General John Campbell, the commander of international forces in Afghanistan reports that the Islamic State is recruiting fighters in Afghanistan and next door in Pakistan as well.
Campbell see this as an attempt for some Taliban to “rebrand” and as a way of bringing attention and resources to themselves. In other areas, this same type of change has led to a significant rise in Islamic State presence. In Libya, some members of Ansar al Sharia, an Al Qaeda-linked group, pledged allegiance to the Islamic State. Subsequently their strength grew and they now control two coastal cities.
In Afghanistan’s Helmand province, Mullah Abdul Rauf has pledged allegiance to the Ilamic State. He is a former senior Taliban commander and former Guantanamo inmate. An elder from the area told the BBC there had been a fight between the new group and the Taliban after they had replaced the Taliban white flags with the black flag of the Islamic State. The elder said about 20 people from both sides had been killed or injured in the clash. The governor of Nimruz province, Amir Mohammed, said the IS tried to recruit people in the south-western province of Farah but were driven out by local people with the help of the police. However, he said the group still had the same program, though they were changing their name.
The Taliban leader, Mullah Omar, has not been seen in public since 2001.There now appears to be a challenge to his leadership from the Islamic State not just in Afghanistan but in Pakistan too. In Pakistan an online video appeared in which several commanders claimed they had pledged allegiance to Abu Al-Baghdadi, the IS leader.
One Afghan news agency reported IS militants already were in control of most of the province of Nangahar in the north-east of Afghanistan, but General Campbell dismissed the report saying:
“We are not seeing it operationalized to the point of like what you are seeing in Syria. But I think, given time, that is where they want to go, so I think we have to squash that out now while we can.”
He did not deny the reports of Taliban and Islamic State fighters had fought with each other.
A suicide attack in the Afghan eastern city of Jalalabad killed 33 people and injured over a hundred last March. The Taliban condemned the attack but a former spokesperson for the Pakistan Taliban claimed the attack as the work of the Islamic State in Pakistan and Afghanistan. In a visit to Washington last month Afghan president Ghani claimed that the Islamic State posed a “terrible threat” to Afghanistan