An estimated 6,000-6,500 Pakistani terrorists are in neighbouring Afghanistan, most of them with the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, posing a threat to both the countries, a UN report has said. The 26th report of the Analytical Support and Sanctions Monitoring Team concerning ISIS, al-Qaida and associated individuals and entities said that the terror group al-Qaida in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS) operates under the Taliban umbrella from Nimruz, Helmand and Kandahar provinces of Afghanistan.
“The group reportedly has between 150 and 200 members from Bangladesh, India, Myanmar and Pakistan. The current leader of AQIS is Osama Mahmood…, who succeeded the late Asim Umar. “AQIS is reportedly planning retaliation operations in the region to avenge the death of its former leader,” it said.
The Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), a “large terrorist group present in Afghanistan”, has claimed responsibility for various high-profile attacks in Pakistan and has facilitated others by Jamaat-ul-Ahrar and Lahskhar-e-Islam, the report said.
It said that many former TTP militants have joined Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant – Khorasan (ISIL-K) and member states expect that the group and its various splinter groups will align themselves with ISIL-K.
“The total number of Pakistani foreign terrorist fighters in Afghanistan, posing a threat to both countries, is estimated at between 6,000 and 6,500, most of them with TTP,” it said, adding that a number of other terrorist groups are active in Afghanistan, most operating under the umbrella of the Taliban but some aligned with ISIL-K. According to the member states, al-Qaida is covertly active in 12 Afghan provinces and its leader Aiman al-Zawahiri remains based in the country.
The monitoring team estimates the total number of al-Qaida fighters in Afghanistan at between 400 and 600. “The leadership maintains a close contact with the Haqqani Network. In February 2020, al-Zawahiri met with Yahya Haqqani, the primary Haqqani Network contact with al-Qaida since mid-2009, to discuss the ongoing cooperation,” it said.
The monitoring team also estimates the current ISIL-K membership in Afghanistan at 2,200. The leader is sheikh Matiullah Kamahwal, previously the head of ISIL-K in Kunar. The leadership also includes Syrian national Abu Said Mohammad al-Khorasani and sheikh Abdul Tahir. The team was informed that two senior ISIL commanders, Abu Qutaibah and Abu Hajar al-Iraqi, have arrived in Afghanistan from the Middle East.
The report said that ISIL-K continues to suffer losses in Kunar province, to where it moved from Nangarhar at the end of 2019. In April and May, the Afghan special forces conducted a series of countrywide operations that led to the arrest of the group’s leaders, including Aslam Farooqi (also known as Abdullah Orokzai), the head of ISIL-K, his predecessor Zia ul-Haq (also known as Abu Omar Khorasani) and other senior members.
According to some member states, ISIL-K is seeking to pursue “a global agenda” by implementing the ISIL core’s leadership approach, which considers Afghan territory a base for spreading terrorist influence across the wider region. “Although in territorial retreat, ISIL-K remains capable of carrying out high-profile attacks in various parts of the country, including Kabul,” the report said, adding that the group also aims to attract Taliban fighters who oppose the agreement with the US.
In case of further military pressure on ISIL-K in Kunar, the group is expected to retreat to Badakhshan and other northern provinces, it said. The monitoring team was informed that ISIL-K also works with networks of supporters in the Maldives.
On April, 15 2020, five government speedboats were damaged in an arson attack at Mahibadhoo Harbour on Ariatholhu Dhekunuburi, which ISIL claimed as its first attack in the Maldives. According to the member state information, the attack was a retaliation against the government investigations into extremism and drug trafficking.
“The attack was covered extensively in ISIL media networks in South Asia, with the al-Naba claim of responsibility also translated into Dhivehi. Member states remain concerned about the radicalisation and recruitment in the Maldives,” the report added.