ISIL-K has strengthened positions in & around Kabul, militants from Taliban may join ISIS affiliate: UNSG report

United Nations:  Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant Khorasan has expanded its presence in several provinces of Afghanistan and strengthened its positions in and around Kabul, a report by UN chief Antonio Guterres said, highlighting risks that militants from the Taliban may join the ISIS affiliate if they feel “threatened” by developments in the Afghan peace process.

The 13th report of the Secretary-General Guterres on the threat posed by ISIL to international peace and security, issued Tuesday, said that Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant Khorasan has expanded its presence in several provinces of Afghanistan, despite leadership, human and financial losses during 2020.

The group has strengthened its positions in and around Kabul, where it targets most of its attacks against minorities, civil society actors, government employees and personnel of the Afghan National Defence and Security Forces.

The report said that one of the main risks identified by the Member States is that “militants in Afghanistan, from the Taliban or other groups, may join the ISIS affiliate if they feel alienated or threatened by developments in the Afghan peace process.

The UNSG report added that in its efforts to regroup and rebuild, ISIS in Afghanistan has prioritized the recruitment and training of new supporters.

Its leaders also hope to attract intransigent Taliban and other militants who reject the agreement between the United States and the Taliban and to recruit fighters from Iraq, the Syrian Arab Republic and other conflict zones.

Estimates of the affiliate’s strength range widely, with one Member State reporting between 500 and 1,500 fighters, and another stating that it may rise to as many as 10,000 in the medium term. One Member State reported that ISIS in Afghanistan is largely underground and clandestine, the report said.

India, President of the UN Security Council for the month of August, will host a signature event on counter-terrorism on August 19. External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar will chair the high-level event to discuss the UN Chief’s report on ISIL.

The report said the evolution of ISIS and its affiliates, including their regional expansion in West, East and Central Africa, continued violent action in Afghanistan and an increasing online presence, highlights the need for the Member States to adopt comprehensive and integrated counter-terrorism approaches.

Strengthened national, regional and international counter-terrorism efforts are essential, in particular in view of the similar vulnerabilities of some States in those regions, it said.

President of the Security Council this month Ambassador T S Tirumurti told reporters at the UN Headquarters Monday that India will keep the spotlight on terrorism during the country’s UNSC Presidency.

Tirumurti said counterterrorism is a national priority for India.

We are firmly against terrorism in all its forms and manifestations and believe that there could be no justification whatsoever for terrorism. We will continue to keep the spotlight on this matter, as we have in the past, both inside the Council and outside as well. We have not only strengthened efforts to combat terrorism, especially for example, in financing terrorism. We have also prevented efforts to dilute the focus on terrorism.

The report noted the brutal attack of June 8 in which 10 humanitarian deminers were killed and 16 injured in Baghlan Province and for which ISIS had claimed responsibility.

It said the leader of ISIS, Amir Muhammad Sa’id Abdal-Rahman al-Mawla, “remains reluctant to communicate directly with supporters. The group’s command and control over its global affiliates have loosened, even though it continues to provide guidance and some financial support.

The autonomy of regional affiliates has been further strengthened, especially in West Africa and the Sahel, East and Central Africa, Afghanistan and South Asia, the report said.

Member States judge that the success of this evolution will be an important determinant of the extent of the future global impact of ISIS. They also assess that the group will continue to prioritise regrouping and seeking resurgence in Iraq and the Syrian Arab Republic as its core area of operations.

Since the previous report by the UNSG on ISIL, the COVID-19 pandemic has continued to dominate the geopolitical landscape and hamper efforts to prevent and counter-terrorism and the underlying spread of violent extremism in full compliance with international law.

Member States and United Nations experts have continued to raise concerns that pandemic-related social restrictions, economic challenges and political tensions risk exacerbating existing grievances, which terrorist groups, including ISIS, seek to exploit. The pandemic has also aggravated challenging humanitarian situations in many parts of the world.

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