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Former Warlord Warns Of Impending Bloodshed In Afghanistan

Ismail Khan
Ismail Khan

HERAT, Afghanistan -- Ismail Khan, a former warlord who once ruled parts of western Afghanistan, has warned of a "greater war" in the coming months.

"You are likely to face a greater war after a few months. The situation will worsen beyond the usual insecurity, kidnappings, theft and other crimes," he told supporters in the western Afghan city of Herat on January 14.

"Enemies are raising their heads in parts of Afghanistan, and the prospects of war will increase 100 percent in June and July."

Khan spoke at the funeral of local jihadi commander Noor Gul, who was killed by unknown gunmen this week.

His comments follow news reports about the emergence of Islamic State (IS) militants and the presence of foreign fighters in Afghanistan.

The BBC reported this week that some 20 people were said to have been killed in clashes between the Afghan Taliban and supporters of Mullah Abdul Rauf in the restive southern province of Helmand.

Rauf, a former inmate at the U.S. detention center in Guantanamo Bay and a former Taliban commander, recently pledged allegiance to IS.

Helmand Deputy Governor Muhammad Jan Rasulyar says that, while it cannot be confirmed whether the new militant groups are IS, their black flags and dress appear to link them to the hardline militants now controlling large swathes of Syria and Iraq.

"People are helping us against them because they interfere with their customs, which has raised concerns here," Rasulyar told Radio Free Afghanistan.

Lawmaker Obaidullah Barakzai also backed the emergence of IS in the Afghan periphery. "The forces of IS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi have reached the province of Helmand, Zabul [in the south] and Kunar [in eastern Afghanistan]," he told parliament last week.

Officials in Zabul say scores of foreign militants have settled in remote Taliban-controlled regions of the province. Lawmaker Abdul Habib Andiwal, who represents Zabul in the Afghan parliament, says the refugees are mainly Arabs, Pakistanis and Central Asians.

"Some 150 families have arrived with women and children. Their men are armed and carry light and heavy machine guns and explosives," he told Radio Free Afghanistan.

Zabul's police chief, Rogh Lewanai, says the presence of these militants extends into neighboring Ghazni Province. "We have identified the bases of these foreign fighters and will begin our air and ground attacks against them in the coming weeks," he said.

Meanwhile, a group claiming to be loyal to IS militants has also emerged in the western Farah Province this week.

Abdul Khaliq Noorzai, district governor of the mountainous Khak-e Sufaid district in Farah, told Radio Free Afghanistan a group of 80 fighters is active in the region.

"They are distinguished by refusing to recruit fighters younger than 18, and they always buy their supplies from local shops," he said. "Most of them seem to be foreigners."

The emergence of IS worries Farah residents. A farmer who requested anonymity told Radio Free Afghanistan that people are bracing for fighting between the Taliban and IS in the near future.

"Our government needs to move quickly against IS," he said.

Shahpur Saber reported from Herat, Ahmad Shah Fitrat from Zabul and Rehmatullah Afghan contributed reporting from Kabul Afghanistan. Farishta Jalalzai and Zhakhfar Ahmadi contributed reporting from Prague.