Gen. John Campbell, the commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, said that ISIS supporters in Afghanistan are trying to set up a base in Jalalabad, a city in the eastern part of the country.
Campbell told the Associated Press in an interview Tuesday that Afghans supporting ISIS want to set up a regional base in Jalalabad, the capital of the eastern province of Nangarhar, “as the base of the Khorasan province” and then “work their way up into Kunar [province]” northward.
According to Campbell, there are “indications” that “foreign fighters” from Iraq and Syria have joined ISIS supporters in Nangarhar, which is close to the Afghan border with Pakistan. He also said that supporters of the terrorist group in Afghanistan are trying to strengthen ties to ISIS leaders in Iraq and Syria.
“I’m sure there are folks who have come from Syria and Iraq–I couldn’t tell you how many but there are indications of some foreign fighters coming in there,” Campbell stated. “But they don’t have the capability right now to attack Europe, or attack the homeland, the United States. But that’s what they want to do, they’ve said that’s what they want to do.”
The U.S. commander said that many who have expressed support for ISIS in Afghanistan are “disenfranchised Taliban” from both Afghanistan and Pakistan. ISIS backers have been battling the Taliban in Nangarhar in recent months.
According to Afghan officials, ISIS supporters maintain control of several districts in the province and are also present in some southern provinces.
Concerns about the spread of ISIS have risen following last month’s coordinated terror attacks in Paris for which the terror group claimed responsibility. ISIS is also believed to have inspired the recent attack on a San Bernardino, California, holiday party that killed 14 individuals.
The news of the rise of ISIS supporters in Afghanistan comes two months after President Obama announced that he would keep 5,500 U.S. troops in the country into 2017 following evidence that the Taliban had its largest amount of power in over a decade.
Citing the rise of ISIS and other insurgent violence, lawmakers had expressed concern at Obama’s initial plan to significantly scale back American presence in Afghanistan to a small force by the time he leaves office.