11 august 2020

Central Asia news

20 dollars caliphate. How militants recruit children and youth in northern Afghanistan

There are numerous reports from the northern provinces of Afghanistan about the arrival of well-equipped militants, who do not hide their belonging to the IS terrorist group (the banned terrorist organisation "Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant", ISIL, ISIS or IS Eng., "Daesh" Arab.) The Fergana News correspondent talked with residents, authorities, and learned the details of what is happening in the provinces of Balkh, Jowzjan and Faryab.

Thus, Mr Amanullah, one of the elders from Jarkuduk, the province of Jowzjan on the border with the province of Faryab, said that several hundred well-armed IS fighters appeared in Jarkuduk during the last days. Their commanders warned the residents to release their houses and schools where IS plans to set up their headquarters. "Before that, we very seldom saw IS fighters dressed in black clothes and wearing masks here. These militants, armed to the teeth, look very modern, it is clear that they are newcomers," said Mr Amanullah.

Maula Ali, the resident of Darzab district, supports his words: "Newly arrived IS, who speak Uzbek, Tajik and Arabic, have already set up headquarters and camps in some villages. They behave brazenly, like masters! Do not ask and do not request but demand and tell the inhabitants what to do. We feel that the local law enforcement agencies and the administration cannot cope with these IS. "

One teacher, who worked in the area of Islampanja in the province of Jowzjan, was forced to move to the city of Shibergan (the centre of the province) because of the arrival of IS. On condition of anonymity, she said: "The militants of IS, with whom I saw many young girls and women, recently arrived in our county and directly pointed out to local authorities to close schools and move around the city only with their permission."

Map of Afghan provinces and border states. Illustration from the ontheworldmap.com website

It should be noted that the Islampanja area is located along the border with neighbouring Turkmenistan along the Amu Darya river. According to residents, the IS militants are trying to strengthen their positions there.

The administration of Jowzjan province reports that, because of the threat from IS, residents are massively moving from their homes to the city of Shibergan or the neighbouring province of Balkh.

A spokesman for the governor of Jowzjan province, Muhammad Reza Gafuri, told Fergana News: "More than three thousand families, most of whom are residents of Darzab district, were forced to leave their homes because of the threat posed by the IS militants. In our region, over 60 schools were closed because of that. According to our information, in some schools, the IS militants staged a headquarters and administration, and they settled with the women who came with them in other emptied homes. "

The administration of Jowzjan province reports that at the beginning of winter and with the onset of a severe cold in the north of the country, the task of providing new housing to three thousand families is almost impossible to fulfil.

Nabiya Mustafazada, the member of the Afghan parliament from the province of Jowzjan, tells: "IS is currently training the youth in the northern provinces. If the central authorities do nothing and do not start cleaning up the districts where IS took power, then shortly the province of Jowzjan will fall completely into the hands of IS. Even some young people who studied at schools and universities are now forced by IS to serve them."

Halima Sadaf, the member of the city council of Jowzjan province, confirmed that there are reasons for unrest: "At the moment in Darzab district many of our local young people are already in the ranks of IS. Families of these boys do not even know about it, do not know where their children are. This applies even to 10-12-year-old children. According to our information, they are instructing either suicide bombers or spies."

The spokesman of the administration of Jowzjan province Muhammad Reza Gafuri specified in his turn: "We do not have information about several hundred young people who are trained by IS on our land, but we have reliable data that over 60 teenagers aged 10-12 years in Darzab district in the village of Sardara have been being trained in the ranks of IS. Only foreign fighters, natives of Uzbekistan, Iraqi Arabs, Muslims from France and Spain, have been recruiting these teenagers, according to our information."

A resident of the Darzab district said that, according to him, the county is already 90% under the authority of IS, and young people continue to arrive in the camp of militants in Darzab. Young people are taken from different parts of northern Afghanistan, and many do not even know what region of Afghanistan they end up in.

No less disturbing news came from the neighbouring province of Balkh. According to the information received, the IS militants were seen there in the Shortepa district and the Mardian district bordering with Jowzjan. Residents of these districts report that the IS militants invite, and sometimes forcibly recruit local youth into their ranks. One of the residents of Shortepa district named Khadija reported details: "Local youth because of unemployment, go to the ranks of IS for a fee. Some are paid $ 5 a day, some $ 10, and sometimes $ 20, all in afghani, but at the [exchange] rate."

According to Khadija, the IS militants, while recruiting, carefully check the local recruits. They are given tasks of varying complexity, and those who do not cope are being weeded out.

According to Fergana News sources in Balkh province, IS militants arrive there through the provinces of Samangan and Jowzjan.

The similar situation is observed in Faryab. One of the officials of the local administration, who wished to remain anonymous, said that the administration received information about the arrival of well-armed IS fighters in some areas of the province along the border with Turkmenistan. According to the official, IS appeared in the area of Khan Charbag and demanded from residents to persuade the youth to join them. Separately, they recruited teenagers who can carry out their assignments. The source is convinced that the law enforcement agencies of the Faryab province are all aware of the movements and location of the IS militants, but they have not taken any active steps yet.

The National Directorate of Security of Afghanistan confirms the concentration of IS in the northern region and reports that IS is rapidly spreading its influence in the Afghan provinces of Kunar, Laghman, Nangarhar, Badakhshan, Faryab, Ghor, Jowzjan and Balkh.

According to many Afghan analysts, the Afghan branch of the IS until recently had no close connection with the IS of the Middle East, Iraq and Syria, and in the mass consisted of the remnants of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan and other terrorist groups that used to unite with the Afghan and Pakistani Taliban. However, after the defeat in Iraq and the failure in Syria, the IS group in Afghanistan gained momentum: militants can winter in the Afghan border with Pakistan and prepare for the spring offensive in Afghanistan.

Nonetheless, reconnaissance is already underway. On the night of 9 December, the IS fighters have attacked the block post of the Afghan National Army and beheaded three soldiers in the Wama district of Nuristan province bordering Badakhshan in the north. The head of the administration of this district, Mr Inayatulla, confirmed this fact, adding that this is the first attack of the IS fighters in the province of Nuristan.

Fergana News Agency