In the Nangarhar province of Afghanistan, several ISIS fighters linger about, questioning anyone who wishes to cross over a bridge built by the U.S.-led coalition in order to assist Afghans. ISIS fighters have now established control over much of the area and appear to outnumber members of the Taliban.
A local man who has seen more and more ISIS fighters infiltrate the area warned that ISIS is “firmly entrenched” in the villages and mountains he once called home. The man, in his mid-30s, stated that, “They are stronger than the Taliban.They are stronger than the government.”
Over the past year, governments from around the world have speculated about the capabilities of ISIS in Afghanistan. Afghan officials have described the threat as severe in hopes of bolstering international interest in the war.
A report recently released by the United Nations fueled the debate as the report claimed that ISIS was present in 25 of the 34 provinces in Afghanistan.
Despite the debate, there is one place where the problem is very real: Nangarhar, which is just a few hours drive from Kabul. ISIS is now very active in several local districts and has gained control of large territories.
By claiming these areas, it gives ISIS fighters easy access to travel to and from Pakistan.
Exactly what the growing presence of ISIS means for the larger war and for the citizens already living under its rule still remains to be seen.
According to locals, it seems as though a new force has arrived. Problems in the area began when members of the Taliban attempted to prevent kidnappings carried out by ISIS fighters.
Battles began between the two groups and some members of the Taliban switched sides and the district then fell to ISIS.
Former members of the Afghan and Pakistani Taliban are now members of ISIS. The local man said that there “might be a thousand men” claiming allegiance to ISIS. He described the group as “very well organized” and members wear a mixture of military uniforms and traditional clothes. They have long hair and carry serious weapons.
The local man further added that ISIS has started issuing ID cards to the head members of local families costing about $78. The cards act as residency permits for those living in areas under ISIS control.