Fears ISIS fighters are securing Afghan passports and changing identities

Experts warn it will be harder to identify terrorists leaving the area

UN envoy Deborah Lyons said last year that ISIS had been 'increasingly active' in Afghanistan since the Taliban takeover.  EPA
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Counter-terrorism experts have raised concerns about the difficulty of tracking ISIS fighters in the future after reports some of them are changing their identities through the issuance of Afghan passports by the Taliban.

The Counter Extremism Project (CEP) think tank said it has received reports from officials in countries neighbouring Afghanistan that the Taliban has been giving passports to terrorists following the group's takeover of the country last year.

“This will, of course, complicate the identification of potential foreign terrorists leaving Afghanistan as these will likely travel with original Afghan passports and potentially changed identities”, the CEP said.

There have been fears that Afghanistan will become a safe haven for terrorists under Taliban rule.

Last year UN envoy Deborah Lyons warned that ISIS has been “increasingly active” in Afghanistan since the Taliban takeover, with a sharp rise in the number of attacks and an expanding national footprint.

“Once limited to a few provinces and Kabul, [ISIS-K] now seems to be present in nearly all provinces and is increasingly active,” said Ms Lyons.

Islamic State-Khorasan Province (ISIS-K), the local affiliate of the radical group, has emerged as the main security threat to the Taliban since they regained control of Kabul and western forces pulled out after two decades in the country.

The Taliban have been in conflict with ISIS-K for several years due to economic and ideological differences.

CEP experts say the number of ISIS-K attacks has decreased recently but the group still poses a “significant” threat.

“The campaign of terror attacks and assassinations claimed by ISIS-K in Afghanistan seems to have slowed down slightly towards the end of 2022,” they said.

“However, nevertheless, in November, ISIS-K demonstrated its ability not only to conduct attacks in the west, north, and east of the county and, as in previous months, in Pakistan, ISIS-K also claimed responsibility for an attack on a Shiite shrine in the southern Iranian city of Shiraz at the end of October, more than 1000km from the Afghan border.

“Therefore, ISIS-K remains a significant factor of insecurity within Afghanistan but increasingly also in neighbouring countries.”

Updated: December 22, 2022, 4:26 PM