State designates Afghan ISIS a foreign terrorist organization

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The State Department has officially designated the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria's Afghanistan affiliate as a foreign terrorist organization. 

The affiliate was designated as "ISIL-K" — or the Islamic State in Syria and the Levant-Khorasan — using the preferred government acronym for ISIS, State announced Thursday.

The designation means a prohibition against knowingly providing, or attempting or conspiring to provide, material support or resources to the group. The department said in a statement the move is "an important element of our counterterrorism efforts."  

"Designations of terrorists and terrorist groups expose and isolate individuals and organizations, and result in denial of access to the U.S. financial system," the department states. "Moreover, designations can assist or complement the law enforcement actions of other U.S. agencies and other governments."  

The group announced its formation on Jan. 10, 2015, in an online video. It is led by former Tehrik-e Taliban (TTP) commander Hafiz Saeed Khan, and consists of former Pakistan and Afghan Taliban faction commanders, according to the State Department. 

Since then ISIL-K has carried out suicide bombings, small arms attacks and kidnappings in Eastern Afghanistan against civilians and Afghan National Security and Defense Forces, and claimed responsibility for May 2015 attacks on civilians in Karachi, Pakistan, the Department said. 

Pentagon officials have downplayed the presence of ISIS in Afghanistan, saying they are largely disaffected members of the Taliban who have "re-branded" themselves as ISIS. 

However, a Pentagon report released last month said the group had become stronger in the second half of 2015 and was becoming more operationally active. 

"The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant — Khorasan Province has progressed from its initial exploratory phase to a point where they are openly fighting the Taliban for the establishment of a safe haven and are becoming more operationally active," the report said.