MOSCOW, January 16 (Sputnik) — A top military commander for NATO's Resolute Support mission in Afghanistan says that the Islamic State militant group is conducting a recruitment drive in Afghanistan and Pakistan, the Army Times reports.
United States Army General John Campbell told the Army Times in an interview that his intelligence has confirmed a rise in IS recruitment-related activity. "We are seeing reports of some recruiting. There have been some night letter drops; there have been reports of people trying to recruit both in Afghanistan and Pakistan, quite frankly." The general notes that at present, "we've seen bits and pieces" of IS activity, adding that "we're doing deep dives into it [via intelligence gathering operations] to make sure we're seeing everything."
Campbell told the newspaper that IS has a "hard message to sell" in Afghanistan due to local Islamists' differing allegiances and ideology. "The Taliban have their allegiance to Mullah Omar and a different philosophy and ideology than ISIS," Campbell noted.
However, the general added that IS has potential in the region, since "there are people who are disgruntled with the Taliban," possibly due to not "having seen Mullah Omar in years, or they want to go a different way."
Last October, a spokesman for the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) group had told press that six Pakistani Taliban groups had defected from the TTP to pledge their allegiance to the Islamic State's Abu Bakar al-Baghdadi.
Pakistan and the United States have been working on increasing anti-terror cooperation since late last year, as extremist groups, including IS-affiliated ones, have threatened to grow out of control in the country's northwest provinces bordering Afghanistan.
"So there are people vulnerable to the Daesh [IS as it is known in the Arab world] message, and so we're looking at it very hard," Campbell said. The general noted that he's "made it a priority intelligence requirement for my staff, [although] I have not seen a whole bunch of it yet, to tell you the truth."
In late December, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told Russian business newspaper Kommersant that Russian intelligence has read "reports that [IS] emissaries have been sighted in northern Afghanistan," saying that this poses a risk to Central Asia, and hence to Russia.
Earlier this month, Iranian border guards arrested three Afghan nationals attempting to travel to Iraq to join the Islamic State, Iran's FARS News Agency reported.