Why Daesh chose Achin district as its base in Afghanistan
JALALABAD (Pajhwok): The Islamic State (IS) -- or so called Daesh -- has chosen the Achin district of eastern Nangarhar province as its headquarters for a variety of reasons.
The district’s proximity to the Durand Line, a contested borderline haunted by militants of all stripes, and easy weapons and logistical supply routes seem to have driven the rebel group’s choice of its HQ..
Geography and tribal structure
Achin district is located 35 kilometers southeast of Jalalabad, the capital of Nangarhar. The Durand Line, Kurram Tribal Agency and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa lie cheek by jowl with Nazyan Kot, Ghanikhel and Spin Ghar and Achin district.
Achin has an area of 350 square kilometers and a population of 150,000 --all of them Pashtuns from Shinwari and Alisher Khel tribes. Majority of residents of the district are reliant on agricultural, cultivating wheat, maize, potatoes, cotton, onion and others crops.
Where Daesh fighters came from
A source close to the group confided to Pajhwok Afghan News that five years ago when Pakistani forces launched operations in Orakzai and Khyber agencies, families of Daesh fighters started sneaking into Achin. Most of them were Pakistani militants.
The rebels then built seminaries and cultivated local residents, as well as the Taliban, the source said, adding the predominantly Salafi fighter gradually joined forces with Daesh. The move caused differences within the Taliban groups.
Salafis from Kunar, Nuristan, Nangarhar and a number other provinces joined Daesh in Achin and converted the district into their stronghold. Daesh wanted to extend sweep to the north through Sarobi and Tagab districts, but its plans had been foiled by Afghan and foreign forces, the source revealed.
Despite losing many dreaded commanders and leaders, Daesh still has several training centres in Achin. Nangarhar police spokesman, Col. Hazrat Hussain Mashraqiwal said: “Daesh has chosen Achin as its base where the rebels could easily receive supplies from across the Durand Line.”
Achin district chief, Haji Ghalib Mujahid, confirmed more than a thousand families had arrived the district from across the border and most of them gradually joined the IS insurgents.
Daesh planned to capture Achin and convert it to a launching area for attacks on other parts of the country, but its plan has been frustrated and its hideouts changed into its graveyard by Afghan forces.
Pounded by Afghan forces, hundreds of Daesh families have fled back to areas across the Durand Line, Mujahid claimed, saying the group had been weakened significantly by the recent offensives.
A tribal elder from Achin, Shal Bacha Shinwari, said that Daesh had settled in the district in order to receive supplies from across the border without any problem. Another motive was that Pakistan had plan to destabilise Achin and pave the ground for its occupation.
He said despite the fact that tribes in Goshta and other border towns stood united, Pakistan occupied some area of the district. However, Pakistan could not do so in the Shinwari district, therefore it tried to disrupt security of the area, he maintained.
Cruelty of insurgents
Local officials say Daesh fighters, for the first time after their arrival in Achin, massacred 12 people including elders in a bomb attack and hanged and shot a number of other people in Kot, Nazyan and Haska Mina districts in a show of strength.
Scene of conflict
Experts and officials say Achin district, lying close to the Durand Line and having forests and mountains, is an ideal sanctuary for militants.
Afghan forces conduct operations in nearby areas and districts and attack rebels in Momand, Pikha and Shadal areas.
The areas are under the control of Daesh, but Afghan forces and uprising groups have recently established security posts there and curtailed rebel activity to a large extent, commentators claim.