Center for Strategic Communication

The Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan’s emir for the tribal agency of Bajaur has defected and joined the Islamic State’s branch in the Khorasan. Maulana Abu Bakr is the latest Taliban commander to defect to the rival jihadist organization.

The Islamic State’s Wilayat Khorasan, or Khorasan province, announced that Abu Bakr “has left Tehreek e Taliban Pakistan and given bayat [oath of allegiance] to Khaleefa tul Muslimeen Sheikh Abu Bakr al Baghdadi Hafizahullah at the hand of Wali [governor] of Wilayah Khurasan Hafiz Saeed Khan Hafizahullah.”

The short announcement was published in Arabic, Urdu, Bengali, and English on the Internet today. The Khorasan is a geographical region that covers Afghanistan, Pakistan and parts of neighboring countries.

The Islamic State did not indicate if Abu Bakr was given a leadership position in its Khorasan province, although given his stature, he likely is the group’s commander for Bajaur. He took command of the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan in August 2012, after his predecessor, Mullah Dadullah, was killed in a US airstrike in the eastern Afghan province of Kunar that same month.

Abu Bakr has advocated for global jihad and the establishment of Islamic caliphate.

“We will continue fighting until we achieve our current objectives of sharia [Islamic law], caliphate, jihad, honor and our sacrifices,” he stated during an interview that was released in January 2013. He also indicated that large number of fighters in his presence were “refugee mujahideen,” or foreign fighters.

Islamic State peals off commanders from fractured Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan

Abu Bakr joins several other mid-level Taliban emirs who have defected from the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan as well as the Afghan Taliban over the past several months.

The first jihadist in the Afghan-Pakistan region to defect to the Islamic State is said to be Abdul Rahim Muslim Dost, a former detainee at Guantanamo Bay. He reportedly pledged bayat to Baghdadi just two days after the self-styled “caliph” declared the formation of caliphate and named it the Islamic State. Dost is thought to be directing the Islamic State’s recruiting and propaganda in the region. [See LWJ report, Ex-Gitmo ‘poet’ now recruiting for the Islamic State in Afghanistan and Pakistan.]

In October 2014, five regional emirs from the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan: Hafiz Dolat Khan from Kurram, Hafiz Saeed Khan from Arakzai, Maulana Gul Zaman from Khyber, Mufti Hassan Swati from Peshawar, and Khalid Mansoor from Hangu, along with Shahidullah Shahid, the former spokesman, left the group and joined the Islamic State. [See LWJ report, Discord dissolves Pakistani Taliban coalition.]

In mid-January, another group of mid and low level Taliban commanders in both Pakistan and Afghanistan pledged allegiance to Baghdadi. [See LWJ report, Pakistani Taliban splinter group again pledges allegiance to Islamic State.]

Abu Muhammad al Adnani, the Islamic State’s spokesman, named the leaders of Khorasan province on Jan. 27. Hafiz Saeed Khan was appointed the emir of Khorasan province, and Mullah Abdul Rauf Khadim as the deputy governor. Khadim, a former Guantanamo detainee and senior Taliban commander in southern Afghanistan, has been operating in Helmand province on behalf of the Islamic State. Khadim and a number of his followers are said to have been detained by the Taliban, however the report has not been confirmed. [See LWJ reports, Ex-Gitmo detainee leads contingent of Islamic State fighters in Afghanistan, and Former US Marine killed by Islamic State’s Tripoli ‘province’.]

The fracturing of the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan has provided the Islamic State with the opportunity to gain a foothold in the region. The Islamic State has peeled off disaffected or marginalized Taliban commanders from various Taliban groups to stock the leadership cadre of Khorasan province. But aside from Khadim’s previous efforts in southern Afghanistan, the Khorasan province has had little impact on the jihad in South Asia to date.