Militant Islamic State, IS, also known as Daesh, has stepped up recruitment of young people from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iraq, says US Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson. His warning lends credence to General John Nicholson”s assessment that many IS fighters in Af-Pak region hail from Orakzai tribal agency of Pakistan. IS in Af-Pak styles itself as Islamic State Khorasan. In fact, almost 70 per cent of IS fighters in Afghanistan are Pakistani Taliban who joined the group after they were forced out of their country.
“Since the United States and its allies have broken their back in the Middle East, IS militants are moving to other regions to recruit fighters”,Tillerson said, while speaking at the 10th Global Coalition ministerial meeting on IS in Washington on Wednesday, March 22.
“Today, … Daesh (IS) is resorting to many terrorist attacks in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, and many other places in Europe in order to send a message that they are still standing and they want for those young people to go fight in its ranks,” he said.
The 68-member global coalition against the IS is the largest in history and 23 of its partners have over 9,000 troops in Iraq and Syria to back the effort to defeat IS militants. Since Pakistan is not a member, it did not attend the ministerial conference. Afghanistan was represented by Foreign Minister Salahuddin Rabbani. He urged the US to send more forces to help battle the Taliban and the Islamic State extremists in his landlocked country.
In his speech, Tillerson said that the United States would increase pressure on ISIS and Al Qaeda and would work to establish interim zones of stability, through ceasefires, to allow refugees to return home. He hinted at establishing a safe zone in the Middle East for sheltering Syrian refugees.
Foreign Minister Salahuddin Rabbani has blamed Pakistan for most of the troubles his country is facing and urged the coalition partners to use their influence to persuade Islamabad to stop cross-border terrorist attacks. He welcomed a recent call by General John Nicholson, The IS in the Pak-Afghan region identifies itself as Islamic State Khorasan and many IS fighters came from Orakzai tribal agency, the US general said. the top US commander in Afghanistan, for a few thousand more troops to help Kabul defeat the militants.
The Trump administration has not yet said if it will respond positively to Gen Nicholson’s appeal.
Some 8,400 US troops are already deployed in Afghanistan, in the 16th year of the war and there are plans to increase that number to 15,000 to 20,000.
“We stand confident that the new US administration … will remain strategically engaged” and will make “an appropriate decision considering the prevailing security challenges still facing us”, Rabbani said.
Afghanistan has now stopped asking Pakistan to deliver Taliban to the peace table. Instead, “we want Pakistan to take action against the Taliban leadership. They should not support violence in Afghanistan.”
Dawn quoting two unnamed Taliban officials reports that Pakistani officials have hosted seven Taliban leaders in Islamabad to try and press them into peace talks ahead of a multinational meeting in April in Moscow. China, Russia and Pakistan are behind the initiative of the April meeting in Moscow. Afghanistan will attend the meeting. Washington has not said whether it would attend.
The Taliban team for the Islamabad meeting was led by Mullah Muhammed Abbas, who took part in direct talks with the Afghan government in July 2015 in Pakistan. Those talks abruptly ended as an announcement emerged that Taliban founder, Mullah Mohammed Omar, had been dead for two years.
Others at the meeting included former Taliban higher education minister Amir Khan Muttaqi; former vice and virtue minister Mullah Muhammed Turabi; Mullah Saaduddin from the so-called Quetta shura or council, and Mullah Daud who represented the so-called Peshawar shura.
A senior member of the Haqqani network that is allied with the Taliban, Yahya, also attended as did Latif Mansour, secretary of the Taliban leadership council.