Is ISIS gaining ‘serious’ ground in Afghanistan? Russia says yes. The US says no.

Foreign Fighters

2018-03-27 /

Over the last two months, Afghan security forces and U.S. targeting has eliminated more than 140 ISIS-Khorasan fighters. And while the pressure on ISIS-K coincides with pressure to bring the Taliban to the negotiating table with the Afghan government, officials say the two developments

“We are not interested in playing political games with the enemy, by empowering one terrorist group over another” Navy Capt. Tom Gresback, public affairs director at Resolute Support headquarters, told Military Times.

“ISIS-K and the Taliban are not only enemies of Afghanistan, but each other,” Gresback said. Our goal is to exert military pressure on all the enemies of Afghanistan, regardless of their affiliation,” he said.

Unable to take root in Afghanistan, ISIS-K relies on external support, but reports that there is a significant growth of the group are not based in reality, Gresback said.

At the same time, U.S. leadership in Afghanistan says its combating a narrative propagated by Russia that IS is, in fact, growing there.

“According to our data, the IS presence in northern and eastern Afghanistan is rather serious. There are already thousands of gunmen,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on Feb. 20, according to the state-run TASS news agency.

"We are alarmed as, unfortunately, the U.S. and NATO military in Afghanistan makes every effort to silence and deny [the IS group’s presence in Afghanistan]," Lavrov said.

U.S. officials, however, do not agree with that assessment.

“[U.S. Forces-Afghanistan] has no evidence of any significant migration of IS-K foreign fighters. We see local fighters who switch allegiances to join ISIS for various reasons, but the Russian narrative grossly exaggerates the numbers of ISIS fighters that are in the country,” Gresback said.

That sentiment was echoed by Gen. John Nicholson, the head of U.S. Forces-Afghanistan.That sentiment was echoed by Gen. John Nicholson, the head of U.S. Forces-Afghanistan.