News / Asia

    Afghan Ex-IS Commanders Say Money, Not Ideology Drove Them

    Afghan Ex-IS Commanders Say Money, Not Ideology Drove Themi
    VOA News
    February 26, 2016 9:11 PM
    Two former Islamic State (IS) commanders who defected recently to authorities in Afghanistan told VOA’s Ashna TV that they joined the extremist group not because of ideology but largely for money.
    Afghan Ex-IS Commanders Say Money, Not Ideology Drove Them

    Two former Islamic State (IS) commanders who defected recently to authorities in Afghanistan told VOA’s Ashna TV that they joined the extremist group not because of ideology but largely for money.

    The revelations underline a discrepancy between those who join IS in Syria and Iraq and the fighters in Afghanistan, analysts say. It underscores too, they add, that IS is a complex phenomenon and operates differently from region to region.   

    The two men, former Taliban, said they had no contacts with IS in Syria and do not back the IS idea of spreading a caliphate throughout the world.

    “I was in the mountains. There was poverty; we were helpless and living with our guns,” Arabistan, one of the commanders told VOA.  “There was no work. They [IS] started paying us a monthly salary of 10,000 [Pakistani rupees or approximately $100]. So we joined them.”

    VOA could not independently verify the accounts of Arabistan and former fellow commander Zaitoon. The men were interviewed in a comfortable compound provided by Afghan intelligence. Afghan officials and tribal sources confirmed to VOA that men worked with IS.

    WATCH: IS Seeks to Expand Safe Haven in Eastern Afghanistan

    IS Seeks to Expand Safe Haven in Eastern Afghanistani
    Ayesha Tanzeem
    October 31, 2015 7:34 PM
    The so-called Islamic State has managed to create a safe haven for itself in Nangarhar province in eastern Afghanistan and is trying to expand its presence. Afghan security forces are trying to hold it back. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem went to the province's Achin District, the hub of of IS activity, and has this report.

    IS, intolerable

    Arabistan, 50, who like many rural Afghans used a single name, says he never went to school and has nine children. He said IS lured him and others into its ranks by offering them money.

    Zaitoon, who also used a single name, says he is about 40-years-old and is uneducated. He has eight children and spent 15 years in the mountains before joining IS.

    But after 10 months of working for IS, the two commanders said they could no longer tolerate IS ways and negotiated with tribal elders to gain safe haven under the Afghan government.

    Zaitoon said: “When we joined, they said they will bring Sharia [Islamic law]. But they looted people, chopped off heads, put bombs on people.  We could not tolerate this and decided to come back to our own people and country.

    “They asked us to fight and kill members of the Afghan National Army, tribal elders, and those who have influence in the community,” he said.

    There are an estimated 2,000 to 3,000 IS militants in Afghanistan, according to intelligence reports.

    WATCH: How Islamic State Got a Foothold in Eastern Afghanistan

    How Islamic State Got a Foothold in Eastern Afghanistani
    Ayesha Tanzeem
    November 02, 2015 1:34 PM
    When Pakistan launched its military operation against militants in the lawless tribal region of North Waziristan, many crossed the long, porous border into Afghanistan. As VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports, some of them may have formed a branch of the violent Islamic State group in Afghanistan’s Nangarhar Province.

    Forcing people to join

    In recent months, there has been an increase in IS violence in Afghanistan, especially in Nangarhar province, where fighters have launched multiple attacks on Afghan security checkpoints.

    In Afghanistan, IS runs cross-border smuggling operations of people, money and even timber, according to reports.  IS has also advertised on its media sites how it trains foreign recruits in Afghanistan.

    Zaitoon told VOA that the militant group provided training to new recruits, many of them coming from Pakistan.

    In some cases, IS is forcing local people in areas it controls into joining its ranks.

    “Daesh [IS] says whoever is not with them, they are spies, so people have to join or leave that place,” Arabistan said.

    “We didn’t like their treatment of tribal elders. We told them not to harm tribal elders and the old, but they said, you have nothing to do with how we deal with everyone. They were not sparing those who had some influence."

    Joining the fight against IS

    Analysts say the IS group in Afghanistan is not necessarily linked with Syria and Iraq. The former IS commanders told VOA that they had no connections to Syria and to Iraq and had not met any Syrians or Iraqis during the course of working for IS.

    “No, I have not seen these people with our own eyes. Those who have contacts they may have, but I have not seen them with our eyes,” Zaitoon said, when asked if he had been in touch Syrians or Iraqis.

    Commenting on the video, Rebecca Zimmerman, an analyst at Rand Corp. in Washington on Afghan affairs, said the interviews provide more insight into how IS operates in Afghanistan.

    IS “is still a comparatively new phenomenon in Afghanistan,” she said. “[We] are trying to understand who are these people, why are they fighting.

     “These fighters do not appear to be motivated by the radical dream of the caliphate in the same way we have seen a lot of fighters for [IS] globally,” she said. “They do not appear to be as radical in their ideology. They seem much more locally motivated.”

    For his part, ex-commander Arabistan says he is now ready to join the fight against IS in Afghanistan.

    “Now we will be fighting for our own land and protect our country,” he said.

    A VOA correspondent in Kabul contributed to this report.

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    Comment Sorting
    by: Marcus Aurelius II from: NJ USA
    February 27, 2016 4:39 PM
    If these people can be bought, it should just be a matter of paying them for intelligence to find the mountain hideouts and encampments. US drones and other air power can be use to find them and wipe them out. Once word gets out that there's money to be made from the government side, others who joined IS for money will also defect to get their share of the loot. This will force IS to keep moving to escape capture. Well equipped? IS has no air assets, no navy, no nothin' As a ground only fighting force they'd stand no chance against a real military with the kind of assets every major military power has. Even Russia and China could easily defeat them if they wanted to.

    by: williweb from: Phoenix Arizona USA
    February 27, 2016 2:06 PM
    Tens of thousands of the islamic psychotic murderers have already been killed, so IS is reduced to blatantly using paid killers to further their failed ideology. This provides the anti-IS coalition with even further motivation to dismantle this international criminal organization.

    by: marty martel from: Houston, USA
    February 27, 2016 9:47 AM
    VOA did not intentionally report the following to protect America’s terrorist ally Pakistan:
    Zaitoon also told Afghan News Agency TOLO that "Pakistani military gave us weapons and used to tell us that Afghan forces are infidels and you must kill them."
    Arabistan, Zaitoon's co-fighter, said: "I was tasked to fight in Nazian district [in Nangarhar]. We used to present our daily report to Punjabis and Pakistanis and they encouraged us to fight the Afghan government."
    Above was reported by Chairman of Nangarhar Provincial Council Malik Nazir.

    by: kanaikaal irumporai
    February 26, 2016 9:56 PM
    This seems very strange in deed as the Americans and the Western govt. that use money as a tool to make defections and treachery and weaken any protest movement, be it armed or non-violent. It is in fact with money and other petty things, such as liqueur and a promise of installing defectors as the ruler, the Europeans subdued the world to plunder and enrich themselves. So, if it is the protest party, though they are termed as "Terrorists" (the same name given to anybody who refuses to submit), that used money as a means to recruit is not appealing. It may suit the propaganda of the West to lure their own citizens into believing the story and commit to the warmonger.

    by: AHMED from: INDIA
    February 26, 2016 8:58 PM
    These Terrorist have no plan to serve poor peoples. They are getting Riyals to create problems for poor peoples. These Terrorists have no brain and have no planning to solve problems, rather they are Masters to create problems for helpless and poor peoples.

    by: meanbill from: USA
    February 26, 2016 4:43 PM
    The US abandoned the Afghan people and any attempt to win the Afghan war when this commander in Chief Obama changed the US military strategy in 2009 in Afghanistan, and diverted and misdirected most US military resources to contain Russia, China, Iran, North Korea, and help or attempt to change regimes in Libya, Syria, Iraq and Yemen?

    WHY? .. When the US is supposed to be waging war on the terrorists, why is Obama trying to divert and misdirect most of it's military resources elsewhere? .. The Russians showed the world (in only 5 months) how to defeat the terrorists in Syria, [but Obama (in over 7 years) only seemed to want to divert and misdirect almost all military resources away from fighting the terrorists anywhere? .. Strange isn't it? .. The terrorists have become a real world power since Obama became the US commander in chief? .. Undefeated, and threatening to become a super power, until the Russians intervened?
    In Response

    by: Stuart M. from: USA
    February 27, 2016 5:45 AM
    Let's see, do it the Russian way: indiscriminately bomb urban areas, driving the population to flee to Europe. As far as I can tell, Russia hasn't devoted much attention to the Islamic State, choosing instead to bomb Syrian rebels fighting against Assad, Russia's puppet in Damascus. Your cheering for the Russians makes me think you aren't an American but really a paid sock puppet based in St. Petersburg, Russia. Your English is very good though, my compliments.

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