- Afghanistan’s ambassador to the UK said the fanatics posed a threat to Britain
- The IS fighters were found in the border area between Afghanistan and Pakistan
- Over the past two years IS has established a foothold in Afghanistan as its ‘caliphate’ has crumbled in Iraq and Syria
Said Jawad said the fanatics posed a threat not just to his country but to Britain, as they could sneak home and wreak havoc.
He said both countries’ intelligence agencies were working to ‘make sure they do not pose a threat if they go back to the UK’, having tracked down fanatics with British passports.
The IS fighters – UK citizens of Pakistani origin – were found in the border area between Afghanistan and Pakistan. Mr Jawad told the Mail: ‘It is a little easier for them to operate in that part of the world – some of them speak the language. We see them as a serious threat for Afghanistan but also the UK.’
Over the past two years IS has established a foothold in Afghanistan as its ‘caliphate’ has crumbled in Iraq and Syria. Its ranks have been swelled with defections from other militant groups, particularly the Pakistan Taliban.
Around 900 UK citizens are believed to have travelled to Iraq and Syria to fight with IS, and hundreds are still unaccounted for.
He warned: ‘These people do not belong in Afghanistan, so it would be hard for them to move there forever. After a couple of months or a year, they will come back.
‘There are such big cultural differences between most of the Arab or European fighters and Afghans.
‘They are also not welcomed by the Afghan people – that’s why after being there for a while they try to find their way back home.’
Mr Jawad said the number of British citizens fighting for the group in Afghanistan had not yet reached the hundreds, but gave no further details. He added that IS in Afghanistan was a complex group made up not just of fighters pushed out of Iraq and Syria but also Pakistani terrorists, opportunistic criminals, warlords and drug traffickers.
But he said they were being fought ‘effectively and rigorously’ and he was adamant that Afghanistan would not become a new hotbed for foreign fighters.
He revealed talks were going on between officials from his country and Britain about a new training programme for Afghan pilots in the UK. In the long term, he hopes Britain will build a training academy for the Afghan air force in a city such as Kabul.
Last month Theresa May announced Britain would send another 440 soldiers to Afghanistan to train local forces, taking the total to around 1,100.
British combat troops had pulled out of the country in 2014.
Speaking on Radio 4’s Today programme yesterday, the new head of the Armed Forces, General Sir Nick Carter, said the mission there was ‘endless’.