ISIL has established a foothold in Afghanistan, according to the UN’s envoy to the country.
Nicholas Haysom told the UN Security Council its presence offers “an alternative flagpole to which otherwise isolated insurgent splinter groups can rally”.
Haysom, chief of UNAMA (UN’s Assistance Mission in Afghanistan), said the development was of concern but played down the level of its resources in the region.
It comes amid reports an Afghan commander suspected of having joined ISIL had been killed in an air strike in the south of the country.
A dozen former Afghan and Pakistani Taliban commanders have announced in recent months their support for ISIL, which proclaimed a caliphate over parts of Syria and Iraq, and its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
As well as Afghanistan, ISIL has a presence – or groups pledging allegiance to it – in Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Syria, Iraq and Yemen.
Haysom’s revelation come as he delivered an upbeat message about the security situation in Afghanistan.
He said there was renewed hope for peace talks between the government and the Taliban, as well as constructive dialogue between Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Haysom paid tribute to the impact of Afghanistan’s unity government, sworn in this year following a disputed presidential election between rivals Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah. But after the US helped broker a deal, the two agreed to work together, with Abdullah becoming chief executive.
“These positive developments are a testament to the efforts of President Ashraf Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah,” said Haysom. “Their collaborative leadership remains essential for any peace talks to progress, for comprehensive electoral reforms to take hold, and for the implementation of the changes required to reinvigorate the economy.”
The last British combat troops left Afghanistan in October 2014, but some remain in a support role. There are around 2,000 US troops still in the country, conducting counter-terrorism operations.