Terror groups Lashkar-e-Tayyiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed have been expanding their footprint in Afghanistan as part of a carefully-crafted strategy of Pakistan’s deep state to fuel terrorism in Kabul and beyond irrespective of how the US-Taliban peace process pans out, people familiar with the development told Hindustan Times.
Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence, or ISI, is infiltrating the Lashkar and Jaish terrorists into the Islamic State-Khorasan Province that has been in tatters after the arrest of its chief Abdulah Orakzai aka Aslam Faroooqui and his top commanders by Afghan security forces.
Farooqui was replaced by Maulvi Mohammed as the ISKP new chief. Maulvi Mohammed also has deep links with the Lashkar-e-Taiba, counter-terror officials in Kabul said.
As part of the blueprint drawn up in Pakistan’s Rawalpindi, a counter-terror official in Delhi said ISI officials have created the financial and logistic support network to facilitate their operations. ISI officials were also present at a recent meeting convened by Taliban shadow governor in Kunar province Ahmadullah with top Lashkar and Taliban operatives.
The revelation comes days after a sanctions monitoring team of the UN Security Council spotlighted the role of the 6,000-6,500 foreign fighters who had been inducted into Afghanistan. The UNSC report estimated the Lashkar-e-Tayyiba had about 800 fighters operating with Taliban forces in Mohmand Darah, Dur Baba and Sherzad Districts of Nangarhar Province and the Jaish-e-Mohammed, 200. The Lashkar had another 220 fighters and the Jaish, 30 more, in Kunar province.
Security officials in Kabul said the ISI’s emphasis on pushing the Lashkar and Jaish terrorists came after the 29 February pact between the Taliban and the United States Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad. The agreement provided for withdrawal of United States forces drawdown in exchange for Taliban counter-terrorism measures, exchanges of prisoners between the Taliban and the Government of Afghanistan and other steps to reach a permanent ceasefire.
“The infiltration of the Lashkar, Jaish terrorists is the ISI’s joint backup plan with the Taliban. They can both claim to be working for peace in Afghanistan and yet, keep the pot boiling,” a diplomatic source in Kabul told Hindustan Times.
The terror groups have hit the ground running. Officials said the two groups have been carrying out operations in the bordering districts of Kunar, Nuristan and Nangarhar provinces along the Durand Line.
The relocated Lashkar groups have organised attacks in Afghan cities and ambushed border security posts of the Afghan National Defence and Security Forces in coordination with the Taliban, its sword arm the Haqqani Network and Al Qaeda.
There is a continuing effort to increase their numbers. In the last week of May, a source told Hindustan Times, a group of 30 Lashkar cadres had moved into Dangam district of Kunar province.
They were led by Bilal alias Zarqawi, an ex-ISI officer who had been in charge of a major terror training centre in Muzaffarabad in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir as well as for the Jalalabad operations.