Thousands displaced as Daesh battles Taliban in Afghanistan

Thousands displaced as Daesh battles Taliban in Afghanistan
Nearly 1.3 million Afghans have been internally displaced since a US-led coalition ousted the Taliban regime in 2001. (REUTERS)
Updated 28 November 2017

Thousands displaced as Daesh battles Taliban in Afghanistan

Thousands displaced as Daesh battles Taliban in Afghanistan

KABUL: Thousands of Afghans have been forced to flee their homes as a result of renewed clashes between Daesh and Taliban guerrillas in Afghanistan’s eastern Nangarhar province in recent days, Afghan officials and the UN said on Tuesday.
In the past week, Daesh fighters have overrun a large swath of territory held by the Taliban in Khogyani district near the Pakistan border, which prompted the government to mount a response, Attaullah Khogiani, a spokesman for Nangarhar’s governor, told Arab News.
“The offensive began this morning. It involves only local forces and covers both air and ground resources. The target is anyone who poses threat to the people and the government,” he said, adding that around 600 families have been forced to abandon their homes in the latest fighting.
Citing initial ground reports, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) said the clashes had led to the displacement of up to 17,000 people in the area.
UNOCHA explained that, since mid-October 2017, roughly 39,000 new internally displaced persons (IDPs) from the area have been recommended for assistance, 24,000 of whom have received humanitarian aid.
Since January, around 85,059 people have been displaced in the country’s eastern region, constituting 24 percent of the displacements across Afghanistan in 2017, it said.
Nearly 1.3 million Afghans have been internally displaced since a US-led coalition ousted the Taliban regime in 2001.
Aryan Youn, a female MP from Nangahar, said many civilians had died in the latest clashes and that Daesh fighters possessed far superior weapons to the Taliban.
“This time the fighting seemed very long and intense. There are fighters from various countries among the Daesh setup, including locals,” she told Arab News.
Local officials last week reported that Daesh beheaded 15 of its own fighters who wanted to stop fighting in Nangahar.
Youn said that unless the government establishes a permanent presence after liberating the area, people will hesitate to return, as they fear Daesh fighters will simply return when government troops leave again.
Daesh’s focus, she said, was to capture a road leading to Azar district, which links to the neighboring Logar Province, south of the capital city of Kabul.
A number of provincial council members of Logar have also voiced concern about the activities of Daesh in Logar recently.
Both Youn and Attiqullah Amarkhail, a military analyst and retired general, said there were no signs or reports that Daesh fighters from either Syria or Iraq had come to Afghanistan or were involved in any of the clashes in the country.
“They are mostly the foreigners who have fought for a long time in Afghanistan. Daesh may be defeated in Iraq and Syria, but they are not out for good and they are not heading to fight in other parts of the world,” Amarkhail told Arab News. “They will regroup and resurface exactly like the Taliban did after their ouster.”
Afghan officials say former Taliban fighters are the backbone of Daesh’s forces in the country and that the majority of the rest are Pakistani militants supported by Islamabad — a charge the Pakistani government denies.
Many Afghans are puzzled by how the terror group has managed to step up and extend its attacks in Afghanistan in recent years, despite the presence of US-led foreign forces.
Last week in Iran, Afghan Deputy Chief Executive Mohammed Mohaqiq said there are 10,000 Daesh fighters in Afghanistan.
Mohaqiq praised the role of Afghan mercenaries fighting for Bashar Assad’s regime in Syria and commended Iran for its support and efforts there.
His comments displeased officials and MPs back home, who warned they could provoke further attacks from Daesh in Afghanistan, particularly against Shiites, who have largely been the target of the group’s violence in recent months.