ISIL/Da’esh rapidly gaining ground in parts of Afghanistan: VOA

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NEW YORK, June 24 (APP): Amid surging violence, ISIL/Da’esh is
rapidly expanding in parts of Afghanistan, advancing militarily into
areas where it once had a weak presence and strengthening its forces
in core regions, according o a report broadcast by Voice of America.
Citing Afghan and U.S. officials, VOA said the proliferation of
the terrorist group has drawn varied resistance from the Afghan
military, US air support and ground troops, local militias, Taliban
forces and other militant groups.
Meanwhile, the State Department is winding down the office
responsible for developing long-range strategy in Afghanistan and
Pakistan – just as the Trump administration conducts a major review
of the future of the Afghan war, America’s longest.
The office of the special representative for Afghanistan and
Pakistan, which once drew experts from nearly a dozen government
agencies, will be folded into the State Department’s Bureau of
South and Central Asian Affairs, The New York Times reported on
Friday.
Former President Barack Obama created the office in January 2009
when he named Richard Holbrooke, a celebrated diplomat who brokered
the Dayton peace accords to end the Bosnian war, as the first special
envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan.
The Times said the Trump administration’s decision to wind up the
office now, at the very moment it is devising a strategy for
Afghanistan, underlines the Pentagon’s outsize role in the process.
Last week, President Donald Trump authorized Defence Secretary Jim
Mattis to send thousands of additional troops into a war that
currently engages 8,800 American troops.
The awkward timing was not lost on Mr. Trump’s critics.
“The Pentagon is contemplating more war in Afghanistan, while
the State Department is shutting down the office that could give it
a voice in that important development,” Vali Nasr, who was a senior
adviser on Pakistan in the office between 2009 and 2011, was quoted
as saying.
According to VOA, attacking ISIL/D’esh has become such a priority
in the country, that disparate forces sometimes join together in the
ad-hoc fight, with Afghan and US forces finding themselves
inadvertently supporting the enemy Taliban in battling the expanding
group.
All too often, mistakes are made due to confusion on the ground,
VOA said, citing unnamed officials.
Afghan army planes on Wednesday night accidentally air dropped
vital supplies of food and water to IS militants in the Darzab
district of northern Jouzjan province instead of to their own
besieged troops, provincial police chief, Rahmatullah Turkistani
told VOA. The supplies were meant to help Afghan forces that are
countering twin attacks by IS and Taliban militants but were
used instead by the IS.
“It’s not getting better in Afghanistan in terms of ISIL,”
US Chief Pentagon Spokeswoman Dana White told VOA this week. “We
have a problem, and we have to defeat them and we have to be
focused on that problem.”
Reinforcements for the ISIL cause reportedly are streaming
into isolated areas of the country from far and wide. There are
reports of fighters from varied nationalities joining the ranks,
including militants from India, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Pkistan,
Russia and Central Asian neighbors.
Still, the Islamic State-Khorasan (ISK) as IS is known in
Afghanistan remains a fragmented group composed of differing
regional forces with different agendas in different parts of
the country, VOA said.
“IS-K is still conducting low-level recruiting and distribution of propaganda in various provinces across Afghanistan, but it does not have the ability or authority to conduct multiple operations across the country,” a recent Pentagon report said. Butwhere it operates, ISIL is inflicting chaos and casualties and causing confusing scenarios for disparate opponents.
In the Tora Bora area, where ISIL has made a strong stand in
recent days, local villagers and militias joined with Taliban to
rout ISIL. The terrorist group regained ground after a few days,
leading to US military air attacks on IS positions in conjunction
with Afghan intelligence instructions and army operations.
ISIL fighters reportedly have fled from mountain caves of
Tora Bora, where al-Qaeda’s leader Osama bin Laden hid from a
US attack in 2001, the report pointed out.
ISIL fighters were also reportedly advancing in neighboring
Khogyani district, displacing hundreds of families, according
to district officials. It is one of several areas in Nangarhar
province where ISIL has been active for over two years.
Fierce clashes in the Chaparhar district of Nangarhar last
month left 21 Taliban fighters and seven ISIL militants dead,
according to a provincial spokesman. At least three civilians,
who were caught in the crossfire, were killed and five others
wounded.
“ISIL has overpowered Taliban in some parts of Nangarhar
because the Taliban dispatched its elite commando force called
Sara Qeta (Red Brigade) to other parts of the country, including
some northern provinces to contain the growing influence of IS
there,” Wahid Muzhda, a Taliban expert in Kabul, told VOA.
ISIL has also expanded in neighboring Kunar province, where,
according to the provincial police chief, it has a presence in
at least eight districts and runs a training base, where foreign
members of IS, train new recruits.
Hundreds of miles from Nangarhar, ISIL is attempting to
establish a persistent presence in several northern provinces
where it has found a fertile ground for attracting militants
and recruiting unemployed youths, mostly between the age of 13
and 20.
ISIL has been able to draw its members from the Pakistani
Taliban fighters, former Afghan Taliban, and other militants who
“believe that associating with or pledging allegiance” to IS
will further their interests, according to the Pentagon report.
Hundreds of militants have joined ISIL ranks in northern
Jouzjan and Sar-e-Pul province where local militant commanders
lead IS-affiliate groups in several districts, the report said.
In New York, the United Nations envoy for Afghanistan,
Tadamichi Yamamoto, said Afghans need to see their government
taking the reins for security in the country, delivering much
needed services and creating jobs.
At the same time, Yamamoto noted that that the international
community needs to keep the promises made at the Brussels conference last October to support Afghanistan politically and financially on its path towards peace, development and a stable economy.
Yamamoto, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative and
head of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), was in
New York this week to brief the Security Council on the latest
developments in the country.
In an interview with UN Radio,, he said a lot more work needs
to be done by the Afghan government in terms of trying to have more intelligence networks and collaboration with the countries in the
region, as well as some other countries, to try to have the
necessary information available to tackle the situation. Also,
the effectiveness of how they run the security machine has to be
looked at very carefully.
“Another thing they have to do is to ensure, with regard to
the recent incidents, that investigations are conducted thoroughly,
and also those who were responsible for the security will need to
be accountable for the situation depending on the findings.”