US sanctions key financier of ISIS in Afghanistan

Washington sanctioned Ismatullah Khalozai and designated three other leaders as global terrorists

The US on Monday sanctioned a key financier of ISIS-Khorasan Province (ISIS-K), the branch of the group operating in Afghanistan.

The US Treasury Department said that Ismatullah Khalozai had enabled “international financial transactions that fund human trafficking networks” as well as “the movement of foreign fighters who seek to escalate tension in Afghanistan and the region".

In one instance, the department noted that Mr Khalozai had smuggled an ISIS-K courier from Afghanistan into Turkey.

“The Biden administration is committed to rooting out terrorist financing networks around the world,” Andrea Gacki, who oversees sanctions at the Treasury Department, said upon announcing the sanctions.

The sanctions on Mr Khalozai’s assets and property effectively cutting him off from the global banking system.

“Today’s designation underscores the United States’ determination to prevent ISIS-K and its members from exploiting the international financial system to support terrorist acts in Afghanistan and beyond,” said Ms Gacki.

The US also designated three other Afghans as global terrorists for holding leadership roles in ISIS-K: Sanaullah Ghafari, Sultan Aziz Azam and Maulawi Rajab.

ISIS-K has emerged as a growing threat in Afghanistan following the chaotic US withdrawal this year.

It already poses a significant threat to the Taliban following its takeover of Afghanistan, with the group launching a series of attacks that have threatened the Taliban’s hold on the country.

An ISIS-K attack on a military hospital in Kabul this month killed at least 25 people, including Taliban commander Mawlawi Hamdullah Rahmani, and wounded more than a dozen others.

Colin Kahl, the Pentagon’s undersecretary of defence for policy, told Congress last month that ISIS-K could have the capability to strike the US in as little as six months.

“The intelligence community currently assesses that both ISIS-K and Al Qaeda have the intent to conduct external operations, including against the United States,” said Mr Kahl.

He said that ISIS-K could generate that capability within six to 12 months, while Al Qaeda could do so between one and two years.

Updated: November 22nd 2021, 5:31 PM