The Islamic State is trying to “swallow” other extremist groups, redistribute sources of income, including drug trafficking
Afghan Taliban fighters © AP Photo
“The rapid growth of this group [IS] that appeared in Afghanistan in summer of 2014, its intention to ‘swallow’ other extremist groups, draw militants of all kinds into its ranks, in particular Taliban fighters themselves, redistribute sources of income, including such lucrative sources as drug trafficking – all these factors are very worrying for the Taliban leadership,” Kabulov said.
“The Taliban movement has been strengthening its positions across Afghanistan lately, including in the north of the country,” he continued. “They demonstrate intentions to establish full and stable control over separate regions and make attempts to seize administrative centers,” he added reminding that the Taliban took control over the provincial center, Kunduz, for several days in September for the first time since 2001.
“ISIL [Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant – former name of IS], in turn, demonstrates a hostile position toward Taliban leaders,” Kabulov said. “In April 2015 IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi made accusations against Taliban leader Mullah Omar. Several days later media reported that IS and Taliban proclaimed jihad against each other. In spring-summer of 2015 two groups clashed in different Afghan provinces several times,” he added.
After reports about Mullah Omar’s death at the end of July followed by new leader Akhtar Mansour’s death at the beginning of December, the confrontation has flared up, the diplomat said adding that among contributing factors were the disagreements that arose inside the Taliban movement. Some Taliban fighters led by Mullah Mohammad Rasool set up the High Council of Afghanistan Islamic Emirate in November 2015 and launched an armed offensive against Mansour’s supporters, relying on help from IS units.
“There are now clashes between different Taliban groups and between Taliban fighters and ISIL,” Kabulov concluded.
Militants’ activity on Afghan border with CIS states causes alarm
According to Zamir Kabulov, extremists have intensified their activity in the northern areas of Afghanistan close to the borders with member countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), which causes growing alarm.
“Extremists are active virtually in all areas of Afghanistan but their activity in the north, close to the borders with our CIS Central Asian partners, cause our greatest concern,” Director of the Second Asia Department at Russia’s Foreign Ministry Zamir Kabulov said.
The Russian president’s special envoy said it was especially alarming that “militants are gaining foothold on territories and in populated areas bordering on Turkmenistan and Tajikistan.”
“By now, Taliban militants have allied with other extremist organizations to establish two strongholds amassing large groups of gunmen – one in the north-east (the provinces of Badakhshan, Takhar and Kunduz) and the other in the north-west (the provinces of Jowzjan, Faryab and Badghis),” Kabulov said.
“The number of extremists in north Afghanistan totals about 15,000. There are fears that the militants will try to break into the north, the territory of Central Asian states from Afghanistan. We’re especially concerned over the Turkmen direction where the militants have come close to the border,” he added.
“As of now, the situation in Afghanistan is characterized as extremely tense and unstable and there can be seen no prospects for its radical improvement,” the high-placed diplomat said.
According to Afghan experts, “there are areas in 27 out of 34 provinces in the country with the high and extremely high security threat. Large forces of armed opposition militants are engaging ever more frequently in direct fighting with government troops and seizing whole districts and intensifying terrorist attacks in large administrative centers, including Kabul, using home-made explosive devices and suicide bombers,” the Russian president’s special envoy for Afghanistan said.
Literally several days ago, the center of Kabul was subjected to a rocket attack and at least two rockets fell in the diplomatic quarter of the Afghan capital, Kabulov said.
A day before that, a suicide bomber on a motorbike attacked a joint patrol of US and Afghan servicemen near the Bagram airfield, killing six US soldiers and wounding another three. At present, large-scale combat operations are continuing between the Afghan government troops and militants in the province of Helmand. According to local authorities, today militants are controlling up to 20% of the territory of this strategically important province, the Russian diplomat said.
“The situation in Afghanistan is further aggravated by the growing influence of militants from the Islamic State terrorist organization whose emissaries appeared there over a year ago,” Kabulov said.
“It is not a secret that the IS is nurturing plans to create the Islamic Caliphate on the territory of Afghanistan, Central Asian and some other states in the region,” the Russian president’s special envoy said.