A high-ranking Russian official has warned that an estimated 10,000 members of the Takfiri Daesh terrorist group are currently present in Afghanistan, and that their number is growing due to the relocation of the terror outfit to the Central Asian country after territorial defeats in Syria and Iraq.
Zamir Kabulov, Russia’s special presidential envoy for Afghanistan, made the warning in an interview with Sputnik news agency on Saturday, also saying that Moscow was particularly worried about Daesh’s expanding foothold in northern Afghan provinces bordering Tajikistan and Turkmenistan.
“Russia was among the first to be sounding the alarms in connection with the emergence of Daesh in Afghanistan,” he said.
“Daesh has significantly increased its power in the country recently. According to our estimates, the number of militants exceeds 10,000 and continues to grow, particularly due to new militants arriving from Syria and Iraq,” Kabulov said.
Terror in Central Asia
The Russian official stressed that the situation in the northern Afghan provinces of Jowzjan and Sar-e Pol were of particular concern and that citizens of Algeria and France had been spotted among the terrorists there.
“Daesh has a clear aim of spreading influence beyond Afghanistan, which they consider to be their stronghold. This poses a serious security threat, especially for the Central Asian countries and the southern regions of Russia,” Kabulov said.
Kabulov, who is also the director of the Second Asian Department in the Russian Foreign Ministry, said that the terrorist group had “foreign sponsorship” and was receiving “Western” arms in Afghanistan.
“We have repeatedly drawn attention to the cases of the use of helicopters without identifying insignia in various regions of Afghanistan to transfer Daesh militants and deliver Western [military] equipment provided for the terrorist group,” Kabulov said.
The official said Moscow had repeatedly raised the issue of the unidentified helicopters with the United Nations and NATO but was yet to receive a “reasonable” response from them.
Daesh began establishing a presence in Afghanistan almost a year after making sweeping land grabs in Iraq and Syria in 2014.
The Takfiri terrorist group took advantage of the ongoing chaos in Afghanistan and recruited some of its fighters from among Taliban defectors.
According to Afghan intelligence documents, security officials believe Daesh is present in nine provinces, from Nangarhar and Kunar in the east to Jawzjan, Faryab, and Badakhshan in the north and Ghor in the central west.
Former President Hamid Karzai recently said that the US was colluding with Daesh in Afghanistan and was allowing the Takfiri group to flourish in the war-stricken country.
Nearly a dozen Daesh militants killed in Nangarhar
The Afghan Tolo news agency quoted Public Order Police in Afghanistan as saying in a statement that security forces had killed at least 11 Daesh terrorists during an operation in the country’s eastern Nangarhar Province on Saturday.
The operation was launched in the Khogyani district of the province to clear the area of the militants and left four injured, according to the statement.
The news agency did not provide further details on the incident.
Afghanistan is engulfed by violence and many parts of the country remain plagued by militancy despite the presence of thousands of foreign troops. The United States and its NATO allies invaded the country as part of Washington’s so-called war on terror in 2001, which toppled the Taliban.