Just days after US officials reported a two week offensive against ISIS in Afghanistan ended with at least a quarter of the group’s fighters killed, Afghan officials are reporting that ISIS actually appears to be expanding its territory, and is setting up shop in the Zabul Province.
Officials described the new forces as awash in cash, and say they have established a headquarters in the Khak-e Afghan District, which has long been under Taliban control and is still considered a “no-go” area for the Afghan military. Officials claim this new presence includes some 400 ISIS-loyal families which relocated from Pakistan.
The director of the Zabul Provincial Council reported that they’ve been asking the Afghan central government for help with the matter for some time, and that “no one is listening to us.” US officials suggested the Nangarhar offensive is also chasing ISIS fighters south, which may bolster their ranks in Zabul.
ISIS has struggled to make major inroads in Afghanistan, where the Taliban has been the insurgency of choice for decades. The group has tried to trade on its success in Iraq and Syria and the perception that it is a much wealthier group with more global ambitions, which has attracted some defectors from the Taliban.