Australia’s foreign minister said Monday there is a danger of Islamic State jihadists expanding operations to Afghanistan, even though there is little evidence of a presence there now.
Julie Bishop, hosting Britain’s Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond and Defense Secretary Michael Fallon for annual security talks, said she was made aware of “some evidence of a connection” between IS and extreme elements of the Taliban on a recent visit to Afghanistan.
“But there isn’t a great deal of evidence that ISIL (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) has a presence in Afghanistan,” she said.
“But there is the concern that should ISIL turn its attentions away from Iraq and Syria there is an element of the Taliban that would be receptive to its brutal ideology. We are aware of it.”
The agenda focused on the Middle East, including responding to the growing threat of IS, also known as ISIL or Daesh, and its recruitment of foreign fighters.
Islamic State militants announced Saturday they had beheaded Kenji Goto, the second Japanese hostage purportedly murdered in a week.
“We are certainly conscious of the need to contain, disrupt, and degrade and ultimately defeat ISIL, Daesh, wherever it exists,” Bishop said.
“That’s why our focus is so much on Iraq… and the fact that there are tentacles reaching towards Afghanistan just doubles our resolve to defeat ISIL.”
Bishop said Australia and Britain agreed that “we face an epic battle with this strain of terrorism, not only as open liberal western democracies but as nation states”.
“And this threat of terrorism that we have seen in the form of ISIL or Daesh, Boko Haram and others have territorial ambitions yet respect no governments, no boundaries, no laws. They have no regard for humanity or civilized behavior,” she said.
Hammond, who earlier visited the site of a fatal cafe siege in Sydney in December, said Monday’s talks took place in the shadow of the murder of the two Japanese hostages and recent Islamist attacks in Paris and elsewhere.
“Although the focus at the moment is on Iraq and Syria we should be prepared to see manifestations of extremist Islamist, violent extremist Islamism, popping up all over the place and we’ve got to be prepared to deal with them wherever they emerge, wherever they show their head,” he said.
The ministers said in a statement they agreed to continue close cooperation on counter-terrorism, and had signed a memorandum of understanding on the use of each other’s diplomatic facilities at times of crisis.