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'Unprecedented' Surge Of Militants Plagues Afghanistan, UN Told

Afghan local police (ALP) keep watch at a checkpoint at Chardara district in Kunduz province on June 23.
Afghan local police (ALP) keep watch at a checkpoint at Chardara district in Kunduz province on June 23.

Afghanistan is under attack from "an unprecedented convergence" of Taliban insurgents, more than 7,000 foreign fighters, and other violent groups including the Islamic State, Afghanistan's ambassador to the United Nations said.

In a presentation to the UN Security Council before it approved a resolution condemning the attack on Afghanistan's Parliament June 23, Zahir Tanin said militant groups are seeking to control entire districts and provinces of the country as bases for their activities in Afghanistan, central and south Asia.

The signature of the groups is the rash of suicide bombings, improvised explosive devices, hostage-taking, and assassinations seen in Afghanistan recently, he said.

Nicholas Haysom, the UN's envoy to Afghanistan, told the security council that Afghan forces have been stretched and tested, and have faced many operational challenges since taking on full security responsibilities following the end of U.S. and NATO combat missions.

"Afghanistan is meeting its security challenges," even in the face of the intensifying conflict across the country, he said.

The commitment of Afghan troops "is beyond question," Haysom said, "and they are demonstrating resilience in the face of insurgent efforts to take and hold ground."

Both Tanin and Haysom said the influx of foreign fighters into Afghanistan appears to be a byproduct of the Pakistani military's intensified campaign to eliminate militants in neighboring North Waziristan.

"Our estimate is that there are more than 7,000 foreign terrorist fighters" in Afghanistan now, Tanin said, including Chechens, Uzbeks, Tajiks, and Pakistanis.

The government also estimates "there may be hundreds or thousands of people" operating under the black flag of the Islamic State, including some "extreme-oriented Taliban," he said.

"Increasingly, Afghanistan, one of the 10 poorest countries in the world, is finding itself in the forefront of dealing with terrorists whose origins are the neighbors, and possibly whose eventual destination are its neighbors," Haysom said.

He urged greater collaboration and support for Afghanistan "in dealing with what is a regional, shared threat."

After the presentation, the security council adopted a resolution condemning the "blatant disrespect to democracy and rule of law" of the militants who attacked parliament, all of whom ended up dead.

Based on reporting by AP and AFP