UN envoy says IS now appears present in all Afghan provinces

A Taliban member stands guard in front of the rubble of a suspected Islamic State hideout following an operation against Islamic State-Khorasan, the local chapter of the jihadist group, in Kandahar on Nov 15, 2021. (JAVED TANVEER / AFP)

WASHINGTON – The UN envoy to Afghanistan on Wednesday delivered a bleak assessment of the situation following the Taliban takeover, saying that an affiliate of the Islamic State group has grown and now appears present in nearly all 34 provinces.

UN Special Representative Deborah Lyons’s comments came hours after the Islamic State-Khorasan Province – an ideological foe of the Taliban – claimed responsibility for two blasts that killed at least one person and wounded six others in a heavily Shiite Muslim neighborhood of Kabul.

The blasts were the latest in a series of attacks in Kabul claimed by the militant Sunni group in recent days, with Shi'ite areas in the west of the city targeted several times. The group has also launched attacks on Shi'ite mosques in the northern city of Kunduz and the southern city of Kandahar.

One car bomb blast in Dasht-e Barchi, in western Kabul, killed a civilian and wounded six, interior ministry spokesman Qari Sayeed Khosty said in a tweet.

A second explosion was reported in the nearby Karte 3 area, local residents said. A Taliban official said security forces were still gathering information.

UN Special Representative Deborah Lyons said the Taliban has been unable to stem ISKP's growth

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The Taliban, Lyons said, has been unable to stem ISKP's growth.

"Once limited to a few provinces and the capital, ISKP now seems to be present in nearly all provinces, and increasingly active," Lyons said, adding that the number of the group's attacks have increased from 60 strikes in 2020 to 334 this year.

The UN mission regularly receives credible reports of house searches and the "extrajudicial killings" of former security personnel and officials, she said.

Lyons warned anew of a humanitarian catastrophe as winter looms due to a failing economy and drought.

She implored the international community to find ways to fund the salaries of healthcare workers, teachers and humanitarian workers, saying humanitarian aid is insufficient.

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The economic collapse will fuel illicit drug, arms and human trafficking and unregulated money exchanges that "can only help facilitate terrorism," Lyons said.

"These pathologies will first affect Afghanistan," she said. "Then they will infect the region."