Foreign fighters still have presence in Afghanistan: UN

Updated Jun 05 2020

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Nangarhar province has been the main stronghold of ISIL-K ever since it came to Afghanistan more than a decade ago. — Reuters/File
Nangarhar province has been the main stronghold of ISIL-K ever since it came to Afghanistan more than a decade ago. — Reuters/File

WASHINGTON: Battle losses and desertions have reduced the strong Daesh militant force in Afghanistan to a rag-tag group of about 200 fighters, said a UN report released this week.

The eastern province of Nangarhar has been the main stronghold of this group — known as the Islamic State of Khorasan or ISIL-K — ever since it came to Afghanistan more than a decade ago.

“From September to November 2019, the number of ISIL-K operatives in Nangarhar was reduced from 1,750 armed fighters and a leadership council of 22 … spread over seven districts, to fewer than 200 fighters [living] under siege in the Takhto area of Achin District,” it stated.

The report — prepared by UN monitors and their Afghan interlocutors — reviews the current situation in Afghanistan in the backdrop of a peace agreement between the United States and the Taliban, which hopes to bring Taliban militants into the Afghan mainstream.

“In addition to their handling of any threat posed by al-Qaida, the Taliban’s credibility as a counter-terrorism partner for the international community will rest on their success in countering the threat from ISIL-K,” the UN report observed.

“The number of foreign terrorist fighters in search of a purpose and livelihood in Afghanistan, including up to 6,500 Pakistanis, will render this a complex challenge, which will require careful monitoring,” the report added.

Most of these Pakistanis are associated with Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and ISIL-K and used their bases in Afghanistan for attacking targets inside Pakistan. In December 2014, six TTP terrorists attacked a public school in Peshawar, killing 149 people, including 132 children.

The UN report noted that Pakistani militant groups have their bases in the eastern Afghan provinces of Kunar, Nangarhar and Nuristan, where they operate under the umbrella of the Afghan Taliban.

Published in Dawn, June 5th, 2020