Taliban reject Russian general’s claims of build up of Daesh militants in the north

Taliban members in Ghor province.

The Taliban’s foreign minister Amir Khan Muttaqi on Wednesday rejected claims that thousands of Daesh militants have grouped in northern Afghanistan and threaten the stability of Central Asia.

Addressing an event to mark the 34th anniversary of the withdrawal of Soviet Union troops, Muttaqi questioned how thousands of militants could be concentrated in one area yet “no one can see them”.

His remarks come a day after a top Russian general said at a press conference that the number of Daesh militants in Afghanistan had grown to 6,500 with as many as 4,000 concentrated along the border with Tajikistan.

The Russian general and Chief of the Joint Staff of the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO) Colonel-General Anatoly Sidorov said: “The number of members of the Islamic State’s Afghan branch, Wilayat Khorasan (ISIS-K/Daesh), has significantly increased to about 6,500, with up to 4,000 militants concentrated along Tajikistan’s southern border in the provinces of Badakhshan, Kunduz and Takhar.”

He also said the biggest threat to stability in Central Asia comes from a number of extremist groups that have gained a foothold in Afghanistan. The Islamic State and Al-Qaeda are the most dangerous ones, he added, as quoted by TASS.

“Besides, the policy of oppressing ethnic and religious minorities adopted by the Taliban leadership, as well as the lack of unity and growing discord among the Taliban movement, the deteriorating economic situation and the mounting humanitarian problems, contribute to the destabilization of the situation in the region,” Sidorov noted.

He also said that uncontrolled drug trafficking and illegal arms trade increased the risk of Afghanistan plunging back into civil war.