Supporters of the Islamic State group in Afghanistan are attempting to establish a regional base in the eastern city of Jalalabad, the commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, General John Campbell, said on Tuesday.
In an interview with The Associated Press, Campbell said that “foreign fighters” from Syria and Iraq had joined Afghans who had declared loyalty to the group in the eastern province of Nangarhar, bordering Pakistan.
He said there were also “indications” that the IS supporters in Nangarhar were trying to consolidate links with the group’s leadership in Syria and Iraq.
The Islamic State group controls large regions of Iraq and Syria. Fighters loyal to the group in Afghanistan include disaffected Afghan and Pakistani Taliban who have fought fierce battles with the Taliban in recent months.
Afghan officials have said that IS supporters control a number of border districts in Nangarhar and have a presence in some other southern provinces, including Zabul and Ghazni.
Until now, however, it was unclear whether loyalists in Afghanistan had institutional links to the group’s leadership.
Many of those who had declared allegiance to IS were “disenfranchised Taliban” from both sides of the border, Campbell said. But, he added, “they’ve been reaching out. I’m sure there are folks who have come from Syria and Iraq – I couldn’t tell you how many but there are indications of some foreign fighters coming in there.
“But they don’t have the capability right now to attack Europe, or attack the homeland, the United States. But that’s what they want to do, they’ve said that’s what they want to do,” he said.
During the summer months, Taliban and IS loyalists fought fierce battles in the far eastern districts of Nangarhar, with residents reporting a range of atrocities, including arbitrary imprisonment, forced marriages for young women, and beheadings.
Written by: The Associated Press