The military offensive in Pakistan’s tribal areas which eliminated militants’ havens has led to Arab and Central Asian militants moving into Afghanistan, according to Afghan officials and local residents, the Wall Street Journal reported.
At least 400 families affiliated with militant groups—including members of al Qaeda and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan—crossed into Afghanistan in December and now live in the homes of locals in lawless parts of the country, Afghan officials say.
Afghan officials say these fighters aren’t engaging in combat, but their arrival comes as a robust Taliban insurgency confronts the government in Kabul. Islamic State, which occupies swaths of territory in Syria and Iraq, has also sought a foothold here. A tribal elder from Helmand’s district of Sangin, Haji Abdul Azizi, said he hosted a family of Arabic speakers for a night last week who said they were loyal to the Islamic State militant group.
“They were six men, seven women and two children,” he said. “They were speaking Arabic and two of them also understood Pashto.” The women of the group were armed and took turns keeping watch on each other during the night, Azizi said.
Afghan officials said foreign militants traveling with families have settled in provinces including Ghazni, Zabul and Farah. The largest known settlements are in Zabul’s districts of Day Chupan and Khak-e Afghan, areas that are largely under Taliban control. “They are al Qaeda, and some of them are armed,” a top security official in Zabul, Ghullam Jilani Farahi, said.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 30th, 2015.