Who is helping IS strengthen its position in northern Afghanistan?
In the northern provinces of Afghanistan—Sar-e Pul and Balkh—the positions of the militants of the so-called "Islamic State" (the banned terrorist organisation "Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant," (ISIL), IS or ISIS in English, Daesh in Arabic) are visibly strengthened.
Muhammad Zahir Wahdat, the governor of the Sar-e Pul province, told a Fergana News correspondent that Daesh is trying to expand its presence in all districts of the province. The governor also asserted that there are districts in which the administration is the official power during the daytime, but nightfall brings the authority of Daesh.
According to the official, local ethnic Turkmen and Uzbeks are now actively replenishing the ranks of the group. Active recruitment is being carried out, mainly in the districts of Kush Tapa and Sayad. According to the governor, the province administration has repeatedly informed NATO in northern Afghanistan and the central government of the country, but the centre does not provide sufficient assistance.
One of the residents of the Kush Tapa district, in a conversation with the Fergana News correspondent, explained that the Daesh group based there mainly consists of foreign mercenaries, many of whom speak Russian, Uzbek or Tajik and apparently, come from Russia and the Central Asia republics, although there are Arabs and Pakistanis among them.
The resident further said the Daesh fighters have been settled in the canyons of the Sar-e Pul province for almost a year, and "travel unhindered in the districts recruiting local youth. Three months ago, the Afghan National Army, together with the local police, decided to carry out an operation to destroy them, but it turned out that they could not do it."
A spokesman for the administration of the Sar-e Pul province, Zabiulla Amani, said the influence of the Daesh in almost all the districts of the province is due to the effectiveness of the intelligence of the terrorist organisation and the brutality of punishment that the opponents of the group expect.
"In July of this year, Daesh militants under the command of Kari Sher Muhammad beheaded mullah Taj Muhammad in the Sayad district for speaking out against the group during a prayer. The intelligence of Daesh works carefully among the residents. Whoever opposes vanishes the next day," said Amani. According to him, they receive reports on the emergence of Daesh militants in the neighbouring province of Balkh from time to time, where support is found among local youth."
The provinces of Sar-e Pul and Balkh are marked on the map of Afghanistan in red and green, respectively
One of the representatives of the administration of the province of Balkh told Fergana News, on the condition of anonymity, that residents had recently witnessed the distribution of weapons among local youth in the districts of Hairaton and Shortepa, bordering Uzbekistan.
The weapons, according to witnesses, were new. This information was confirmed, also on the condition of anonymity, by one of the members of the Balkh city council. He asserted that local authorities in Balkh and the neighbouring northern provinces are forced to pay Daesh or Taliban "compensation" from the local budget on a monthly basis so that these groups lead no active operations against the authorities. At the same time, local officials turn a blind eye to the expanding Daesh in the districts bordering Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.
It should be noted that some in President Ashraf Ghani’s government have warned that the administrative authorities of the northern provinces sometimes deliberately exaggerate the threat from Daesh, wishing to obtain additional funding from Kabul, or using this argument as a political tool, criticising their opponents in the central government.
But the Member of Parliament (MP) from the eastern province of Nangarhar, Haji Zahir Kadir confirmed the information shared by the MP from Balkh. "I and my friends have repeatedly witnessed the transfer of Daesh foreign mercenaries on helicopters without identification signs, who were transferred to the northern region of the country from the Achin district of the Nangarhar province."
"Also, we saw that helicopters occasionally transport large boxes, whether with weapons, or with provisions, as well as new motorcycles for Daesh foreign mercenaries. When I described it in the parliament the next day, having told what game the United States and its allies are playing with us, no one answered me and there was no reaction from the law enforcement bodies. I now understand that after the destruction of the Afghan Taliban, there is already a new project called Daesh, which took its place, and is quietly engaged in completing assignments. We, the residents of the Nangarhar Province, have witnessed that young girls and women in large numbers are with foreign mercenaries of Daesh, most of them are widows of militant-natives of the Central Asia republics and Russia. Some of them were caught and handed over to the Afghan security service," Kadir added.
The governor of the northern province of Faryab, and representatives of law enforcement agencies in the northern regions of Afghanistan, have repeatedly confirmed the growing activity and expansion of IS’ influence. One of the generals of the Afghan National Army in Faryab said on the condition of anonymity: "The northern region of Afghanistan has already been under the authority of Daesh for one and a half to two years; local authorities are not able to fight them. We saw this with our own eyes as to how foreign armies that are under NATO's roof in Afghanistan openly supply and support Daesh militants. They use helicopters without identification marks."
The general also cited the statements of MPs from the north, east, and south of Afghanistan about this dangerous situation. But no results have been achieved so far. The source also expressed concern that most of the Taliban armed groups that do not receive any military or financial assistance and are under attack from both the United States and ISIL will sooner or later join Daesh, as it is financed and supported from all sides. As a result, the war in Afghanistan can begin with a new force."
"Have conspired." Former Afghan President Hamid Karzai also accused the United States of collaborating with ISIL in his country. In an exclusive interview with the UpFront programme of Qatari television channel Al-Jazeera, aired on Friday, November 11, Karzai said the U.S. government has allowed ISIL "to flourish in Afghanistan."
Another source from the northern Afghanistan province of Kunduz, who was a security official working with Najibullah (the Afghan president from 1987-1992, who was killed by the Taliban in 1996) and served in the security department, stated on the condition of anonymity: "Our security forces have repeatedly monitored the movements of Daesh militants in some districts of Kunduz province. They had been divided into groups of five to ten people; there were women and young girls with them, who talk to each other in Uzbek or Russian. We even took them around the area of Imam-Sahib and Kala-i Zal, and after fierce battles, NATO soldiers and Americans met us, stating, ‘leave them to us, come back and do your work.' And we saw that NATO and ISIL met almost like friends and disappeared into the dark. And there were many such cases during my service in the Kunduz province. The majority of Daesh terrorists in the provinces of Kunduz, Tohar and Badakhshan, are from the Central Asia republics, and it seems to me that most of them are Tajiks. The militants of Daesh are easily moving into the areas bordering Tajikistan at present: in the districts of Yangi-Kala of Tohar province, Dar-Kat, Hoja Ghar and others. Most of the Tajik mercenaries, according to our information, even received Afghan civilian documents, which are called "tazkira" (civilian ticket) in Afghanistan. Some of them, with the support of the authorities and even people's members of parliament from the northern region, received passports, and it is possible that they, under the guise of Afghans, freely cross borders with Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and other neighbouring countries."
Regarding the activation of the Daesh in northern Afghanistan, one of the commanders of the Afghan Taliban, Mullah Abdul Quddus from the province of Kunduz, said: "Over the past one and a half to two years, Americans and their allies in the north of Afghanistan have been targeting only the Taliban; we have lost many of our friends due to their pinpoint strikes. We already feel that the Americans and other foreign forces are supporting Daesh rebel fighters."
Quddus also described the strange selectivity of the United States in the selection of objects for air raids. Thus, civilians were the victims of U.S. air strikes in the villages of Said-Azam, Garo-Kishlak and Sarasiab of the Chahar-Dara district of Kunduz province: the Americans received information that there were armed Taliban militants, but by the time the bombings took place, the Taliban had already left the villages. However, the United States did not bomb the villages, where Daesh armed militants were, on the contrary—they claimed that it was quiet there.”
A resident of the Imam-Sahib district of Kunduz province, Haji Muhammad Rahim, said: "When the Taliban commander Mullah Abdul Salam was alive, he fought with Daesh and always put things in order in Kunduz. But the United States did not like him, because he was supposedly an ally of Russia, and destroyed him. After that, it became more dangerous for us in Kunduz, and instead of the Afghan Taliban, there are foreign mercenaries of Daesh, with nobody to influence them. We, the inhabitants, think that Daesh is a project of the United States of America for the Central Asia republics to create a threat to Russia, because we are witnessing the activation of Daesh every day and the replenishment of their ranks by young people from abroad, including young girls."
Rahim added that there are no local Afghan youth in the ranks of Daesh, because ISIL does not trust locals and is afraid of denunciation by the youth. Although from time to time local youth are used to extract information for reward or to fulfil other assignments.
The fact that Daesh already looks like a new project of the West in Afghanistan is no longer news for the Afghans themselves. Residents are concerned about the support for Daesh by the U.S. government and its allies, as well as the brutal behaviour of the Daesh in the Afghan provinces. The majority of residents in the regions bordering the Central Asia republics are afraid that one day, Daesh terrorists will go to the neighbouring countries, and civilians will again become the victims of new bombings. The news of Daesh’s activation in Afghanistan has repeatedly been shared at international discussion forums, both in the republic itself and in the Central Asia states and Russia, but no visible or concrete measures have been adopted so far to resolve this problem.