Taliban cannot stem ISIS expansion in Afghanistan, UN says

Country's economic meltdown and humanitarian crisis will only benefit terrorists, world body says

A Taliban stands guard at the scene of an operation against an ISIS hideout in Kandahar, Afghanistan, on November 15, 2021.  The operation against Islamic State in Iraq and Syria - Khorasan (ISIS-K) - the local chapter of the militant group, killed four Daesh (ISIS-K) fighters and 10 were arrested.    EPA
Powered by automated translation

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, UN envoy Deborah Lyons said on Wednesday.

The Taliban have demonstrated an “inability to stem the expansion” of ISIS-Khorasan Province (ISIS-K), the local arm of the extremist group that has ratcheted up attacks from 60 last year to 334 this year, said Ms Lyons.

She addressed the UN Security Council after ISIS claimed responsibility for two explosions on Wednesday that rocked the western part of the Afghan capital Kabul, killing at least one person and wounding at least six others.

“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.

“The Taliban insists that they are waging a concerted campaign against [ISIS-K], but this campaign is worrying in that it appears to rely heavily on extrajudicial detentions and killings of suspected [ISIS-K] members.”

Two explosions rock Kabul

Two explosions rock Kabul

The local affiliate of the radical group has emerged as the main security threat to the Taliban since they regained control of Kabul in August 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.

Taliban leaders say they can counter the group and that Afghanistan will not be a base for attacks on other countries.

Still, the Taliban have also been grappling with an economic meltdown and humanitarian crisis after western governments pulled funding and froze national assets when the hard-line group regained power.

Ms Lyons said the collapsing economy will push more Afghans into “informal” sectors, such as drugs, gun-running and people-smuggling, and extremists and terrorists will benefit from fewer banking regulations.

“These pathologies will first affect Afghanistan, but then they will infect the region,” she said.

Updated: November 18, 2021, 5:06 AM