Now that the US has left Afghanistan, hawks in Washington are warning al-Qaeda and ISIS will gain a foothold in the country. But the Taliban deny there is an al-Qaeda presence in the country and say the local ISIS affiliate is not the same as the ISIS in Iraq and Syria.
“We do not see anyone in Afghanistan who has anything to do with al Qaeda,” Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said at a news conference. “We are committed to the fact that, from Afghanistan, there will not be any danger to any country.”
The local ISIS affiliate, known as ISIS-K, took credit for attacks against the Taliban in Jalalabad on Sunday. But Mujahid denied that the group has a significant presence in Afghanistan. He also explained that ISIS-K is not the same as the ISIS that once controlled vast swathes of Iraq and Syria.
“The ISIS that exists in Iraq and Syria does not exist here. Still, some people who may be our own Afghans have adopted the ISIS mentality, which is a phenomenon that the people do not support,” Mujahid said. “The security forces of the Islamic Emirate are ready and will stop them.”
ISIS-K was initially started by mostly Pakistani militants who previously fought under the umbrella of the Tehrik-e Taleban Pakistan (TTP). The view that they are not an international terrorist organization is also shared by US military officers who have fought against ISIS-K in the Kunar province.
The US has previously supported the Taliban against ISIS-K by flying drones as air support. The Pentagon is hinting at further US intervention in Afghanistan in the form of airstrikes targeting ISIS-K, but the Taliban insist they don’t need any more help to fight the group.