Pentagon: IS Group in ‘Exploratory Phase’ in Afghanistan

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The Islamic State group is in an “initial exploratory phase” in Afghanistan, the Pentagon said in a report to Congress, noting the Taliban retained its resilience in the war-torn country.

IS extremists have never formally acknowledged having a presence in Afghanistan, but fears are growing that the group is making inroads there.

The Afghan government and the U.S.-led international coalition fighting the Taliban are keeping a wary eye on IS, which has grabbed large areas of Syria and Iraq in a brutal offensive involving beheadings and forced religious conversions.

“All are collaborating closely in order to prevent this threat from expanding,” the Pentagon report said, citing “evidence of limited recruiting efforts” by IS in Afghanistan.

“Yet ISIL’s (IS) presence and influence in Afghanistan remains in the initial exploratory phase.”

On Tuesday the Taliban warned the leader of the Islamic State group against waging a parallel insurgency in Afghanistan, after a string of defections and reported clashes with militants loyal to IS.

“ISIL will likely continue to try to expand its presence in Afghanistan during the upcoming year, and it will compete for relevance with the Taliban and other extant terrorist and insurgent groups,” the report added, noting that the Taliban was also watching IS carefully.

But the report warned not to underestimate the “resilient” Taliban-led insurgency, identifying the Haqqani network as still the major threat to the U.S., coalition and Afghan security forces.

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