DAMASCUS, SYRIA (11:30 AM) – According to Zamir Kabulov, special envoy and head of the Middle East department in the Russian Foreign Ministry, there are currently no less than 10,000 armed and ready ISIS militants within Afghanistan, with more arriving every day mostly from Syria and Iraq.
ISIS has been mostly defeated in both Iraq and Syria after years of conflict in which the Syrian and Iraqi forces successfully pushed back the terrorist movement that once ruled around half of the two nation’s territory.
Iraq officially declared the country free of the terrorist threat on December 9, whereas in Syria the takfiri organisation has been reduced to small areas of influence in desert areas near the Iraqi border.
However, many ISIS fighters who fled those countries ended up in Afghanistan, where the terrorist group has as many as 10,000 troops at the moment, says Kabulov, adding that the United States has been continuously ignoring warnings by Russia and is still underestimating the ISIS threat to the Central Asian country.
“Russia was among the first nations to ring alarm about the expansion of IS into Afghanistan (…) Lately ISIS has boosted its presence in the country. Our estimate is that their force there is stronger than 10,000 troops and is continuing to grow. That includes new fighters with combat experience received in Syria and Iraq,” Kabulov said in an interview with RIA Novosti.
The majority of these ISIS forces are located near the border regions with Tajikistan and Turkmenistan, which adds an extra security concern for Russia as these two nations are considered Russian allies.
“ISIS goals are definitely to expand its influence outside of Afghanistan, which they use as a staging ground. This poses a significant security threat for Central Asia and southern parts of Russia,” Kabulov concluded.