Islamic State’s Voice of Hind Magazine: Globalizing the Regional Anti-Taliban Narrative

Publication: Terrorism Monitor Volume: 20 Issue: 5

Voice of Hind Magazine (Source: Twitter)

In July 2020, a media network aligned with Islamic State in Hind Province (ISHP) published the premier issue of the English-language Voice of Hind (VoH) magazine. This print series serves a unique function in the South Asian Islamic State (IS) media ecosystem and communications network. Specifically, VoH supports IS’s media warfare campaign against the Taliban in Afghanistan.

VoH aggregates and organizes scattered anti-Taliban narratives purveyed through various outlets by IS’s branches in Iraq/Syria, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, as well as in Kashmir. It also incorporates discourses and sentiments from grassroots IS supporter networks on social media and messaging applications, expounds upon them, and publishes them in the world’s most-spoken language, English. It does so in a visually aesthetic magazine that is disseminated across the IS media ecosystem.

VoH is also connective in the sense that it includes clickable links to pro-ISHP Telegram channels. The magazine’s operational longevity and the consistency of its publications are notable aspects of VoH, indicating that there is a devoted media team producing the series. This network is reportedly transnational, with propagandists operating throughout South Asia (SunOnline International, September 6, 2021).

Islamic State’s Conception of “Taliban 2.0”

IS has been conducting an intense media warfare campaign against the Taliban to delegitimize it as a governing body and discredit them as a religious authority (Terrorism Monitor, December 16, 2021). The focus of this effort is the telling of a new history of the Taliban. According to this narrative, a once pious and honourable movement has deviated from Islam, become morally corrupted, and ultimately betrayed its founding principles.

IS’s “guerrilla historiography” is employed in the second issue of VoH, which features an article titled “Taliban: From Jihad to Apostacy” that traces the movement’s spiritual decline (Jihadology, March 25, 2020). The piece places an intense focus on the conceptual binary between the original Taliban and what it calls “Taliban 2.0”. The “Taliban of today”, it asserts, “has nothing in common, except for their name, with the Taliban under the leadership of sheikh and Mujahid Mullah Omar … who clearly refused to hand over Sheikh Usama bin Laden”. The contemporary Taliban, in contrast, is accused of being composed of deceitful “hypocrites” who covered up the death of Mullah Omar and are “headed by the nationalists, seculars, democrats and apostates.” IS also explains how the new Taliban “began to implement tribal laws in order to please the local communities and abandoned sharia.” The piece further scorns the “second generation” of the Taliban for planting “cannabis and opium all over the country” (Jihadology, January 18, 2021).

In the May 2020 issue, VoH noted that the “Taliban in the time of Mullah Omar had attacked the places of shirk (polytheism) like statues of Buddha and the temples of Rafidah in Afghanistan” (Jihadology, May 23, 2020). In contrast, the new generation “began to develop the soft corner for the apostate regime of Iran and their Shia brethren by protecting the places of shirk and kufr for their nationalist interest.” On multiple occasions, VoH writers have further criticized the Taliban for killing Uzbek (and Tajik) Muslims — a reference to the Taliban hunting down Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) members in Zabul after the IMU’s pledge of allegiance to IS (Jihadology, June 22, 2020;, November 28, 2015).

Critique of Taliban Foreign Relations

VoH portrays IS as waging a righteous jihad based on the Quran and Sunnah, while the Taliban promotes “nationalistic, linguistic, patriotic and racial doctrines” (Jihadology, May 23, 2020). The magazine also contrasts IS being independent and uncompromising, whereas the Taliban pursues friendly relations with the enemies of Islam and is beholden to malign foreign powers. IS has described the Taliban as “puppets”, “contractors”, “mercenaries”, a “militia”, and a “proxy” force for external actors (Jihadology, January 18).

VoH denigrates the Taliban using visual methods as well, and argues the group is a mere chess piece in the grand strategy of foreign powers. On the cover of issue 5, IS accordingly depicts Taliban Emir Haibatullah Akhundzada dressed in military fatigues adorned with a Pakistani flag patch. He is also hoisted on strings controlled by a ventriloquist’s hand that is colored like the American flag (Jihadology, June 22, 2020).

The Taliban’s foreign relations with the “enemies of Islam” are heavily scrutinized throughout the VoH series, which focuses on regional powers like Pakistan and Iran as well as great powers such as the United States, China, and Russia. IS also chides the Taliban for abandoning the Kashmir issue and for its friendly ties to the “tawaghit [tyrants] of Qatar” and the rest of the group’s “brethren at the helm in the Arab world” (Jihadology, October 20, 2020). VoH further ties the Taliban to Pakistani intelligence, arguing the Taliban are “dancing to the tune of Pakistani agencies” and taking orders from Islamabad (Jihadology, November 13, 2021). IS views Pakistan as instrumental in the formation of the new, deviant Taliban, stating that “the Taliban pre-2001 was broken up for some time, with the pieces later put back together by Pakistani intelligence services only” (Jihadology, October 20, 2020).

IS hones in on the Taliban’s relations with Iran and Afghanistan’s Shiite communities, particularly the Hazara, denouncing the Taliban as allies of Iran for protecting Afghan Shiites – apparently to please Tehran. VoH’s 12th issue, for example, includes an article titled “Black Water with White Flags” in which it claims the Taliban “joined the ranks of the Americans and became blackwater mercenaries” and are “used by the [intelligence] agencies as a proxy against the Islamic State” (Jihadology, January 18, 2021). Likewise, IS criticizes the Taliban for promising the Americans that Afghan territory will not be used to launch attacks against the US.

China and Russia are also addressed, with IS asserting that the Taliban “lick the boots of the crusaders and now Russia and China as well” (Jihadology, September 18, 2021). Following the October 8, 2021 suicide bombing by a Uyghur ISKP militant, which killed 46 people, a VoH article stated the Taliban had “promised taghut China that it will kill and expel all Uyghur Muhajireen present in Afghanistan” and had “promised to protect and safeguard the Buddhist statues” at Beijing’s behest (Militant Wire, October 8, 2021; Sino Security, October 14, 2021). Similarly, VoH writers take aim at Taliban-Russia relations, calling them allies in the fight against IS in Afghanistan (Jihadology, September 18, 2021). Russian President Vladimir Putin is even featured alongside Taliban fighters on a VoH magazine cover (Jihadology, May 23, 2020).


IS’s strategy to fight the Taliban in Afghanistan includes a significant media warfare component. There is a robust South Asian IS media ecosystem supported by IS’s central propaganda organs and comprised of a constellation of official branch outlets, regional pro-IS groups, and grassroots supporters that actively work to undermine the Taliban’s image and credibility. VoH serves as a key component in this media assault on the Taliban’s legitimacy and will likely continue being a prominent voice aggressively impugning the Taliban’s reputation in the global jihadi community.