The growing Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) branch in Afghanistan has launched Voice of the Caliphate, a radio station aimed at recruiting militants and airing anti-government Islamic rulings, in the eastern province of Nangarhar.
U.S. officials have warned that ISIS is increasing its presence in Afghanistan, where the U.S. military has been fighting to deny safe havens to the Taliban, al-Qaeda, and other terrorists since October 2001.
“Officials have so far been unable to determine the location from where the station is broadcast, but government officials and residents have said it can be heard in [Nangarhar’s provincial capital] Jalalabad,” reported United Press International (UPI).
“The radio station calls on young Muslims to fight against the government and to join the ranks of the Islamic State,” added the report.
According to a recent Pentagon report and Gen. John Campbell, the top commander of U.S. and NATO forces in the country, ISIS’ branch in Afghanistan, known as the Khorasan Province (IS-KP), is very active in Nangarhar, which lies along the Pakistan border.
Khorasan is an ancient name for a region that covers large areas of Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, parts of India, and other surrounding countries.
Campbell, the Pentagon report, and Rep. Robert Pittenger (R-NC), the chairman of the Congressional Task Force on Terrorism and Unconventional Warfare, who recently visited Afghanistan, have warned that IS-KP is growing.
Supporters of the jihadist group want to establish “the base of the Khorasan province” in Jalalabad and “work their way up into Kunar” province immediately north,” Campbell recently told the Associated Press (AP), adding that there are “indications” that ISIS is trying to consolidate ties with the group’s leadership in Syria and Iraq.
Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty (RFERL) reported that ISIS’ Khorasan Province recently conquered new territory in Nangarhar, prompting many residents to flee their homes.
“It is clear they have their own radio and I think it is broadcasting on 90FM and doing too much anti-government propaganda,” Nasir Kamawal, a Nangarhar provincial council member, told TOLO News.
The “radio will have a negative impact on us Muslims and the new generation and youth,” added Fridon Khan Momand, a member of Parliament.
Afghan government officials are reportedly working to shut down the radio station.
“This radio is broadcasting from across the border and we had talks and maybe we reach a good result and remove the radio,” Attaullah Khogyani, a spokesman for the Nangarhar provincial governor, told TOLO News, without specifying with his office spoke.
The Khorasan Province has “seized pockets of terrain from the Taliban in Nangarhar Province” and is growing by recruiting “disaffected Taliban” and others, noted the Pentagon report.
On Wednesday, Afghanistan Times reported that 15 fighters were killed and 36 others wounded in fierce clashes between the Taliban and ISIS in Nangarhar.
Khogyani told Afghanistan Times that among the dead were 11 Taliban militants and four ISIS jihadists.
“Out of the 36 wounded, 11 of them belong to [ISIS] and 25 others were members of Taliban militant group,” he added, noting that two civilians were slightly injured.
“Hundreds of fighters from the two sides have been killed and wounded during the clashes his [sic] year,” noted the Afghan newspaper.
ISIS has been engaged in turf battles with the Taliban in recent months.
Besides former Taliban members, militants from the ethnic Uzbek minority in Afghanistan are also believed to be fighting alongside ISIS.
In September, the United Nations reported that ISIS is expanding its presence in Afghanistan, actively recruiting followers in nearly three-quarters (25) of the country’s 34 provinces.
A top Russian military official has estimated that 3,000 ISIS-linked militants are in Afghanistan.