A Spring Offensive of Terror: IS-K & TTP Violence in Afghanistan & Pakistan

Spring in Afghanistan and Pakistan is off to a violent start. On April 21, an attack on a Shi’a mosque in Mazar-i-Sharif killed at least 10 people. Two days earlier, a terror attack targeted children at a boys’ school and killed at least six people in a Hazara neighborhood of Kabul, Afghanistan. It was likely committed by IS-K (ISIS affiliate), the same group that just last month sent a suicide bomber to kill over 50 people at a Shi’a mosque in Peshawar, Pakistan. The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), an ally (or affiliate) of the Afghan Taliban sometimes referred to interchangeably as the Pakistani Taliban in reporting, announced a spring offensive inside Pakistan. The group has escalated attacks and Pakistan’s Inter-Services Public Relations office announced that 97 Pakistani soldiers were killed in the first three months of 2022 alone. These combat fatality figures resemble those experienced by the United States at the height of the troop surge in Afghanistan. In response, Pakistan conducted strikes inside Afghanistan. The death toll reported by the Afghan Taliban is at least 45, including civilians. Spring became synonymous with the beginning of the fighting season throughout the U.S. war in Afghanistan. Now the Taliban face the specter of a fighting season with IS-K which has maintained a stronghold in Nangarhar province and can operate inside Kabul. Pakistan is squared off against an emboldened TTP insurgency that enjoys the sanctuary of the Afghan Taliban. Can the Taliban fend off IS-K and maintain relative security in Afghanistan? What is the likelihood that IS-K will grow or capture territory? Can Afghanistan-Pakistan relations survive Taliban support for the TTP? What does this all mean for US-Pakistan relations and US outreach to the Taliban? How can the region avoid a copy and paste application of tried and failed counterterrorism tactics from the War on Terror? Join us for a panel that explores these questions and more with Tamim Asey, Executive Chairman of The Institute of War and Peace Studies in Afghanistan, Asfandyar Mir, Senior Expert at the United States Institute of Peace, Jonathan Schroden, Director of the Center for Naval Analyses’ Countering Threats and Challenges Program, and Elizabeth Threlkeld, Director of the Stimson Center’s South Asia Program. Adam Weinstein, research fellow at the Quincy Institute, will moderate.


Asfandyar Mir

Dr. Asfandyar Mir is a Senior Expert in the Asia Center at the United States Institute of Peace. Previously he was a postdoctoral fellow at the Center for International Security and Cooperation at Stanford University. He holds a Ph.D. in Political Science from the University of Chicago. His research focuses on counterinsurgency, counterterrorism, drone warfare, political violence, and al-Qaida with a regional focus on South Asia. His academic research has appeared in International Security, International Studies Quarterly, and Security Studies. His commentary has been published in Foreign Affairs, Foreign Policy, H-Diplo, Lawfare, and Washington Post Monkey Cage.

Elizabeth Threlkeld

Elizabeth Threlkeld is a Senior Fellow and Director of the South Asia Program at the Stimson Center. She previously served as a Foreign Service Officer with the U.S. Department of State in Islamabad and Peshawar, Pakistan, and Monterrey, Mexico. Threlkeld holds an MPhil in Politics and International Relations from the University of Cambridge, where she received the Hilda Richardson Studentship from Newnham College. She is an expert on security and governance in Pakistan’s border areas. She is the recipient of a Department of State Superior Honor Award, several Meritorious Honor Awards, and the Matilda W. Sinclaire Language Award. She speaks Pashto, Mandarin, and Spanish.

Jonathan Schroden

Dr. Jonathan Schroden is the Director of the Center for Naval Analyses’ Countering Threats and Challenges Program, whose mission is to support U.S. government efforts to understand and counter state and non-state threats. Dr. Schroden has deployed or traveled 13 times to Afghanistan, twice in support of the Commander of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and once in support of the Commander, Combined Security Transition Command – Afghanistan (CSTC-A). He served as a strategic advisor to the U.S. Central Command and the ISAF in Afghanistan. He also served as a strategic advisor to the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Force, Multi-National Force – West in Iraq. Jonathan was CNA’s first interim advisor to Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command and directed CNA's independent review of the U.S. Marine Corps' force design and the congressionally-mandated independent assessment of special operations force structure. He served as a senior advisor to the congressionally-mandated Afghanistan Study Group. He holds a PhD from Cornell University.

Tamim Asey

Tamim Asey is the Executive Chairman of The Institute of War and Peace Studies (IWPS) and Council on Foreign Relations of Afghanistan (CFRA). He previously served as the Deputy Minister for Policy and Strategy at the Ministry of Defense of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, Director General of International Relations and Regional Security Cooperation at the Office of National Security Council (ONSC), and Director General for Policy and Strategy at ONSC. He is a graduate of the Royal College of Defence Studies (RCDS) in London and was a Fulbright scholar at Columbia University. Mr. Asey also taught at the American University of Afghanistan (AUAF) and is a fellow at the Asia Society. He is currently a Senior Visiting Research Fellow at King’s College London.

Adam Weinstein (Moderator)

Adam Weinstein is a Research Fellow at the Quincy Institute. He previously worked for KPMG’s international trade practice. Adam’s current research focuses on security, trade, and rule of law in Afghanistan and Pakistan. He is a member of the American Pakistan Foundation’s Leadership Council, and previously worked as senior law and policy analyst at the National Iranian American Council where he focused on the securitization of U.S. immigration policy and its effect on immigrant communities. He received a JD from Temple University Beasley School of Law with a concentration in international law and transitional justice. Adam served as a U.S. Marine and deployed to Uruzgan Province Afghanistan in 2012.