Confirming earlier reports that the Islamic State group now has a presence in Afghanistan, a senior Afghan army general said on Sunday that “elements under ISIL flag” were trying to recruit fighters in the country, according to a report by Al Jazeera. He added that daily clashes between ISIS and Taliban militants were reported from many provinces in the south.
“Masked men active in Zabul and Helmand provinces have raised black flags and are trying to spread their activities to northern parts,” General Murad Ali Murad reportedly said. However, he added, the Afghan army is capable of dealing with the militants.
This is the first time that a high-level local official has acknowledged the presence in Afghanistan of ISIS, which controls vast swathes of territory in Iraq and Syria, Al Jazeera reported.
The report comes just days after the Sunni rebel group released a video showing the beheading of a Pakistani army soldier, as well as militants from Afghanistan and Pakistan pledging loyalty to the group. In the video, Shahidullah Shahid -- a militant who was identified as a former Pakistani Taliban spokesperson -- claimed that several groups from Pakistan and Afghanistan had pledged their allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi -- the self-proclaimed caliph of the Islamic State group.
Earlier, on Thursday, U.S. Army Commander John Campbell, who is in charge of U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan, had said that he had come across “reports of some recruiting” by ISIS in the country.
“The Taliban have their allegiance to Mullah Omar and a different philosophy and ideology than ISIS, but, potentially, there are people who are disgruntled with the Taliban, they haven't seen Mullah Omar in years, or they want to go a different way,” Campbell reportedly said. “There are people vulnerable to the ISIS message, and so we're looking at it very hard.”
Mullah Omar, the reclusive “supreme commander” of the Taliban, has not been seen in public for over a decade. Although reports of his death have surfaced occasionally, the Taliban has rejected them as “baseless allegations.”