Nearly four years ago, the Islamic State was on top of the world. After seizing large segments of Iraq and Syria, the group announced the establishment of a caliphate on June 29, 2014. Islamist extremists from all over rushed to join the group. Major militaries bent on destroying the group were not far behind. By the end of 2017, the Iraqi government was declaring Iraq “totally liberated” of IS, and the Russian General Staff was touting similar results in Syria.
The same year IS was making headlines in Iraq and Syria, a branch of the group was taking root in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region. Its fate has been very different. In April 2017, when U.S. officials estimated there were 700 IS members in Afghanistan, the U.S. military made its intentions to dismantle the group known when it dropped the “mother of all bombs” on IS targets in Nangarhar province. A few months later, a U.S. airstrike in Kunar province killed the leader of the Afghan branch. By Nove