ISLAMIC Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU): Formed by ethnic Uzbeks from Uzbekistan, it has a long history of activities in Uzbekistan, Afghanistan, and the Tribal Areas of Pakistan. The intervention of NATO in Afghanistan pushed IMU fighters into the Tribal Areas of Pakistan, and the killing of multiple leaders of the organisation weakened its operational capabilities.
Some members of IMU defected to Al Qaeda and some to IS-K. Yet, the IMU continues to exist as an organisation with a potential to expand into Uzbekistan.
Recently the Taliban have moved the leadership and key commanders of IMU to the Pashtun Kot district of the northern Faryab province of Afghanistan. Within this group, they are hosting the extended family members of Tahir Yuldash, the former leader of the IMU.
ETIM of Uyghurs
East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM): This Islamist group consists of ethnic Uyghurs from the Xinjiang province of China. Their objective is to resist China’s rule in Xinjiang, thus adding a separatist objective to their Islamist identity. In the last four decades of conflict in Afghanistan, thousands of Uyghurs have migrated and settled in Afghanistan, especially in the northeastern Badakhshan region.
Besides ETIM, ethnic Uyghurs are also prominent members of Al Qaeda and IS-K. As an example, one of the leaders of ETIM in Afghanistan, Abdul Haq al Turkistani (Abu Hamza) is also a member of the Al Qaeda Rahbari Shura (Leadership Council).
For now, ETIM does not have sufficient operational capabilities to conduct attacks inside China, so they are focused on attacking Chinese nationals and assets in the region, especially those associated with the One Belt One Road Initiative in Central Asia and CPEC in Pakistan. The recent waves of terrorist attacks in Afghanistan that have targeted Chinese nationals are at the very least influenced by those fighters of ETIM that are part of IS-K.
Many extremist fighters from the Caucasus region (Chechnya, Dagestan) had been fighting alongside the Taliban in the last 20 years. The Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan has now created a hospitable environment for the mobilisation of fighters from the Caucasus. These groups want to commence their efforts for a separatist war in the Caucasus region with the objective of establishing a Caucasus Emirate.
There are numerous reports of an influx of fighters from the Caucasus to Afghanistan since early 2022. Many of these fighters are well acquainted with the country as some of these fighters had been enlisted in the 055 Brigade of Al Qaeda in the past 30 years, and they have now switched their identity back to the Caucasus Emirate. These veteran fighters are facilitating the arrival of new fighters from the Caucasus region into Afghanistan.
Jundullah was a Sunni extremist group that resisted the Shiite Islamic Republic of Iran. While this group is now defunct, it is succeeded by Jaish-e-Adl and Ansar-al- Furqan.
Some members of these two succeeding groups are either based in southwest Afghanistan or frequently travel there due to their personal/ideological connections with figures inside the Taliban. However, at this point in time the Taliban have not encouraged or facilitated them to conduct attacks inside Iran.
Sepah-e-Sahaba (Millat-eIslamia): A Sunni-extremist party that targets Shiite communities in South Asia. While the party is active in the political process of Pakistan, its more extremist wings are enjoying a safe haven inside the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.
Lashkar-e-Taiba: An anti-India terrorist group that aims to liberate Kashmir from Indian rule. It is also sometimes referred to as the Punjabi Taliban. The militant wings of this group are active in various parts of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.
Jaish-e-Mohammad: This is another anti-Indian terrorist group that aims to liberate Kashmir from Indian rule and merge it into Pakistan. Members of this group participated in the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan and are actively enjoying sanctuaries in the eastern parts of the country.
Lashkar-e-Jhangvi: An anti-Shiite terrorist group that enjoys bases inside Afghanistan. Over the last 20 years, this group had conducted many suicide attacks against Shiite targets in Afghanistan. Some of its members are now part of the cell of IS-K in Afghanistan that specifically targets the Hazara Shiite minority in the western neighbourhoods of Kabul with devastating suicide attacks.
Besides the above-mentioned groups, Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, Harakat Furqan and Jamat Furqan are also present in various parts of ITA controlled Afghanistan.