Afghan Biographies

Distinction between Taliban and Islamic State

Name Distinction between Taliban and Islamic State
Ethnic backgr.
Date of birth
Function/Grade Background
History and Biodata


The distinction between the Taliban and the Islamic State lies in the fact that the Taliban follow Deobandi sect of Sunni Islam which is a sect native to South Asia and the jihadists of the Islamic State mostly belong to Saudi Arabia’s Wahhabi denomination.

The insurgency in Afghanistan and the border regions of Pakistan is a Pashtun uprising which is an ethnic group native to Afghanistan and northwestern Pakistan, whereas the bulk of the Islamic State’s jihadists in Syria and Iraq was comprised of Arab militants and included foreign fighters from neighboring countries, North Africa, the Central Asian states, Russia, China and even radicalized Muslims from as far away as Europe and the United States.

The so-called “Khorasan Province” of the Islamic State in the Af-Pak region is nothing more than a coalition of several breakaway factions of the Taliban and a few other inconsequential local militant outfits that have pledged allegiance to the Islamic State’s chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in order to enhance their prestige and to draw funds and followers, but which doesn’t have any organizational and operational association, whatsoever, with the Islamic State proper in Syria and Iraq.

The total strength of the Islamic State Khorasan is estimated to be between 3,000 to 5,000 fighters. By comparison, the strength of the Taliban is estimated to be between 60,000 to 80,000 militants. The Islamic State Khorasan was formed as a merger between several breakaway factions of the Afghan and Pakistani Taliban in early 2015. Later, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), a Pakistani terrorist group Jundullah and Chinese Uyghur militants pledged allegiance to it.

In 2017, it split into two factions. One faction based in Afghanistan’s eastern Nangarhar province is led by a Pakistani militant commander Aslam Farooqi, and the other faction based in the northern provinces of Afghanistan is led by a former Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) commander Moawiya. The latter faction also includes Uzbek, Tajik, Uyghur and Baloch militants.


Last Modified 2021-08-27
Established 2019-02-04