DAESH in Pakistan and Afghanistan latest position

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On Saturday June 3, 2017, Pakistani security forces cordoned off an area Koh-e-Maran (Maran
Mountains) in Mastung district of Balochistan. Forces had received an intelligence input that two
Chinese who were kidnapped from Quetta were brought in the area. Security Forces initially took
it an easy task but very soon found that in these barren mountains there were caves where it was
not an easy way to enter. Ground troops first called in Cobra helicopters to shell the area and
pave way for the ground troops but the poly failed as helicopter was not able to target the exact
location. Then fighter jets of Pakistan Air Force were called but they too could not target the
required location, as mouths of the caves were deep inside hill cracks. Finally, Commandos of
Special Services Group (SSG) were flown from Tarbela near Islamabad to the location and they
cleared the area by killing more than 12 militants who were holding up for two days.
Who were these militants? Bloch rebels. TTP? Jamat-ul-Ahrar? Lashkar-e-Jhangvi? No. None of
the known operational groups was there. Instead, it was an operational base established by
DAESH from where it was conducting operations in Balochistan, Sindh, as well as adjacent areas
of Punjab with Baluchistan’s border. So finally, DAESH was able to establish its proper base in
Pakistan for the first time.
The destroyed hides of militants are called DAESH’s headquarters in Pakistan, which is an
alarming development. Pakistan’s official stance was that the group do not have organized
presence in the country. However, the situation in Mastug underscores a need to reassess the
official stance as well as measures to counter DAESH. The group was able to establish its strong
base in Balochistan during a time when entire country is undergoing Operation Raddul Fasad
while Operation Zarb-e-Azb had just been concluded. One cannot rule out existence of more such
hides of the group in the province.
DAESH in Balochistan has an alliance with Lashkar-e-Jhanvi Al-Aalami which is active in Baloch
areas of the province, have nexus with Sunni militant groups fighting against Iran for the rights
of Sunni population in Iranian Balochistan. The nexus gave DAESH ability to establish its sanctuary
in Mastung.
DAESH in Pakistan’s mainland is targeting mostly well-educated and politically motivated youth.
A recent arrest of a female medical student Naureen Laghari is stark example of DAESH making
inroads in not just male but female educational institutions as well. Many of those killed or
captured by Pakistani security forces in connection with DAESH are well-educated youth.
For Pakistan, another shockingly worrying development is that DAESH has found sympathizers
within militants fighting against Indian rule in Kashmir. It is worth noting that Kashmiri militants
kept themselves at a distance from International Jihadi organizations. Some of the groups
operating in Kashmir are also accused of fighting against American forces in Afghanistan but their
presence in Afghanistan is negligible and also they could not be traced involved in any incident
outside the region. Few of the Kashmir connected militant groups are on UN list of proscribed
organizations however, Pakistan believes that they were put in the list under pressure from India
and US. Currently China has put technical hold on inclusion of head of Jaish-e-Muhammad
Moulana Masood Azhar into UN Security’s list of proscribed personnel. Having said this the recent
indicators show that one of the famous commanders of the biggest Kashmiri militant group
Hizbul Mujahideen issued controversial statements against Kashmiri political leaders and
threatened them to slit their throats if they will say Kashmir struggle is not Islamic. Zakir Musa,
the Hizbul Mujahidden Commander issued another audio message in which he praised DAESH.
Although he did not announce allegiance with DAESH or any pan-Islamic group but his open
praise of DAESH and Al-Qaeda and then a reciprocity from Al-Qaeda in Sub Continent is a
worrying sign. Some militants in occupied Kashmir are also seen with a flag almost similar to
DAESH but with different color. Hizbul Mujahideen has disowned Zakir Musa for his controversial
statements.
Indians and Bagladeshi are also joining DAESH, which suggests that South Asian countries may
find a common enemy in coming years. However, Pakistan suspects that spread of DAESH in the
region is handiwork of Indian intelligence agency RAW. When U.S. dropped mother of all bombs
(MOAB) at DAESH controlled territory in Afghanistan, 13 Indian nationals were also died in the
attack. The news surprised many but Pakistan believes that DAESH in the area is being fully
supported by India through Afghan NDS. Its main objective is to target Pakistan. The group’s main
stay in Afghanistan is just adjacent to Pakistan’s border with Nangarhar province. Most of the
fighters it attracted from Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan. Its first Emir or head of Khorasan chapter
Hafiz Saeed Khan was also former commander of TTP Orakzai Agency. Therefore, those who were
fighting against Pakistan are doing the same under new name with new recruits.
In Afghanistan, DAESH’s headquarters is located in Achin District of Nagerhar province almost
opposite to Tirah Valley of Khyber Agency, which remain a hotbed for militants for a long time,
and they are still pushing from Afghanistan to take the area back. While it spreads in northeast
towards Kuner and Nuristan provinces and some parts of Badakhshan as well. Sources of Pakistan
Institute for Conflict and Security Studies revealed that the group has set up 18 preaching centers
in different parts of Kuner Province alone to preach DAESH’s agenda and recruit people.
DAESH also operates FM Radio network in Afghanistan Afghan forces claimed to have destroyed
one of its radio station last month.i Americans had also claimed to had destroyed one of their
radio station last year. However, PICSS sources revealed that the group has opened a new radio
station in Nuristan province recently. It also uses websites to disseminate its message besides
social media networks especially uses Telegram messaging service.
An analysis of video clips of DAESH Khorasan chapter suggests that the group has variety of
weapons at its disposal. AK-47 is most commonly used weapon among all militants while DAESH
in Khorasan (Afghanistan) has anti-aircraft guns, rocket launchers, small range surface-to-surface
and surface to air missiles, light and heavy machineguns, and ability to procure heavy explosive
as well. Recent truck bomb in Kabul had many tons of explosives and it is believed that DAESH
has carried out the attack although the group has so far not officially claimed responsibility of the
attack.
As mentioned earlier, Hafiz Saeed Khan was first head of Khorasan Chapter who was killed in a
U.S. drone strike in August 2016. Then Abdul Haseeb Logari was appointed Emir of the chapter.
In April 2017, Abdul Haseeb was killed in a Special Forces Operation by Afghan forces. After Abdul
Haseeb’s killing the group has not publicly announced who is the new head of the group,
however, PICSS sources on ground reveal that Mufti Mateeullah (A Pashtun cleric form Kuner)
and Amir Moawiya (A Tajik cleric from Badakhshan) are running the affairs of the group.
Majority of its fighters are young Afghans indoctrinated by DAESH’s ideologues. One can find
many teen ager boys carrying guns with DAESH fighters.
As DAESH flourishes on political issues of Muslim Ummah, it is least likely that the group can be
eradicated without resolving the political issues like Afghanistan, Syria, Kashmir, and Palestine.
i http://nation.com.pk/international/09-May-2017/isis-radio-station-destroyed-34-militants-killed-in-nangarhar

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