Pentagon: ISIS growing stronger in Afghanistan

Pentagon: ISIS growing stronger in Afghanistan
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The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria's (ISIS) presence in Afghanistan grew stronger in the second half of 2015, according to a Pentagon report released Tuesday.

“The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant – Khorasan Province has progressed from its initial exploratory phase to a point where they are openly fighting the Taliban for the establishment of a safe haven and are becoming more operationally active,” the report says, using an alternate name for the group.

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The report to Congress, called “Enhancing Security and Stability in Afghanistan,” also details how the Taliban remains a formidable threat and the difficulties the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) face securing the country.

ISIS staged its first attack on the Afghan forces in September, attacking as many as 10 checkpoints in one day in the Achin district of Nangarhar province, according to the report.

ISIS also took credit for an improvised explosive device attack against a United Nations vehicle in September, according to the report.

ISIS fighters in Afghanistan have yet to attack U.S.-led coalition forces, the report says, but “the group’s recruitment of experienced fighters and commanders could increase its capability to do so over at least the next year."

ISIS is mainly recruiting from disaffected Taliban and Taliban-aligned fighters, according to the report.

The latter half of 2015 also saw an increase of Taliban attacks. Fighting has been continuous since February and includes some unexpected parts of the country, such as Kunduz.

From Jan. 1 to Nov. 16, for example, there were 28 high-profile attacks in Kabul, a 27 percent increase over the same period in 2014.

“In the second half of 2015, the overall security situation in Afghanistan deteriorated with an increase in effective insurgent attacks and higher ANDSF and Taliban casualties,” the report says. “Though the insurgency remains resilient, the Afghan government remains in control of all major population centers and continues to deny the Taliban strategic ground throughout the country.”

While the ANDSF is willing to fight and learn from mistakes, the report says, deficiencies in leadership, combat enablers, logistics, sustainment and ministerial capacity remain.

“A number of initiatives are underway to move the ANDSF towards a more offensive-oriented strategy grounded in intelligence-driven operations,” the report reads, “but to-date, these efforts have limited buy-in from some ANDSF and provincial leadership.”