Concerns have grown among the people, tribal elders and some foreign officials on the presence of Daesh in some parts of Afghanistan amid Kabul’s efforts for reaching a peace deal with the Taliban – which is seen as one of the main causes of increasing violence in the country.
During his Kabul visit to Kabul earlier this week, the US Special Envoy Zalmay Khalilzad warned of possible threats of Daesh even after the Afghan government agrees on a peace deal with Taliban militants.
A similar comment came from NATO’s Civilian Representative Nicholas Kay, who spoke to a gathering in Herat province on Wednesday. Kay said Daesh presence in Afghanistan is a “serious matter”.
“The presence of Daesh now is a serious concern and there is the possibility that in the future, it could become more serious concern, especially some current Taliban who are irreconcilable decide to join Daesh,” NATO’s Civilian Representative to Afghanistan Nicholas Kay.
He said the Afghan National Defense Security Forces should be maintained at strong level with good capability and if that requires international assistance, then, again, Afghans should be asking for that.
An Army General Mohammad Zaman Waziri, who also commands the 201 Corps, said there are Chechen, Uzbek and Lashkar-e-Taiba fighters among Daesh.
Main presence of Daesh was in Nangarhar two years ago but the strongholds of the group were eliminated and according to a recent report by TOLOnews, a main recruiting center and center of Daesh in Achin district in the eastern Nangarhar province has now turned into a big market for the locals and the area is free of Daesh presence since late 2017.
However, the group has claimed responsibility of some major attacks on government institutions, including the attack on the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology late in April which left at least 11 people – all government employees – dead.
A government official said Daesh has been largely suppressed in Nangarhar and other parts of the country over the past few years.
“It is not a worrying issue,” said Omid Maisam, a spokesman for Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah.
“Wherever Daesh tries to make foothold or base, the Afghan National Security and Defense Forces are ready to eliminate them and we will not allow Daesh at any cost to make a safe haven for itself here,” Maisam told TOLOnews.
“Daesh has faced a major setback in Afghanistan and a strong retaliation,” the National Security Advisor’s spokesman Tariq Aryan said in a statement. “Although, we do not reject the threats emerging from the regional terrorism, but we want to assure our people that no terrorist group, including Daesh, will have a safe haven in Afghanistan.”
Some residents and elders of Nangarhar said they still remain concerned over the movements of Daesh in some parts of the eastern province.
“There are fighters from other countries within Daesh, including some local individuals, but most of them are from other countries. There are also a lot of Pakistani nationals and people from tribal regions such as Bajaur and Momand regions,” said Malik Ainullah, a tribal elder in Nangarhar.
“People from Bajaur and Orakzai tribes are among them (Daesh). Even there are people from Swat (a region in Pakistan), but local people are less among them,” said Malik Awliya, a tribal elder in Nangarhar.
A military analyst and former Deputy Minister of Interior, Mirza Mohammad Yarmand, said the concerns over the presence of Daesh in Afghanistan cannot be taken lightly.
“There is credibility in the concerns of the world about Daesh. Daesh has been making its nuclease and has started its activities in Afghanistan five years ago,” he told TOLOnews.
Reports emerged from Kunar last week that more Taliban fighters are joining Daesh in the eastern province.
The Kunar governor Abdul Sattar Mirzankwal confirmed the reports and said that “some Taliban have joined Daesh over certain compulsions”. However, he did no go into details about this matter when he was contacted by TOLOnews on Tuesday.
The remarks come as Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said on Tuesday that Daesh is gaining a foothold in Afghanistan to expand into Central Asia.
“It is important to note that after the rout of the so-called Islamic State, terrorists are moving from Syria and Iraq to other regions, including Central and Southeast Asia,” Shoigu said at a meeting of the defense ministers of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) member states in Bishkek.
For the first time in five years, Daesh released what it says is a new video message from its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi on April 29.
In the video, a man purporting to be Baghdadi appeared to be wearing a casual outfit, sitting on the ground next to an assault rifle. However, the pillow and the mattress inside the room where Baghdadi has sat are mostly used in Afghanistan and some other countries in the region.