The extremist group remains operationally limited, says spokesman for U.S. mission.
The Islamic State group is operating in Afghanistan but does not appear able to coordinate their operations in the country, a top U.S. military official said Thursday.
The extremist group is now considered “operationally emergent,” said Brig. Gen. Wilson Shoffner, the spokesman for the U.S.-led mission in Afghanistan. “We do have reports of them operating in different part of the country but again not in a coordinated fashion,” Shoffner told reporters, speaking from Kabul.
He added that while I.S. is not yet capable of carrying out in Afghanistan the sorts of coordinated operations it is conducting in Iraq and Syria, the U.S. has recognized “the potential for them to evolve to something more dangerous, and we take that very seriously.”
For now, the group, also known as “Daesh”, is unable to operate in more than one part of Afghanistan at a time, although those limited operations have resulted in some fighting, most notably against the Taliban. “We are seeing some fighting between Daesh and Taliban in Afghanistan. Usually this is the result of Daesh encroaching upon Taliban territory and interfering with established Taliban operations,” Shoffner said.
For months, I.S. has been trying to establish itself in the eastern regions of the country and to recruit Taliban fighters. The Taliban has repeatedly warned I.S. against expanding its operations in Afghanistan and a rivalry has emerged between the two groups. The recent confirmation of the death of Taliban leader Mullah Omar is expected to deepen divisions between the groups and to spur an increase in defections to I.S.
Afghan sources have said U.S. forces have hit several I.S. target with drone strikes recently, reportedly taking out Hafiz Saeed, head of the group’s Afghanistan and Pakistan operations.
Gen. John Campbell, head of the U.S. forces in Afghanistan, will brief the White House on the Afghan security situation this fall, a critical turning point in determining the future of U.S. and international military operations in the country.
Shoffner said the growing threat posed by I.S. in Afghanistan will “clearly” factor into the Campbell’s assessment.