ISIS gaining strength in Afghanistan near borders with Pakistan, a national security threat

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KABUL – The militant organization, Islamic State (IS), known also as Daesh, approaches towards Pakistan’s doors as it begins armed resistance against Afghan government forces in almost all 15 districts of Kunar province, bordering with Bajaur Agency of the tribal belt.

However, the threat from IS is considered to be less imminent right now than that from Jamaatul Ahrar, the group which splintered away Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan.

The IS militants held a meeting at Baadgo on October 12 before initiating its armed attack against Afghan government in Kunar province. Their meeting was interrupted by an attack from US drones, killing 14 militants and injuring several others. The assault notwithstanding, the IS militants went ahead with their attack on Afghan security forces’ check posts and barracks at Kunar province headquarters Koza Shagai after a delay of one day. The Afghan security forces repelled the attack, killing five militants while one Afghan soldier was killed and a few others injured.

According to sources from Afghanistan, the IS militants are trying to establish control over the main road which connects Kunar with Jalalabad, where headquarters of the strategically important Nangarhar province is situated and which borders with at least three tribal agencies of Pakistan.

The IS militants have established temporary headquarters in Shultan village in Gabari district of Kunar province, adjacent to Bajaur Agence. The Gabari district is dominated by Mamund tribesmen who also live across the border in Bajaur Agency.

The IS presence in Kunar has caused widespread unrest among the local people, many of whom have already abandoned their homes and moved to Jalalabad, Kabul and other places. Among these are also the governors of Kunar and the adjacent Nooristan along with other senior officials who have relocated to Jalalabad.

Reports reveal that the IS militants are attempting to strengthen their position by winning the support of local Afghans who believe in the Salafi school of thought and who are in a dominant position in both Kunar and Nooristan provinces. They are also promising amnesty to officers and personnel of Afghan forces who would help them expand their influence to the bordering regions of Pakistan. Meanwhile, they have also established contact with Jamaatul Ahrar head Abdul Wali Mohmand, known also as Khalid Khurasani. However, so far their efforts with the Afghan forces and the Jamaatul Ahrar leader have been in vain.

High-ranking Afghan authorities have recently confirmed an unprecedented surge in IS presence in the border province of Afghanistan. Before the mother of all bombs attack on an IS complex in Nangarhar, IS presence had been confined to Acheen area and they had been on the defensive. But now they have reached Behsud and Chaparhar, which is situated on the outskirts of Jalalabad city, according to Afghan sources. The IS militants are attempting to disconnect Kunar and Jalalabad from each other as well as capturing the Kabul-Jalalabad highway at different points.

A segment of Jamaatul Ahrar was attacked by US drones in Lal Pura district of Nangarhar province two days ago, in which several officials including two commanders of the organization were killed.