ISIS-K commander told CNN before Kabul attack that group was waiting to strike

An ISIS-K commander said in a CNN interview conducted two weeks before the terrorist organization’s deadly bombing attack on Kabul’s airport Thursday that the group was waiting for a time to strike. 

In the interview, which first aired Friday, the insurgent group leader told CNN chief international correspondent Clarissa Ward that ISIS-K had been recruiting members to join its ranks and that it was waiting for U.S. and other foreign military forces to leave the country before it could start expanding further. 

“When the foreigners and people of the world leave Afghanistan, we can restart our operations,” said the commander, who requested that his identity be concealed. 

Ward said that the commander told her in the conversation, which happened days before the Taliban officially took control of Kabul, that ISIS-K was “laying low and waiting for a time to strike.”

The commander told Ward that he has led groups of up to 600 men, including Indians and Pakistanis, adding that while he used to fight for the Taliban, he now criticized the insurgent group for becoming more moderate under the influence of Western ideas. 

“We were operating in Taliban’s ranks. However, these people were not aligned with us in terms of belief, so we went to ISIS,” he told Ward. 

He added, “If anyone gets along with us on this, he is our brother. Otherwise, we declare war with him whether he is Talib or anyone else.” 

The commander also confirmed that ISIS-K has carried out public executions and suicide bombings and that the group’s militants have “faced” U.S. special forces “on many occasions.” 

“We had close combat with them, too,” he added. 

When asked whether he was “interested ultimately in carrying out international attacks,” the commander said he could comment only on operations within Afghanistan. 

The interview with Ward, who has since fled Kabul, was aired a day after a suicide bomber carried out an attack at Kabul’s airport, killing 13 U.S. service members and at least 170 Afghan civilians. 

ISIS-K later claimed responsibility for the bombing, and U.S. Central Command announced Friday that it had conducted a strike against an ISIS-K planner in what appeared to be a retaliatory attack. 

President Biden’s national security team has warned that additional terrorist attacks are “likely” as the U.S. continues its efforts to evacuate Americans and Afghan allies from Kabul, though White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Friday that U.S. officials were “taking maximum force protection measures at the Kabul airport.”

Tags Afghanistan Afghanistan evacuations Clarissa Ward CNN ISIS-K Jen Psaki Joe Biden Kabul Taliban Taliban takeover

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