Washington’s top military general for the Middle East told the US House Armed Services Committee on Thursday that Daesh (ISIS) has a stronger presence in Afghanistan than it did a year ago.
General Michael Kurilla, the commander of US Central Command (CENTCOM) told the committee that “ISIS is stronger today in Afghanistan”.
“ISIS is a global organization. They have an organization called the Al-Siddiq office that is responsible for all of ISIS from Kazakhstan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, all the way down to Indonesia,” Kurilla said.
“They do communicate back and forth with the head of ISIS, the global affiliate,” he added.
Kurilla also mentioned threats posed by Iran to the US and said American forces had come under 78 Iranian attacks since January 2021.
“They use Iranian proxies — that’s either UAVs or rockets — to be able to attack our forces in Iraq or Syria,” he added, using the acronym for unmanned aerial vehicles.
In response to a question on whether these attacks were considered acts of war, Kurilla stressed that they are being carried out by Iranian proxies.
Earlier this month, Kurilla told US lawmakers that Daesh is closer to taking its fight beyond Afghanistan’s borders. He said the group has its sights set on the West and could launch an attack before the year is out.
“They can do external operations against U.S. or Western interests abroad in under six months with little to no warning,” Kurilla said on March 16.
The CENTCOM commander said there was a “higher probability” that Daesh operatives would target Western or U.S. interests in Asia or Europe, noting it would be “much harder” for them to carry out an attack against the U.S. homeland.
Kurilla’s assessment follows similar assessments by other top U.S. officials, who see evidence that Daesh is looking to make a statement on the global stage.
A week earlier, the chief of the US Defense Intelligence Agency Lieutenant General Scott Berrier told lawmakers that “it’s a matter of time before they may have the ability and intent to attack the West.”
He said Daesh is the “threat actor I am most concerned about.”
U.S. military and intelligence officials have said getting a more accurate idea of what is happening in Afghanistan has been difficult since the Taliban takeover due to the lack of a presence on the ground of Americans and the distances surveillance planes and drones have to travel before they can conduct surveillance.
“Our intelligence is degraded,” Kurilla told lawmakers on March 16. “We’re working to close that gap with alternative airborne ISR [intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance] and some of our other intelligence,” he said.