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Afghanistan Emerges as Daesh's New Foothold in Central Asia – Observers

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The spread of Daesh (ISIS/ISIL) in Afghanistan poses a serious challenge to Central Asian states and southern Russia. Speaking to Sputnik, Afghani observers shared their views on the current situation in the country and the prospects for eliminating the terrorist group in the region.

"After the defeat of the Daesh (ISIL/ISIS) in Syria and Iraq, the terrorist group moved to Afghanistan, Pakistan, India and even, according to some reports, to Bangladesh," Abdul Kader Mesbah, an Afghani political analyst and professor at Balkh University, told Sputnik Afghanistan.

According to Mesbah, the northern regions of Afghanistan are of great importance for the terrorists who want to penetrate into the countries of Central Asia — Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and other countries in order to destabilize the situation there.

The academic opined that Afghanistan is the best foothold for the jihadists since it borders with Central Asia states. On the other hand, the turbulent situation in the country allows the terrorists to create their bases there, especially in the north where drug trafficking routes lie, he noted.

Mesbah believes that Western countries, in particular the US, are trying to throw sand in Russia's gears following Moscow's successful aerial operation in Syria. According to the observer, Afghanistan's northern regions could be used by the US as a bulwark against Russia. 

For his part, Dawlat Waziri, a spokesman for Afghanistan's Ministry of Defense, told Sputnik that Daesh militants have been almost completely defeated in the country.

"Daesh militants have been almost beaten in Afghanistan," Waziri said. "The group does not have a major center [in the country]. They were destroyed in the provinces of Nangarhar, Helmand, Farah, Orozgan and Zabol. Militants continue to operate in the northern province of Jauzjan, where they will be soon eliminated."

Afghani parliamentarian Mohammad Malek Mangal echoed Waziri, saying that the situation in the country is not as dire as it is presented in the mass media: "Small Daesh forces are concentrated in the provinces of Badakhshan, Orozgan, Konar, Zabol and Farah only."

Mangal suggested that the Daesh terrorist group in Afghanistan is mostly comprised of "dissatisfied members of al-Qaeda and the Taliban," who have united under the banner of the Islamic caliphate. The parliamentarian believes that the jihadists could be destroyed only in case the US and its Western allies provide support to Kabul. However, Mangal admitted that what the US has so far accomplished in the region is not enough to tackle the terrorist threat.

Meanwhile, Russian Special Presidential Envoy for Afghanistan Zamir Kabulov highlighted that, according to the latest estimates, more than 10,000 fighters have joined Daesh in the country. Russia has repeatedly expressed concerns over the increasing influence of the terrorist group in Afghanistan and offered Kabul a helping hand to cope with the problem.

"We are particularly concerned about the provinces of Jowzjan and Sari-Pul, where citizens of Algeria and France were recently detected among the active militants. Daesh is clearly planning to spread the influence beyond Afghanistan, which they consider their foothold. This represents a serious security threat, primarily for the countries of Central Asia and the southern regions of Russia," Kabulov emphasized in an official statement.

The Russian Foreign Ministry has repeatedly called upon Kabul to cope with the spreading terrorist threat in northern Afghanistan and Central Asia.

Speaking to Sputnik on December 23, Kabulov emphasized that the Afghan government and the armed opposition need to hold a constructive dialogue in order to settle the turbulent situation in the country.

At the same time the Russian envoy drew attention to the fact that "conditions for comprehensive cooperation" between Russia and the United States in the region have not emerged yet.

"It is caused by differences in the approaches to the settlement in Afghanistan. Washington's focus settling the issue by force is only leading to the escalation of the conflict," Kabulov told Sputnik.

The views and opinions expressed by Abdul Kader Mesbah, Dawlat Waziri, Mohammad Malek Mangal are those of the speakers and do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.