ISIL in 'exploratory phase' in Afghanistan: Pentagon
WASHINGTON - Agence France-Presse
In this photograph taken January 23, 2010, Taliban fighters pose during a patrol in Ghazni province. AFP PhotoIslamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) is in an "initial exploratory phase" in Afghanistan, the Pentagon said in a report to Congress, noting the Taliban retained its resilience in the war-torn country.
ISIL extremists have never formally acknowledged having a presence in Afghanistan, but fears are growing that the group is making inroads there.
The Afghan government and the US-led international coalition fighting the Taliban are keeping a wary eye on ISIL, which has grabbed large areas of Syria and Iraq in a brutal offensive involving beheadings and forced religious conversions.
"All are collaborating closely in order to prevent this threat from expanding," the Pentagon report said, citing "evidence of limited recruiting efforts" by ISIL in Afghanistan.
"Yet ISIL's presence and influence in Afghanistan remains in the initial exploratory phase."
On June 16 the Taliban warned the leader of ISIL against waging a parallel insurgency in Afghanistan, after a string of defections and reported clashes with militants loyal to ISIL.
"ISIL will likely continue to try to expand its presence in Afghanistan during the upcoming year, and it will compete for relevance with the Taliban and other extant terrorist and insurgent groups," the report added, noting that the Taliban was also watching ISIL carefully.
But the report warned not to underestimate the "resilient" Taliban-led insurgency, identifying the Haqqani network as still the major threat to the US, coalition and Afghan security forces.