Stories

Islamic State presence grows in Afghanistan as U.S. mulls withdrawal

Afghan security officials inspect the scene after an overnight suicide bomb blast that targeted a wedding reception in Kabul, Afghanistan
Afghan security officials inspect the scene after an overnight suicide bomb blast that targeted a wedding reception in Kabul. Photo: Haroon Sabawoon/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

The official government line in Afghanistan is that the Islamic State has been defeated — but local leaders tell a different story, the Washington Post reports.

The state of play: Talks between the U.S. and the Taliban on removing U.S. troops from Afghanistan have been ongoing for months, while the Islamic State's growing threat has not been addressed.

  • "Islamic State forces continue to terrorize villagers in areas under their control, forcibly recruiting boys and banning girls from school," per the Post.
  • Leaders "fear that some Taliban fighters will join the more ruthless Islamic State forces if Taliban leaders make a deal with U.S. officials."

By the numbers: The group is estimated to number between 2,500 and 5,000 fighters in Afghanistan, according to estimates from the U.S. military and the UN.

  • But government officials stress its Afghan branch has been reduced to attacking "soft" targets — like the suicide bombing at a Kabul wedding party that killed 63 people and wounded 182 others last week — rather than claiming territory like it did in Iraq and Syria.

Go deeper: Tom Cotton says he shares Trump's Afghanistan frustration