ISKP Criticizes Taliban's Acceptance of Foreign Aid in Expansive New Book
As the Taliban struggles to address deepening economic troubles and a spiraling humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan, Kabul is urgently pursuing foreign investment and aid to ameliorate these pressures. However, as the Taliban frames said efforts as intended to help the Afghan people, the Islamic State Khurasan Province (ISKP) is crafting its own framing of events.
On July 26, ISKP, through its Al-Azaim Foundation for Media Production, published a 121-page long book about international aid to Afghanistan. Prior to its release, critical narratives about foreign aid to the Taliban had been peripheral and periodically mentioned in passing by Islamic State propagandists. However, with the new book, the subject has become more central, and the talking points have been thoroughly developed and elaborated upon.
The strategy is clear: ISKP is capitalizing on the Taliban’s drive for foreign aid in portraying the organization as desperate, incompetent, and corrupt. This was perceptible - on the margins - at least as far back as December 2021, when users in pro-ISKP Telegram channels were chastising China’s shipment of humanitarian aid to Afghanistan via train from Xinjiang. Since then, ISKP and the group’s sympathizers have increasingly focused on the Taliban’s perceived reliance upon states such as China and have scorned Kabul for taking “gifts” from Beijing. Visuals of Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi bumping elbows with Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar and receiving a gift of pine nut from Amir Khan Muttaqi are frequently displayed in magazines and videos produced by ISKP’s Al-Azaim propaganda wing.
Likewise, pro-ISKP Uzbek groups ramped up their criticism of Tashkent’s aid provision to the Taliban in late April 2021. The Uzbek government is accused of conspiring with the Taliban, through aid and infrastructure investment, to spread democracy in Khurasan. Islamic State supporters further accused the Taliban of being used as a proxy by Tashkent to fight against ISKP forces in Afghanistan. These talking points emerged once again earlier this week when the Taliban announced it sent a delegation to the Tashkent conference focused on Afghan security and development.
New Al-Azaim Book Titled: Rulings About Helping the Infidels and Its Harm
It should be noted that the first topic addressed in the book is not directly related to foreign aid but, rather, the difference between military and non-military “infidels” whom the Islamic State (IS) is at war with. This is a topic that has been already described in detail in other ISKP publications, including a fatwa. But the granted permissibility of targeting civilians working for both state and international institutions is worrying and is remindful of the gruesome execution of 10 Halo Trust workers in Afghanistan last year by ISKP. In subsequent chapters, the book analyses a few select cases in which it is acceptable to have some worldly relations with the “infidels”, namely if they are weak, women, or children. However, the book categorically excludes all organizations and institutions promoting human rights, specifically mentioning WHO, USAID, ICRC, and IFRC. Particularly, ICRC is said to provide goods and aid to remote villages in Afghanistan with the secret aim of eradicating religion from the country, and, for this reason, their volunteers should be treated as military enemies.
As usual with ISKP propaganda, the group accuses the international system of hypocrisy, mentioning the IS civilians – women and children – imprisoned in al-Hol camp, Syria, who are “starving to death” as the international humanitarian organizations fail to help them, further cementing ISKP’s idea that they are conspiring toward displacing Muslims from their countries.
The book then produces several arguments against the Islamic Emirate and its relations with neighboring countries. “Communist” China, which is described as the “father of the Taliban”, is accused of having invaded East Turkestan and transformed it into Xinjiang by committing genocide and destroying mosques and madrassas, while the Taliban chose to sell off the natural riches of Afghanistan – mines and minerals – for personal benefits. In a chapter dedicated to specific countries (US, Iran, China, Pakistan, and Turkey), China is said to be the worst enemy of Muslims. The author recalls that many Uyghurs left East Turkestan for Khorasan where they told their personal stories of persecution, while the Taliban turned their backs on them.
Various countries are explicitly named, including Iran (“Shia apostates”), Pakistan, Turkey, and India (“Hindus polytheists”). ISKP says the act of accepting aid and gifts from these countries is forbidden and alleges the Taliban are thus guilty of apostasy. As China sent help to the Taliban in order to “buy their silence” over the plight of Uyghur Muslims, India sent aid to the Emirate with the aim of further weakening Islam in the region and “buy their silence” over the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) officials’ remarks over the Prophet. This aid was distributed, according to ISKP, by humanitarian organizations that are guilty of enacting anti-Muslim policies.
Iran is mentioned as one of the countries which, following the earthquake that devastated Khost and Paktika, promptly and opportunistically sent humanitarian aid to Afghanistan to expand its influence. Apart from the usual sectarian and anti-Shia propaganda, ISKP argues that the Taliban are the best friends of Shias even as Afghan refugees in Iran are tortured and persecuted. ISKP claims Tehran is behind several foreign aid organizations that are trying to spread polytheism in Afghanistan.
As in nearly every ISKP publication, Pakistan is a subject of focus and is accused of being an enemy of jihadists in the region. The air incursion in Khost by the Pakistan Air Force is portrayed by ISKP as proof that Afghanistan has become Pakistan’s “fifth province” and that the Taliban are only fighting ISKP militants, committing massacres in Nangarhar and other provinces on the order of Pakistan. For this reason, the book promises swift revenge against Pakistan’s government in the near future.
The last country against which the book lashes out at Turkey, particularly criticizing President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who is accused of masterminding the killing of thousands of IS militants in Iraq and Syria and innocent Muslims in Libya as a member of the NATO alliance that declared war on IS. The book warns Muslims against accepting aid from Turkey, one of the “false Islamic nations”, together with Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Egypt, Libya, and Yemen, among others.
ISKP also devotes attention to vaccination campaigns. Vaccines are described as an evil tool designed by the international community to harm and demoralize Muslims. As Tehran tries to whitewash its crimes against Afghans in Iran by sending aid to Khost, the US is sending medical teams to Afghanistan via the ICRC to portray itself as a benevolent entity while carrying out an evil project. This is particularly alarming as past publications by ISKP threatened polio-vaccination teams.
Then, in the last chapter of the book, ISKP claims that vaccines reduce male fertility, increase rates of stomach ulcers and other ailments, decrease birth rates in the Muslim world, so that the number of believers decreases, and increase indecency and obscenity.
Lastly, the book summarizes six reasons why it is forbidden to accept foreign aid from enemies:
• They deceptively present themselves as friends of Muslims and as just and benevolent;
• They want to corrupt the minds of Muslims with their gifts and assistance;
• They want to convince Muslims globally that if they harass a specific group of Muslims – such as IS – the latter is an evil group and thus it is just to attack it;
• They want to spread other religions, such as Christianity, Judaism, and Shi’ism;
• They aim at casting a bad light on the concept of jihad when ISKP fighters destroy infrastructure in their own operations, such as hospitals and schools so that Muslims complain about the destruction of these sites built with foreign aid but do not concentrate on the negative effects, namely the dissemination of polytheism;
• Ultimately, they want Muslims to forget their faith and prefer the “infidels” over true believers.
The publication of such an extensive analysis about foreign aid and related subjects indicates that ISKP is making a strategic decision to elevate and centralize such narratives, whereas before they had been scattered on the margins and only periodically mentioned in passing. It is likely that ISKP will continue to develop these talking points, incorporate them into the group’s core messaging, and weaponize said narratives to undermine and discredit the Taliban and other declared enemies.