IS-K Gaining Control of Afghan Territory, Afghan Govt to Still Face Risk From Terror Groups: Pentagon Report

The IS-K has gained control of territory in Afghanistan over the last six months, according to the latest Pentagon report to Congress.

While the group’s power in Afghanistan remains limited compared with organizations such as the Taliban and al Qaeda, it has continued to challenge Afghan, United States, and coalition forces.

“During this reporting period, ISIS-K made territorial gains in eastern Afghanistan,” according to the Enhancing Security and Stability in Afghanistan report for June 2019. “Regionally, the group continues to evade, counter, and resist sustained CT [counter-terrorism] pressure.”

The report says that the IS-K wants to pose a threat to not only Afghanistan but the U.S., “which it continuously seeks to target for terrorist activity.”

Similar to other terror groups like the Haqqani network, al Qaeda, and Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, IS-K has sanctuaries on both sides of the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, making it particularly difficult to counter.

Like the Taliban, IS-K seeks to stage high-profile terrorist attacks, according to the report.
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One such attack occurred on April 20, when IS-K operatives attacked Afghanistan’s ministry of communications in the capital of Kabul, killing 16 civilians and six Afghan security forces members.

Overall, though, the report said high-profile attacks have decreased over the past year and a half.

The Pentagon has warned that a “robust” counter-terrorism capability must remain in Afghanistan against groups including al-Qaida, even if a peace deal with the Taliban is secured.

According to a Pentagon report which was released on Friday, the Afghan government, the U.S. and coalition partners will continue to face risks from al-Qaida, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria-Khorasan Province, as well as from some in the Taliban.

“Even if a successful political settlement with the Taliban emerges from ongoing talks, AQ, ISIS-K, and some unknown number of Taliban hardliners will constitute a substantial threat to the Afghan government and its citizens, as well as to the United States and its coalition partners,” the report says.

“This enduring terrorist threat will require the United States, the international community, and the [Afghan National Defense and Security Forces] ANDSF to maintain a robust [counter-terrorism] CT capability for the foreseeable future,” the report says.

The Pentagon’s assessment coincides with recent comments made by U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad, who touted recent progress made during peace negotiations this month in Doha, Qatar.

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