ISIS in exploratory phase in Afghanistan: Pentagon

WASHINGTON (AFP) - The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is in an "initial exploratory phase" in Afghanistan, the Pentagon said in a report to Congress, noting the Taleban retained its resilience in the war-torn country.

ISIS extremists have never formally acknowledged having a presence in Afghanistan, but fears are growing that the group is making inroads there.

The Afghan government and the US-led international coalition fighting the Taleban are keeping a wary eye on ISIS, which has grabbed large areas of Syria and Iraq in a brutal offensive involving beheadings and forced religious conversions.

"All are collaborating closely in order to prevent this threat from expanding," the Pentagon report said, citing "evidence of limited recruiting efforts" by ISIS in Afghanistan.

"Yet ISIL's presence and influence in Afghanistan remains in the initial exploratory phase," the Pentagon said, using another acronym for the militant group.

On Tuesday, the Taleban warned the leader of the ISIS against waging a parallel insurgency in Afghanistan, after a string of defections and reported clashes with militants loyal to ISIS.

"ISIL will likely continue to try to expand its presence in Afghanistan during the upcoming year, and it will compete for relevance with the Taleban and other extant terrorist and insurgent groups," the report added, noting that the Taleban was also watching ISIS carefully.

But the report warned not to underestimate the "resilient" Taleban-led insurgency, identifying the Haqqani network as still the major threat to the US, coalition and Afghan security forces.