'Pakistan based terrorist outfits pose a big security challenge to Afghanistan'
WASHINGTON (Pajhwok): Pakistan-based terrorist groups which use the safe havens for terrorist activities in Afghanistan posed a big challenge to the US forces inside Afghanistan, a top American general said Thursday.
“What we're seeing with the sanctuaries in Pakistan is typical of some of the ways these terrorist organizations operate. They don't respect international boundaries and they take advantage of political boundaries,” Brigadier General Wilson Shoffner, Deputy Chief of Staff for Communications, Resolute Support Mission told Pentagon reporters.
Referring to the recent remarks of President Ashraf Ghani in which he stressed the importance of a regional approach, Shoffner said he had said that he had been fighting insurgents from around the region in Afghanistan, and that should not be only his problem.
He said the leaders of the regional countries should make commitment to eradicate terrorist sanctuary on both sides of the border and only fighting insurgents in Afghanistan may not produce results.
There was need for a joint military action against the terrorist to seek a regional solution to the problem, adding that anti-terrorist offensives by a single country referring to Pakistan may not be affective on the regional level.
Shoffner said High-profile attacks are down quite significantly from 2015 compared to 2014. “But whenever you have a high-profile attack, especially in a densely populated city like Kabul, it does unfortunately cause civilian casualties. So that remains a concern,” he said.
Responding to a question on the presence of ISIS in Afghanistan, he said they are operational emergent. “What we're not seeing is Daesh having the ability from either Iraq or Syria to orchestrate operations in Afghanistan. We're not seeing Daesh having the ability to conduct operations in Afghanistan in more than one place at a time,” he said.
“We are seeing Daesh attempting to do low-level recruiting and propaganda in various places in the country. Almost all of those, with the exception of Nangarhar province in the east are unsuccessful. So, very, very low level activity, with the exception of the east,” he added.
“And in the east, in Nangarhar province, we're seeing Daesh attempting to establish a base of operations there. Afghan Security Forces have had quite a bit of success against them. In the past few weeks, we, the U.S., have increased significantly our pressure on Daesh. Part of this was enabled by the recent change in authorities, which has given us additional flexibility against Daesh,” the US commander said.
Daesh, currently, is contained largely to four or five districts in the southern part of Nangarhar province. He estimated the number of ISIS fighters in Afghanistan to be in the range of 1,000 to 3,000.
“Throughout the country, it's very, very small numbers. Largely, it is rebranding. We're seeing primarily former TTP, some former Taliban pledging to Daesh. We're not exactly sure what their motivation is,” Shoffner said.
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