An Afghan Taliban spokesman reportedly told an Iranian state-controlled media outlet that his fellow jihadists are “committed” to the annihilation of the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) branch in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region known as the Khorasan Province (IS-KP/ISIL-K).
The Taliban spokesman’s comments come after the Wall Street Journal (WSJ), citing Afghan officials, reported last weekend that they have reached a truce with the Khorasan Province in eastern Afghanistan.
Nevertheless, Afghanistan Times now reports, “As Daesh [ISIL-K] is making all-out efforts to gain a stronghold in Afghanistan, the Taliban declared full-scale war against the Islamic State.”
Iranian proxies have been fighting ISIS jihadists in their so-called caliphate of Iraq and Syria since the terrorist group declared an Islamic State in the region back in 2014.
Meanwhile, the Afghan Taliban has been combating ISIL-K for territory and fighters since the Khorasan Province announced its presence in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region back in January 2015.
Their mutual disdain towards ISIS has reportedly pulled Shiite state-sponsor of terrorism Iran and the Sunni Afghan Taliban closer.
“It is widely believed that some countries in the region are backing the Taliban against Daesh—a terrorist organization with global designs,” reports Afghanistan Times.
Moreover, Iran’s ally Russia, which has also been fighting ISIS in Syria along armed groups backed by the Shiite country, has allegedly been supporting the Taliban in their fight against ISIS in Afghanistan, a claim that the Kremlin denies.
WSJ noted that ISIL-K and the Taliban have decided to shift their focus to the U.S.-backed Afghan security forces, which launched an offensive in eastern Afghanistan’s Nangarhar province against the Khorasan Province in late in July.
Zabihullah Mujahid, the Taliban spokesman, suggested that his terrorist group is fighting ISIL-K in coordination with the U.S.-backed Afghan government, a claim that Afghanistan’s Ministry of Defense (MoD) seemingly denied.
“Our fighters [Taliban] are committed and ready to eliminate Daesh from Afghanistan. We will fight them [ISIL-K] in cooperation of Afghan nation,” Mujahid told Iran’s state-controlled Tasnim News Agency, according to Afghanistan Times.
The Afghan news outlet points out that “Mujahid expressed the Taliban’s support for the Afghan nation in the battle against ‘foreign occupation’ and the presence of Daesh.”
“Taliban is aware of the threat of Daesh and in cooperation with the nation, has prevented the terrorist group from gaining a foothold in Afghanistan,” declared the Taliban spokesman, adding that the majority of ISIL-K fighters are non-Afghans who do not belong in Afghanistan.
The eastern Afghan province of Nangarhar, which lies along the country’s border with Pakistan, is considered ISIL-K’s primary stronghold in the region.
“They [ISIL-K] have presence in a small area in Afghanistan,” noted the spokesman, indicating, “Daesh fighters are not present in other areas of Afghanistan, and the Taliban will not allow such presence.”
The U.S. military has said that the number of ISIL-K fighters in Afghanistan has dropped dramatically from its peak of about 3,000 to between 1,000 and 1,500 now.
ISIL-K has always been a much smaller terrorist group than the Taliban, which has been in Afghanistan for decades.
WSJ pointed out that the ideologies between ISIL-K and the Taliban are different.
The Taliban want foreign forces to leave Afghanistan and Shariah law to be established, while Islamic State wants to create a global caliphate. Neither wants to relinquish control to the other group.
Referring to the alleged cessation of hostilities between the Afghan Taliban and ISIL-K, U.S. Gen. John Nicholson, the top commander of American and NATO forces in Afghanistan, said the ceasefire “didn’t reflect a broader agreement.”
The Afghan MoD denied the suggestion that it was backing the Taliban in its fight against ISIL-K.
Gen. Dawlat Waziri, a ministry spokesman, is quoted by Afghanistan Times as saying:
All those who are fighting in Afghanistan and killing innocent people are our enemies. We will fight every terrorist group.
Afghanistan Times notes that Gen. Waziri refused to explicitly comment on “secret support” for the Afghan Taliban.
Waziri was asked whether China, Russia, and Iran are backing the Taliban in the fight against ISIL-K.
Without naming any country, he responded:
Afghanistan will not consider those countries as friends who are supporting militants. We want them [foreign countries] to support Afghanistan instead of insurgents. We want them to help Afghan security forces to fight both Daesh and Taliban.
Russia and China have coordinated military support for the U.S.-backed Afghan security forces.
If we’re not there [in Afghanistan] to provide influence, somebody else is going to be there, whether it’s Russia, China, Iran — you name it.