Iran and Russia have warned the world of rising presence of the Islamic State group in Afghanistan, with their numbers having risen to as much as 2,500, raising red flags for nations surrounding the restive country. The presence of members of the Islamic State group — also known as Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (Isis) or Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil) — could lead to increased terror activities in Pakistan, and spill over into India.
Gholam-Ali Khoshroo, Iran's ambassador and permanent representative to the United Nations (UN) told the UN Security Council on Wednesday during a session on Afghanistan: "The onus is on the international community to help the Afghan government with its fight against terrorism and extremism as well as the security, political and economic challenges it is grappling with."
He pointed to a terror attack in Kabul a few months ago that had claimed 80 lives, for which Isis had claimed responsibility. Isis members are predominantly takfiris — Sunni Muslims who consider Muslims who hold beliefs any different from them as apostates. The Kabul attack had been on a procession taken out by local Hazaras, who belong to the Shia faith.
Meanwhile, Russia has also warned of growing presence of Isis in Afghanistan, even as the group loses its ground in Iraq and Syria, where it started off. Experts believe Isis is now looking to turn Iran — which was once the strongest base of terror organisations like the Taliban and al-Qaeda — into their own stronghold.
Zamir Kabulov, the director of the Second Asian Department in Afghanistan in Russia's Foreign Ministry, said his country was apprehensive of "the rise of Daesh in Afghanistan because it has far-reaching geopolitical consequences for Russian safety." He was using the Arabic acronym of the group.
"They continue to recruit people and enhance their combat capabilities. If they are not restrained, the chances are that we will have to face an even more powerful force," said Kabulov, who had served as Russia's envoy to Afghanistan between 2004 and 2009. He also said the group currently has 2,500 recruits in Afghanistan, a number that indicates it is gearing up for some serious terror activities in the region.
Given that Pakistan has long been believed to be sponsoring terrorism in the region, state actors in the country could redirect Isis from Afghanistan to carry out attacks in India.