In a desperate attempt to attract new recruits, the dreaded terror group ISIS continues to recruit from the restive Af-Pak border region even as the terror outfit is struggling financially in Afghanistan, according to a UN report.
The 19th report of the Analytical Support and Sanctions Monitoring Team about the terror group was submitted to the Security Council Sanctions Committee this week.
The report noted that a UN Member State reported that ISIS had around 2,000 to 3,500 fighters overall in Afghanistan but that number had not fallen significantly despite heavy losses sustained in 2016.
"ISIL (also known as ISIS) continues to be able to recruit from the Afghanistan/Pakistan border region, and the increasing refugee population in Afghanistan may provide a fertile recruitment group. ISIL was aware of that possibility," the report said.
Member States also confirmed that ISIS leader in Afghanistan Hafiz Saeed Khan had been killed by an air strike in July 2016. Khan was not listed as a terrorist under the UN.
"Al-Qaida core leaders in the region had been decimated over the past nine years and reduced to acting as figureheads. The Al-Qaida leader, Aiman Muhammed Rabi al-Zawahiri is not sending people or money to affiliates and finds it very hard to communicate with them.
"While the Al-Qaida core knows that it cannot leave the area, it remains hopeful that the Taliban will be successful and that it can 'piggyback' on that success," it said.
The report said that ISIS is struggling financially in Afghanistan, where it has resorted to extortion of the local population and has had to stop paying its fighters at times but the lack of funds has not impacted its ambition.
"Nonetheless, the lack of funds does not appear to hamper its ambition, with Member States noting that it appears to be well equipped and uses military-grade explosives for improvised explosive device attacks in Kabul," it said.
The report, however, added that during the past 12 months, the group had lost a considerable amount of territory in eastern Afghanistan and its ability to take and hold territory was also affected by clashes with Taliban fighters competing for local influence, especially for resources, funding and manpower.
It added that al-Qaeda fighters and in particular "cells identifying themselves as loyal to Al-Qaida in the Indian Subcontinent have taken on a more active supporting role in Afghanistan for Taliban groups."
Fighters loyal to al-Qaeda-affiliated groups, including Lashkar-e-Tayyiba and Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan, who had relocated into Afghanistan, continue to fight within Taliban groups, it said.
A member state reported that the outfit Harakat-ul Jihad Islami was active in areas bordering Bangladesh and that it cooperated with al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent and Lashkar-e-Tayyiba within the region.
(With inputs from PTI)