6,500 Pak militants among foreign fighters in Afghanistan; LeT, JeM play key role: UN Report

6,500 Pak militants among foreign fighters in Afghanistan; LeT, JeM play key role: UN Report

New Delhi: There are some 6,500 Pakistani nationals among the foreign militants operating in Afghanistan and the Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) and Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) play a key role in bringing foreign fighters into the war-torn country, according to a UN report.

The report, from the UN Security Council’s analytical support and sanctions monitoring team and issued late last month, indicated the Pakistani militants formed a significant part of the foreign fighters that pose a serious threat to Afghanistan’s security because of their activities and permanent presence in the country.

The report said the Afghan Taliban’s role as a credible counter-terrorism partner for the international community in the aftermath of the February agreement with the US will need careful monitoring because of the “number of foreign militant fighters in search of a purpose and livelihood in Afghanistan, including up to 6,500 Pakistanis”.

There was no immediate reaction from Indian officials to the UN report.

There have been reports since last year of the JeM and LeT, both blamed for high-profile attacks in India, sending in hundreds of fighters to Afghanistan following increased pressure from the world community on Pakistan to crack down on militant groups.

The UN report said Afghan officials highlighted Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), JeM and LeT among the foreign groups posing a security threat. All three groups have a presence in the eastern Afghan provinces of Kunar, Nangarhar and Nuristan, “where they operate under the umbrella of the Afghan Taliban”, the report said.

Afghan interlocutors said JeM and LeT “facilitate the trafficking of militant fighters into Afghanistan, who act as advisers, trainers and specialists in improvised explosive devices”.

The report added: “Both groups are responsible for carrying out targeted assassinations against government officials and others. Lashkar-e-Tayyiba and Jaish-i-Mohammed were stated to have approximately 800 and 200 armed fighters, respectively, co-located with Taliban forces in Mohmand Darah, Dur Baba and Sherzad Districts of Nangarhar Province.”

In Kunar province, LeT “retains a further 220 fighters” and JeM “has a further 30, all of whom are dispersed within Taliban forces”, according to the report.

The TTP in Afghanistan is led by Noor Wali Mehsud and the group is thought to have about 500 fighters in Kunar and about 180 in Nangarhar.

The report also highlighted the close and enduring links between the Afghan Taliban and al-Qaeda despite the signing of the agreement with the US in February. The agreement provided for the drawdown of American troops in exchange for counter-terrorism measures by the Afghan Taliban and intra-Afghan talks aimed at a permanent ceasefire.

“Early indications are that many, if not all, of these objectives will prove challenging,” the report said.

The report further said the Haqqani Network – a key component of the Afghan Taliban which Indian and Afghan officials have long contended has ties with Pakistan’s military establishment – continues to be close to al-Qaeda. It added that al-Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri met members of the Haqqani Network as recently as February.

The report also highlighted the presence of Pakistani militants in the Islamic State’s Khorasan chapter, such as commander Abdullah Orakzai alias Aslam Farooqi, who was captured with 21 others in Kandahar in March. Twelve Pakistani nationals were captured along with Farooqi. (HT)

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