IS strengthening grip in Afghanistan could destabilize broader region



Militants loyal to the Islamic State (IS) terror group have been attempting to strengthen their grip and boost their presence in militancy-plagued Afghanistan, local analysts have warned.

"Since the defeat of IS fighters in Iraq and Syria, the hardliner group is obviously focusing on subverting the war-battered Afghanistan where many more militant groups have already been fighting to gain ground to implement their hostile future plans," said Mukhtar Pidram, a political analyst.

According to analysts, Afghanistan which has seen increasing insurgency by the Taliban continue for more than 10 years is a suitable ground for the IS loyalists to establish their fiefdom and regroup its fighters.

Hundreds of thousands of IS fighters have fled Iraq and Syria after their defeat couple of months ago and countless numbers of them have chosen war-ravaged Afghanistan as a proper place to continue their so-called Jihad or holy war, Pidram, who is a senior journalist and head of a local news agency Hushdar, said.

Pidram also predicted that continued instability in Afghanistan would also facilitate the fanatic IS fighters' movement to central Asian states in an effort to destabilize the whole region.

"The Afghan government and its security forces are not strong enough to defeat the IS insurgents like the Iraqi and Syrian forces did on the battleground," the analyst stated.

Pidram warned that poor security on Afghan borders with the central Asian states would pave the way for the IS militants to "easily shift their activities" to central Asian countries bordering Afghanistan.

The IS outfit, which emerged in the Achin district in the eastern Nangarhar province in early 2015, has spread its network to neighboring Haska Mina, Khogyani, Achin, Pachiragam districts and other areas, even though the government forces have been fighting the ultra-extremist group.

According to a statement from the Afghan Defense Ministry, the security forces had conducted hundreds of crackdowns against IS militants elsewhere in the war-battered country in 2017, killing more than 1,900 militants including 69 commanders.

Several senior commanders, including Abu Sayyed, Abu Abdullah and Shiekh Abdul Hasib, were also among those killed during the operations, the ministry confirmed in the statement released recently.

More than 270 militants affiliated with the IS had been injured and 17 more arrested in operations against IS across the country last year, the defense ministry contended.

The Afghan media have also suggested presence of foreign nationals among IS militants operating in Afghanistan.

Citing local officials, the media reported recently that foreign militants from Qatar, Uzbekistan, France, Tajikistan and some other countries have been fighting alongside IS fighters against government forces in the Darzab and Qush Tepa districts in the northern Jawzjan province.

"If the activities of the IS groups go unchecked in Afghanistan it will destabilize the whole region," another analyst Khan Mohammad Daneshjo warned.