UN’s counter-terror committee warns ISIS is expanding and exploiting Afghanistan

The UN’s counter-terror committee has said the threat posed by ISIS still exists and that the terror group is “expanding and exploiting” Afghanistan.

In its latest report to the UN Security Council on ISIS, the Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate (CTED) says the group needs to be “closely monitored” following the death of its leader, Muhammad Al Mawla, also known as Abu Ibrahim Al Hashimi Al Qurayshi.

Al Qurayshi was killed in February when he detonated a bomb in the third-storey apartment he and his family shared in Atmeh village in north-western Syria as US forces closed in.

The warning comes as the head of Britain’s domestic intelligence service, Ken McCallum, said that Afghanistan is becoming a hotbed for terrorism.

He says the service has evidence of terrorist groups gathering in Afghanistan and recruits are travelling to join them.

Weixiong Chen, the acting executive director of CTED, says ISIS is expanding.

“The threat of ISIS persists, as the group and its affiliates continue to recalibrate their strategic and operational approaches,” he said.

“ISIS has become more decentralised, with supporters notably emerging and expanding their operations in battlefields of West, East, Southern and Central Africa. and is also seeking to exploit recent developments in Afghanistan.

“It has also continued to regroup in its traditional geographical centre, resulting in a resurgence of violence in Iraq and the Syrian Arab Republic. Developments following the recent death of the ISIS leader should be closely monitored.”

He also said nations need to continue to monitor terrorism financing.

“Monitoring and suppressing the flow of funds to ISIS and other terrorist groups also remains an imperative for the international community.”

Mr Chen added that the pandemic has created “fertile ground” for the expansion of terrorism.

“The pandemic has also influenced existing trends in terrorism and violent extremism conducive to terrorism, and has also generated human rights concerns, which may provide fertile ground for further exploitation and potential radicalisation to violence,” he said.

“The challenges that have arisen during the pandemic have curtailed not only counter-terrorism operations, but also civil society and humanitarian outreach, thereby worsening pre-existing conditions of displacement and insecurity.

“The lack of measures and strategies to ensure safe and voluntary repatriation, as well as comprehensive and tailored prosecution, rehabilitation, reintegration, may also expose already vulnerable populations to further violence.”

After the Taliban regained control of Afghanistan in August, there were fears that the country would again become a safe haven for terrorist groups despite Taliban leaders vowing not to shelter them.

In August, ISIS claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing outside Kabul airport that killed 170 Afghan civilians and 13 US soldiers who had been involved in evacuation efforts.