By Bill Roggio
July 20, 2016
Hafiz Saeed Khan, the Islamic State’s emir for Khorasan province (left); Abdul Rahim Muslim Dost (right).
A former Guantanamo Bay detainee who defected from the Taliban in 2014 and joined the Islamic State denounced the group and called the emir of Khorasan province “illiterate” for conducting acts of wanton violence against civilians in Afghanistan.
Abdul Rahim Muslim Dost, the former Gitmo detainee who was lauded as a “poet” by advocates for the detainees held at the US-run prison, blasted the Islamic State’s Khorasan province for its recent attacks in his home district of Kot in Nangarhar, Afghanistan. The Islamic State, while greatly weakened throughout Afghanistan, maintains a presence in Nangarhar. Kot district is a known Islamic State stronghold in eastern Afghanistan.
In late June, the Islamic State launched an offensive in the district and attacked police outposts as well as civilians. The group killed “women and children, and burned a number of residents houses,” according to Pajhwok Afghan News.
Dost denounced the Islamic State’s most recent attack in Kot, and issued a statement to Pajhwok Afghan News explaining his reasoning for parting with the group. Dost is said to have defected from the Islamic State sometime last year.
“After Abu Bakr al Baghdadi declared Khilafat [the caliphate, or the Islamic State], I wrote a book “Mlak Al Amajad in Arabic in which issues about Khilafat and Imamat (leadership) have been discussed,” Dost told Pajhwok.
“I was in Terah area of Khyber Agency when I announced allegiance to the Khilafat,” Dost continued. “Groups of people were joining us and I would convince them, but we were unaware that illiterate people like Hafiz Saaed Khan from Arakzai are damaging the holy name.”
Hafiz Saeed Khan is the Islamic State’s emir for Khorasan province. He is one of several disgruntled mid-level leaders from the Movement of the Taliban who defected and established Khorasan province in late 2014.
Dost claimed that Khorasan province became a tool of “regional intelligence agencies and started torturing innocent people,” according to Pajhwok. He is likely referring to Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence directorate [ISI] and Afghanistan’s National Directorate of Security.
“I raised my voice against Syed Khan and separated himself from him and my several other friends also did the same, but a number of Afghans like Abdul Khaliq Omar, Saad Emarati and Sheikh Abdul Qahir continued to operate under the group,” Dost concluded. Emirati is the Islamic State’s emir for forces operating in Logar province, Afghanistan.
Dost’s criticism of the Islamic State’s actions in Nangarhar and his accusation that it fell under the influence of state intelligence services is ironic given his past statements.
For instance, in April 2015, Dost vigorously defended the Islamic State when it was accused of carrying out a “massacre” in Jalalabad in Nangarhar and accused Pakistan’s ISI of complicity.
“We strongly condemned the attack and Daesh never kills civilians and innocent people”, Dost claimed at the time, according to Pajhwok. “Pakistan intelligence agencies spread fabricated messages [that the Islamic State executed the attack] on his [spokesman Shahidullah Shahid] name since he does not have accesses to telephone and internet.”
Latest Defection from the Islamic State
Dost’s defection and criticism is the latest blow to the group’s Khorasan province. In April 2016, several members of the Islamic State Khorasan province’ “central council” as well as other senior and mid-level leaders based in the eastern Afghan province of Nangarhar broke their oath to Abu Bakr al Baghdadi and rejoined the Taliban. The defectors, like Dost, accused the Islamic State of a rash of crimes, including:
… the ambiguous blind policies of Daesh, their wanton killing, beating, persecution, looting, burning, and usurping land and property of the oppressed Afghans, their displacement, treachery with their elders, depriving them of schools, clinics, public welfare projects and development, heedless towards general Muslim interests, adoption of extremism over leniency, prohibiting vice in fashion which produces corruption, Takfiri (excommunication) views of most members, improper establishment of religion, and having no reasonable, legal and regular way of fixing these problems; in short not having a remedy for the wounds of the Afghans.
Unlike the April defectors who rejoined the Taliban, Dost’s status is unclear. He has not announced allegiance to any other group.
Dost had “a vision” of the establishment of the Islamic State
Dost’s resume includes a laundry list of jihadist activities stretching back to the last 1970s. He was detained in Pakistan after the US invasion of Afghanistan and held at Guantanamo Bay for three years. US officials at Guantanamo determined Dost “poses a low risk, due to his medical condition” and no longer considered him an enemy combatant. In 2004, he was transferred to the Afghan government, which subsequently released him. [See LWJ report, Ex-Gitmo ‘poet’ now recruiting for the Islamic State in Afghanistan and Pakistan.]
Like many other detainees released from Guantanamo, Dost immediately resumed his jihadist activities. Pakistani officials detained Dost in 2006, but freed him as part of a prisoner exchange for Pakistan’s ambassador to Afghanistan in 2008.
Dost was the first high-profile jihadist leader outside of Iraq and Syria to defect from al Qaeda’s sphere of influence to the Islamic State. He swore allegiance to the jihadist group on July 1, 2014; just two days after Abu Bakr al Baghdadi declared the establishment of the Islamic State. Dost claimed he had a “vision” of the establishment of the caliphate while in detention at Guantanamo. This purportedly influenced his decision to leave the Taliban and join the Islamic State.
After joining the Islamic State, Dost served as a recruiter and propagandist in the Afghan-Pakistan region.
Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of The Long War Journal.