The top UN envoy in Afghanistan said Monday that recent reports indicate the Islamic State extremist group has established a foothold in Afghanistan, a view echoed by Russia which urged the Security Council to stop its expansion.
Nicholas Haysom told the council the assessment of the UN political mission in Afghanistan is that the Islamic State group hasn’t stuck “firm roots” in the country. But he said the mission is concerned because of its potential “to offer an alternative flagpole to which otherwise isolated insurgent splinter groups can rally.”
Russia’s Deputy UN Ambassador Vladimir Safronkov said Moscow is worried about the rise of the terrorist threat in Afghanistan and the broadening of the Islamic State group’s geographical activities which are “spreading a radical Islam.”
In urging council action against the expansion of the extremist group, Safronkov said Russia is worried about “increasingly frequent reports of the worsening situation in the north of Afghanistan,” in areas bordering countries which were once Soviet republics and remain “our friends and allies.”
He said extremists in the once quiet north are actively engaging in propaganda activities and recruiting, and are setting up camp.
“The states of the region have legitimate concerns about this turn of events,” Safronkov said. “Turning it into yet another safe haven for fighters and extremists is categorically unacceptable.”
Afghanistan’s U.N. Ambassador Zahir Tanin agreed that there are reports of the Islamic State group penetrating more areas including Afghanistan “but the main enemy we face is the Taliban that continue to fight against us.” He added that there may also be “some splinter groups with more extreme orientations.”
All three spoke at an open meeting where the Security Council voted unanimously to extend the mandate of the U.N. mission in Afghanistan until March 17, 2016.
The resolution adopted by the council calls on the Afghan government, with help from the international community, to continue to tackle threats from the Taliban, al-Qaida, other extremist groups and drug traders. It does not mention the Islamic State group by name.
After the former Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan, Muslim insurgents helped oust the Soviet military. The insurgents, many turned warlords, then turned their guns on each other which led to the Taliban taking control of Afghanistan and offering a haven for al-Qaida. The Islamic State is an offshoot of al-Qaida.
Haysom, Safronkov and Tanin all stressed the importance of reconciliation to bring peace to Afghanistan.
The Security Council resolution stressed the importance of an “Afghan led and Afghan-owned” political process to support reconciliation for all those who renounce violence, have no link to terrorist groups and respect the constitution including the rights of women.
Tanin said the peace and reconciliation process is the government’s first priority, especially at this time “when violence affects increasing numbers of civilians and when the crippling triple threat of terrorism, extremism and criminality threatens to undermine the future of the Afghan people and the wider region.”