British Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson has revealed direct links between terrorist groups operating in Afghanistan and cells in both Britain and “the whole of continental Europe”.
The Tory MP revealed the threat in an interview with Sky News from Afghanistan’s northern city of Mazeer-i-Shareef.
“What we see is a real threat posed by these groups to the UK and we’ve got to be acting as we are to ensure that we do not see future Manchester-style attacks,” Williamson told Sky’s correspondent.
“We consistently see terrorist groups operating here in Afghanistan, [and] evidence of their links back not just to the United Kingdom but to the whole of continental Europe.”
The British Army is sending 400 extra troops to Afghanistan as the Government reveals that Islamic State fighters in the country are communicating with cells in the UK https://t.co/LnNL2lXLAd
— Sky News (@SkyNews) September 3, 2018
The report notes that thousands of foreign fighters appear to have travelled to Afghanistan as the Islamic State’s physical caliphate in Syria and Iraq has unravelled in the face of counter-offensives by the Western-backed Iraqi government and the Russian-backed Syrian government.
Sky’s sources would not confirm whether any British citizens were thought to be present among the foreign fighters, but suggested they represented a “broad demographic”.
The Islamic State’s franchise in the region — named IS-Khorasan, after the loosely defined historic term of the Islamic empire beyond Persia’s eastern mountains — is something of a rival power structure to the Taliban which governed the country and sheltered al-Qaeda until 2001, and this is part of the reason Britain has upped its troop numbers in Afghanistan, at the request of the United States.
The Taliban itself has been offered “unconditional talks” on a peace deal by the Western-backed leadership in Afghanistan recently — a development celebrated as a positive move by Britain’s deputy ambassador to the country after years of failing to bring the Islamist group to heel and build a competent government.