Afghanistan's national security adviser says that the Islamic State (IS) is bent on using his country as a stepping stone for destabilizing Central Asia.
In a May 5 testimony before the Meshrano Jirga, the upper house of Afghan Parliament, Hanif Atmar said IS is particularly interested in Afghanistan for its regional strategy.
"Daesh (the Arabic term for IS) has turned into a regional and global threat, and it is now eyeing Afghanistan with special interest," he told lawmakers. "It is attempting to destabilize Central Asian states and other neighbors of Afghanistan by establishing a foothold here."
Atmar said the regional ambitions of IS, also known as ISIS or ISIL, were encapsulated by its insistence of referring to Afghanistan and its neighbors as the Khurasan province of the Islamic empire that it wants to establish.
He said IS values Afghanistan because it is also aiming to control its multibillion-dollar narcotics industry. Afghanistan is the world's leading producer of opium and heroin.
Atmar advocated the use of force to counter the rise of IS in Afghanistan. Atmar pointed to the February killing of purported IS leader Abdul Rauf Khadim in an airstrike in southern Helmand Province as evidence of his administration's resolve to tackle the emergence of the hard-line militant group now active in Iraq and Syria.
Atmar said the threats posed by foreign militants in Afghanistan increased after a Pakistani military offensive pushed militants into Afghanistan from the neighboring Waziristan tribal region last year.
"Militants from IS, Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan, Al-Qaeda, Lashkar-e Taiba and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan are now active in Afghanistan and are involved in the unrest in provinces as far as Zabul [in the south] and Badakhshan [in the north]," he said.
Militants claiming to be part of IS emerged in Afghanistan last year. IS bands have now been spotted across the country.
Observers say the group even threatens to relegate the Afghan Taliban to irrelevance by attracting its leaders and foot soldiers.
With reporting by Khaama Press