- NATO’s Gen Campbell says ISIS recruiting in Afghanistan and Pakistan with ‘money being passed back and forth’
- ISIS terrorists say they could buy nuclear weapon from Pakistan within a year
General John F Campbell, the commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan, has said that the Islamic State (IS) terrorist group is recruiting fighters in Afghanistan and Pakistan, but they are not yet operational.
There have been fears of IS making inroads in Afghanistan since United States-led NATO forces ended their combat mission late last year, after 13 years of fighting insurgents.
“There’s recruiting going on in Afghanistan, there is recruiting going on in Pakistan. There is money being passed back and forth,” said General Campbell.
The Middle Eastern group, also known as Daesh, has never formally acknowledged a presence in Afghanistan and most self-styled IS insurgents in the country are believed to be Taliban turncoats rebranding themselves to appear a more lethal force.
“What we are seeing is that Taliban are rebranding. They see this is an opportunity to gain resources and attention,” Campbell said, adding that they were not operational yet.
While some Taliban members may be switching allegiance, the two groups, which espouse different ideological strains of Islam, are believed to be arrayed against each other in Afghanistan’s restive south, with clashes frequently reported.
In February, a NATO drone strike killed Mullah Abdul Rauf Khadim, a former Taliban commander and Guantanamo detainee with suspected links to ISIS, in the volatile southern province of Helmand.
Local sources in Helmand said Khadim, who returned to Afghanistan after being released from Guantanamo prison in 2007, had switched his fighters’ allegiance to IS.
Moreover, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has repeatedly raised fears that ISIS is making steady inroads into Afghanistan, which is already in the grip of a fierce Taliban insurgency.
Campbell’s remarks come at a time when the Taliban have increased their attacks in the country after launching their spring offensive late last month. It is the first fighting season in which Afghan forces are battling insurgents without the frontline support of US-led foreign troops.
Moreover, the remarks come in the backdrop of the Islamic State (IS), in the latest issue of its propaganda magazine, Dabiq, suggesting that the terrorist group is expanding so rapidly that it will buy its first nuclear weapon from Pakistan within a year.
The article, which the group attributes to British hostage John Cantlie, says that the IS surpassed its roots as “the most explosive Islamic ‘group’ in the modern world” to evolve into “the most explosive Islamic movement the modern world has ever seen” in less than twelve months.
The British photojournalist, Cantlie, is often used in the terrorist group’s propaganda and has made appearances in several of their videos, including a YouTube series called “Lend Me Your Ears”. Cantlie has been IS’s hostage since the past two years.
In the piece title “The Perfect Storm”, the militant group mentions other terrorist organisations such as Boko Haram, which recently pledged allegiance to the IS, uniting across the Middle East, Asia and Africa to create one global movement.
The article claims this arrangement of groups has happened at the same time as IS militants have seized “tanks, rocket launchers, missile systems, anti-aircraft systems,” from the US and Iran before turning to the subject of more extreme weapons the group is not in possession of – such as nuclear weapons.
“Let me throw a hypothetical operation onto the table,” the article continues. “The Islamic State has billions of dollars in the bank, so they call on their wilāyah in Pakistan to purchase a nuclear device through weapons dealers with links to corrupt officials in the region.”
“It’s the sum of all fears for Western intelligence agencies and it’s infinitely more possible today than it was just one year ago.
“And if not a nuke, what about a few thousand tons of ammonium nitrate explosive? That’s easy enough to make.”
An attack launched by IS against the United States would ridicule “the attacks of the past”.
“They’ll (IS) be looking to do something big, something that would make any past operation look like a squirrel shoot, and the more groups that pledge allegiance the more possible it becomes to pull off something truly epic.
“Remember, all of this has happened in less than a year. How more dangerous will be the lines of communication and supply a year on from today?”
For now, the capability of IS to obtain such a device is beyond the group at the moment.
However, it should be noted that the Islamic State is indeed a well-funded group having secured numerous oil fields in Syria and Iraq. Further, the group also sells artifacts stolen from heritage sites seized during its insurgency, sometimes even for six figure sums.
The group also extorts money.
The finances of IS have been estimated to be about $2 billion, but there is no way to verify how much money it actually has access to.
The threats come against a mixed series of wins and losses in both countries; the group has been driven out of Tikrit in Iraq but has overrun Ramaldi and the Syrian ancient city of Palmyra.
A recent call to arms from its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi also appeared to suggest it may be overstretched in some areas, with his speech urging supporters from across the world to travel to its territories in the Middle East.
In September last year, British Home Secretary, Theresa May, warned that the militant group could become the world’s first “truly terrorist state”.
“We will see the risk, often prophesied but thank God not yet fulfilled, that with the capability of a state behind them, the terrorists will acquire chemical, biological or even nuclear weapons to attack us,” she said.