KABUL – Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militants have threatened to target Chinese, Indian and Iranian embassies in Afghanistan in an effort to isolate the Taliban from the handful of countries it counts as diplomatic allies.
The local affiliate of ISIS is attempting to “undermine the relationship between the Taliban and member states in the region”, according to a United Nations report on the group’s activities. The report is expected to be discussed later on Thursday at the UN Security Council in New York.
The militants are one of the Taliban’s most serious security threats, carrying out large-scale attacks in densely populated areas in Afghanistan. It was behind the deadly attacks against the Russian and Pakistani embassies, as well as a hotel in Kabul often frequented by Chinese nationals.
Saudi Arabia closed its embassy in Kabul on Feb 2 because of the recent threats made by the militant group, and its staff were evacuated to Islamabad. The Gulf country was one of seven nations that kept its embassy open after the Taliban took over power 1½ years ago. The Turkish and Qatari embassies have been placed on high alert.
While the Indian embassy in Kabul is not fully operational, it reopened in 2022 to coordinate New Delhi’s humanitarian aid to the Afghan people.
The threat is a significant setback for the Taliban in its efforts to re-establish international ties and gain legitimacy to help boost a battered economy. Following the Taliban takeover, almost all Western embassies, including the United States, relocated to Qatar.
The group’s current strength in the region is as high as 6,000 fighters, with strongholds in Afghanistan’s eastern Kunar, Nangahar and Nuristan provinces, all of which border neighbouring Pakistan, according to the UN report. The militants had ambitions to carry out external operations with access to various weapon systems, including small arms and light weapons in the Middle East, Africa, and Afghanistan, the report added. BLOOMBERG