The Islamic State terror group enlists “partners of convenience” in Afghanistan and “outsources” terror attacks to Pakistan-based outfits like the Lashkar-i-Jhangvi and Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, according to a UN report. The 20th report of the Analytical Support and Sanctions Monitoring Team was submitted to the UN Security Council Al Qaeda Sanctions Committee at the United Nations.
It said that in South Asia, the al-Qaeda’s core continues to compete with the Islamic State, also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), for dominance over terrorist groups in the region.
The report said the current leader of al-Qaeda Aiman al-Zawahiri “is still assumed” to be in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region.
“ISIL in Afghanistan tends to enlist partners of convenience and ‘outsources’ terrorist attacks to other groups such as Lashkar-i-Jhangvi, and Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, a Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan splinter group,” the report said.
It said that the al-Qaeda core and its regional affiliates continue to actively cooperate with the Afghan Taliban in return for sanctuary and operating space.
“By embedding itself within the Taliban movement, the Al-Qaeda core also aims to maintain local bases of influence as a part of the wider Afghan insurgency and receives operational support from the Taliban for its regional affiliate, Al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS),” the report said.
It cited a UN Member state, which informed the committee that AQIS comprises around 200 fighters, who operate as advisers and trainers of the Taliban in southern Afghanistan. Individuals associated with the Al-Qaeda core are active in Paktika, Paktiya, Khost, Kunar and Nuristan provinces of Afghanistan, the report said.
It said that the ISIS core continues to fund the group in Afghanistan, noting that while sometimes the financial flows are robust, other times they run dry.
“In the assessment of one Member State, ISIL in Afghanistan would not exist without support from the ISIL core. However, the ISIL core has instructed its affiliate in Afghanistan to begin to develop its own internal funding sources,” the report said.
Further, the Taliban, through the al-Qaeda core, continues to wield substantial influence over regional Al-Qaeda affiliates.
“Many Al Qaeda-affiliated fighters from the Afghanistan-Pakistan border area have integrated into the Taliban, leading to a marked increase in the military capabilities of the movement,” the report said, adding that currently more than 7,000 foreign terrorist fighters are fighting in Afghanistan for the Taliban and Al-Qaeda affiliates.
However, the report notes that under the order of the al-Qaeda core, several of the group’s second-tier leaders had left South Asia for Syria “in line with the continued ambition of the Al-Qaeda core to play a more direct role in that ongoing conflict and use it to further its agenda”.
The report noted that in a video released in April this year, Al-Zawahiri tried to inject Al-Qaeda ideology into the ongoing fight, with the aim of expanding its support base and rebuilding its regional network in the aftermath of a potential collapse of ISIL in Iraq and Syria.
In the video, he directly addressed fighters in Syria, painting the Syrian conflict as part of the global fight against the “crusader enemy” and urging them to reject nationalist sentiment and wage a protracted guerrilla war against the Syrian government.