Peshawar: As Pakistan fights terrorist menace expanding its claws in the nation, a Pakistani daily has claimed that another virulent threat in the form of dreaded Islamic state (ISIS) is breeding on the country’s western borders in Afghanistan, where local residents and journalists say the self-styled Islamic State or Daesh has gained a toehold to spread its influence on both sides of the borders.
The group has resources and manpower and found safe havens in the foothills of the White Mountain (Speen Ghar) on the other side of the Durand Line, where it has virtually established its writ.
This mighty mountain range is serving as a natural barrier to the spillover of the IS from Afghanistan’s Nangarhar province to the adjacent areas of Fata. Reports from the areas across the border suggest the IS has effectively controlled three districts in Nangarhar that lies in the foothills of the White Mountain.
The Taliban have been driven out, while the Afghan government has already lost its control over these areas. Around 20,000 families mostly from Shinwari tribe have been forced to migrate to Jalalabad, the provincial capital, over threats, reports foreign media.
An Afghan journalist from Nangarhar said the IS had a complete hold at least in three districts, including Achin. He said the situation was the worst and that civilians were being tortured as the Taliban and Afghan government had vacated those areas.
“My family hasn’t gone to the village since the IS emerged there.”
Like the proscribed Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), the IS is also a syndicate of different militant commanders from Pakistan and Afghanistan. Militants, who were expelled from Khyber, Orakzai and central Kurram agencies in the wake of operations by the Pakistan Army, moved to Afghanistan and set up bases in the White Mountain’s foothills.
Several TTP commanders had declared their allegiance to IS head Abu Bakar Al Baghdadi. Significantly, Commander Hafiz Saeed, who has been declared representative of Baghdadi and head of the so-called Khorassan State consisting of parts of Pakistan and Afghanistan, also belongs to Orakzai Agency.
One Afghan source said most of IS fighters came from Orakzai Agency. He said the IS had restored abandoned infrastructure of the Afghan Mujahideen in Achin district. A senior leader of Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl from Hangu also substantiated tip of the Afghan source and said a large number of people had been recruited from Orakzai and Hangu for the IS.
“Certainly, a large number of people has joined IS for fighting in the Middle East,” he said.
A report submitted by the Balochistan government in November 2014 had also confirmed a large-scale recruitment for the IS in Kurram, Orakzai and adjacent Hangu district. Location of the place, where the IS has established its stronghold, is important. The White Mountain that demarcates Khyber and Kurram agencies from Nangarhar on one hand is natural protection wall to stop physical spillover of the IS, but its deep passes and gorges on the other can serve the most secured spots for the group.