Terror groups enjoy greater freedom in Afghanistan than at any time in recent history: UN report

10:21 AM Feb 16, 2024 | PTI |

United Nations: There are no recent signs that the Taliban, which seized power in Afghanistan in 2021, has taken steps to limit the activities of foreign terrorist fighters in the war-torn country, according to a report by UN chief Antonio Guterres.


The report also voiced member nations’ concern that terrorist groups enjoy ‘greater freedom’ in Taliban-ruled Afghanistan than at any time in recent history, especially noting the spike in the strength of the dreaded ISIL-k terror group which has nearly doubled from earlier estimates of 2,200 fighters following the release of several thousand individuals from prison.

“The security landscape in Afghanistan changed dramatically on August 15, following a Taliban military campaign that seized 33 of 34 provincial capitals, including Kabul,” according to the 14th report of the Secretary-General on the threat posed by ISIL (Da’esh) to international peace and security and the range of United Nations efforts in support of Member States in countering the threat.

The report said that there are no recent signs that the Taliban has taken steps to limit the activities of foreign terrorist fighters in the country.

“On the contrary, Member States are concerned that terrorist groups enjoy greater freedom in Afghanistan than at any time in recent history,” it said.


Member States assess that the strength of the Da’esh affiliate in Afghanistan – Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant-Khorasan (ISIL-K) – has increased from earlier estimates of 2,200 fighters to now approaching 4,000 following the release by the Taliban of several thousand individuals from prison.

According to the Secretary General’s report, one Member State assessed that up to half the individuals are foreign terrorist fighters. While Da’esh controls limited territory in eastern Afghanistan, it is capable of conducting high-profile, complex attacks such as the August 27, 2021 bombing at Kabul airport, which killed over 180 people, and several subsequent attacks, in particular against the Taliban and members of the Shia community.

The report further said that Da’esh in Afghanistan continues to be led by Sanaullah Ghafari, an Afghan national. The group is taking advantage of the turmoil in the country, including by recruiting fighters from the Eastern Turkistan Islamic Movement and the Turkistan Islamic Party, among other foreign terrorist groups.

Da’esh in Afghanistan “aims to position itself as the chief rejectionist force in Afghanistan and to expand into neighbouring Central and South Asian countries and is viewed by the Taliban as its primary armed threat. Member States are concerned that, if Afghanistan descends into further chaos, some Afghan and foreign violent extremists may shift allegiances to Da’esh,” the report said.

The report was prepared by the Analytical Support and Sanctions Monitoring Team, the Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate and the Office of Counter-Terrorism, in close collaboration with other United Nations Global Counter-Terrorism Coordination Compact entities.

Member States also remain concerned about the glut of weapons, especially small arms, that exists in the Middle East, Africa and Afghanistan, to which Da’esh, its affiliates and other terrorist groups could gain access.

“Such concerns have been exacerbated by the Taliban takeover in Afghanistan, given the large quantities of weaponry and other military equipment in the country,” the report said.

With Afghanistan facing a severe economic, financial and humanitarian crisis, there is a risk that tradable commodities such as arms and related materials could be acquired by organised criminals and terrorists inside Afghanistan and even that they could find their way into neighbouring countries, it said.

On February 29, 2020, the United States and the Taliban signed the Doha Agreement, which led to the August 30, 2021, withdrawal of US and Allied forces from Afghanistan.

Since the forcible takeover by the Taliban in August 2021, culminating in the fall of Kabul on August 15, the US has shifted to a position of pragmatic engagement in Afghanistan.


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