Russia says about 10,000 Daesh militants present in Afghanistan

MOSCOW (AFP): Russia has estimated there are about 10,000 Daesh militants in Afghanistan and their number is growing because fighters fleeing Syria and Iraq are also heading to the war-ravaged country.

Moscow is particularly worried about an increasing foothold of Daesh militants in northern Afghan provinces bordering Tajikistan and Turkmenistan, Russian media quoted Zamir Kabulov, Russia’s special presidential envoy for Afghanistan, as saying.

“Russia was among the first to be sounding the alarms in connection with the emergence of Daesh in Afghanistan…. Daesh has significantly increased its power in the country recently. According to our estimates, the number of militants exceeds 10,000 and continues to grow, particularly due to new fighters arriving from Syria and Iraq,” Kabulov told the Sputnik news agency.

The Russian envoy claimed that helicopters “without identifying insignia” are transferring fighters and delivering “Western [military] equipment” to the Afghan branch of the terrorist group.

He further added that Moscow has repeatedly raised the issue with the United Nations and NATO, but has not yet received “a clear response” from them.

“We are regularly asking our NATO partners, who are in fact controlling the airspace over Afghanistan, about this issue, but we have not heard any reasonable answer yet,” Kabulov said.

Afghan officials, however, maintain that security operations backed by US airstrikes have prevented the Daesh from establishing a stronghold in the country. Defense Ministry spokesman Dawlat Waziri told media earlier this month that these airstrikes have killed about 1,600 Daesh fighters, including senior commanders, in the past nine months.