in Zabul and Helmand provinces have raised black flags and are trying to spread their activities towards northern parts”.

At the same time, the governor of northeastern Kunduz, Mohammad Omar Safi claimed that there were about 70 ISIS militants in the province and he urged for a strategy to deal with the militants (Pajhwok).

Last month, the administrative chief for Charkh district in Logar province of Afghanistan claimed that ISIS militants opened fire on Taliban soldiers in main market, and killed one Taliban commander Abdul Ghani and wounded three of his bodyguards. He also warned that ISIS militants are gaining ground in the district, and advised the government to take immediate measures to eradicate ISIS (Pajhwok).....

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