US worried about rise in ISIS-K attacks in Afghanistan, official says

A Taliban fighter stands guard at the site of the August 26 twin suicide bombs, which killed scores of people including 13 US troops, at Kabul airport on August 27, 2021.

The United States is concerned Afghanistan’s Islamic State affiliate will increase its attacks, the new U.S. envoy to Afghanistan said Monday.

U.S. special representative for Afghanistan Tom West said the Taliban, which took over Afghanistan in August, are dealing with escalating attacks by Islamic State-Khorasan Province, or ISIS-K.

U.S. officials are “worried about the uptick in ISIS-K attacks, and we want the Taliban to be successful against them,” West told reporters on a call from Brussels, according to Reuters.

West said U.S. officials are also concerned over al Qaeda’s ongoing presence in Afghanistan, an issue they have discussed with the Taliban.  

Washington believes that the ISIS group could have the ability to strike outside of Afghanistan within six to 12 months, while al Qaeda could do the same within one to two years, Reuters reported.

West, who was speaking to reporters officially for the first time since he took on the role last month, was in Brussels to brief NATO allies on U.S. talks with the Taliban. He also consulted on a “road map” to recognize the Taliban government that took over the country after U.S. forces left at the end of August.

“The Taliban have voiced very clearly and openly their desire to normalize relations with the international community, to see a resumption in aid, to see a return of the international diplomatic community to Kabul and to see sanctions relief,” West said. “The United States can deliver none of these things on our own.”

West will next travel to Pakistan, India and Russia, and said Washington is planning for another round of talks with the Taliban in Doha, Qatar, a date for which is unknown.

The Trump administration in February 2020 signed a deal with the Taliban to end the U.S. military’s 20-year presence in Afghanistan under the stipulation that the Taliban prevent al Qaeda from training or planning attacks against Washington on Afghan soil. It remains to be seen if the Islamic extremist group will uphold its end of the bargain.

Washington closed its embassy in Afghanistan after Kabul fell, and West said it won’t seriously consider reopening it until the Taliban “establish a record of responsible conduct.”

Tags Afghanistan ISIS-K

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