A lot of guff has been written about the Islamic State in Afghanistan, propelled by local officials keen to keep Western money (and US soldiers) coming and Middle East analysis that fails to take account of South Asian factors. This piece offers a useful corrective, while considering Mullah Mansoor’s status and challenges as head of the Taliban:
While the Islamic State will likely continue to expand in Afghanistan, there may be a ceiling to its growth. One factor is the Taliban’s continued success on the battlefield. Another is that the majority of the population of southern and eastern Afghanistan identify as Deobandi. Extremist-leaning young men in these areas have naturally gravitated toward the Taliban, which claims to be the modern political manifestation of the Deobandi movement. Relatively few Deobandis have joined the Islamic State because of theological differences with the Islamic State’s ultra-hardline Salafi approach and the perception it is a “foreign” construct.