Afghanistan: Islamic State Khurasan Province (ISKP) Criticizes Taliban-China Relations
The Islamic State Khurasan Province’s media operatives and pro-ISKP propagandists have, in part, focused their aim on the Taliban’s relations with China, the United States, and Russia to frame the organization as an ally to, and proxy for, the great power enemies of Islam.
The development and diffusion of Islamic State rhetoric about Taliban diplomacy with Beijing are threads worth examining.
You could see the Islamic State network in Iraq and Syria developing their messaging on the issue as far back as 2014 (Issue 6 of Dabiq magazine for example), and IS has since perpetuated this trend. However, these narratives gradually spread East — from the traditional core of IS command and control power to its regional branches in Asia — as it built out its global network of militant groups.
The Islamic State Khurasan Province was founded in 2015 and operates primarily in Afghanistan, though not exclusively. They have developed a regionally focused media apparatus supported by local pro-ISKP propagandists.
Said IS elements accuse the Taliban of doing Beijing’s bidding by agreeing to prevent jihadis from conducting operations against China from Afghan soil. They also portray the Taliban as a proxy force for China that targets Islamic State fighters inside of Afghanistan at Beijing’s behest.
A recent video released by Khalid Media, a local ISKP media outlet, included multiple clips of Taliban officials socializing and shaking hands with Chinese diplomats while also showing images of Uyghurs being detained and abused by security forces in Xinjiang. Their intent in doing this, of course, is to highlight the hypocrisy of the self-proclaimed Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. Likewise, a statement released through Khurasan Wilayah News criticized Taliban representatives for their luxurious visits to Beijing, Moscow, and Doha in addition to other related offences.
Riccardo Valle notes how in an August 14th statement released through Al Millat Media, ISKP’s official propaganda outlet, Khalid Omar Khaksar took a similar line chiding the Taliban for their cordial relations with Beijing, describing China as guilty of arresting Muslim women for wearing hijab. He also says the Taliban are responsible for their sisters and daughters descending into apostasy and, thus, the group will do nothing to help the oppressed Muslim women in China. He argues since the Taliban do not care about women in Afghanistan, they will have no qualms about joining hands with China.
In the August 19th issue of the Islamic State’s official newsletter al-Naba, an editorial on the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan states:
And whenever we consider the circumstances and programs of the drum beaters and promoters of the model of the 'new Taliban,' we become more certain of the soundness of the path that the Islamic State has adopted to support Tawheed and establish the Shari'a, for supporting Islam does not pass through the hotels of Qatar nor the embassies of Russia, China and Iran! And indeed the victory that America signs and Qatar and its media oversee, and its blessing by the Saruris, Murj'ites and Ikhwan, it is a surely a false victory.
In addition, a video released by the pro-Islamic State outlet Asawirti Media on August 20th included an image of a Taliban delegate greeting Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi to make a similar point.
Valle explains how “ISKP’s strategy is to delegitimize the Taliban as an Islamist movement” and portray the group as beholden to foreign powers, also adding that the Islamic State launched a hashtag campaign on social media accusing the Taliban of being “Blackwater in white.”