KABUL - Daesh is no more economic magnet it once was for jobless and impoverished youths in eastern Afghanistan — the terror group’s main bastion — after its recent collapse in the Middle East, Afghan officials and lawmakers said on Tuesday.
The killing of a number of Daesh leaders by Afghan and US forces last year struck a sharp blow to the group’s ability to access funds from the Middle East. Cash-strapped and under-resourced, Daesh in Afghanistan is now looking for other means to survive financially, officials said.
Daesh has been “struggling for economic survival” in recent months following its defeat in Syria and Iraq, an Afghan intelligence official told Arab News on condition of anonymity. “It used to attract youths economically, but it’s now facing serious funding problems. The group relies on cash collected from smuggling and extortion, both in the form of cash and food, from locals living in areas where it’s still active.”
Daesh is now “fighting with the Taliban for control of natural mines and territory, especially in the Tora Bora region in Nangarhar (province), which is used to smuggle goods to and from Pakistan,” the intelligence official added. “Revenues from smuggling and mines stand at tens of millions of dollars annually.”
Hazrat Ali, an anti-Taliban commander and MP from Nangarhar, told Arab News that youths in the province “now hate Daesh . It’s no longer able to recruit people easily.”
Daesh’s “barbarity reached its peak here,” he said. “The Taliban is more popular and has greater influence here.”
For several years, Daesh was able to attract many men in eastern Nangarhar and adjacent Kunar province by paying them hundreds of dollars per month, said residents and officials.
“I know some people who joined Daesh in the past for economic reasons, but that’s no longer the case, despite people facing growing economic hardships, because Daesh is economically no longer in the same position it used to be,” Abdul Ghafar, an MP from Nangarhar, told Arab News. “There are very few who join Daesh nowadays, compared to the past.”
But government officials concede that unemployment is a serious concern in Afghanistan. Joblessness and the poor state of the economy have forced thousands of youths in recent years to join criminal and militant groups such as Daesh and the Taliban.
Unemployment stands at more than 40 percent, according to government data. Unofficial figures put the percentage much higher.
Saleh Mohammed Saleh, an MP from Kunar, told Arab News: “It’s the government’s responsibility to create job opportunities for the people.”
He added: “Unemployment has pushed our people for a long time to join various groups in order to make ends meet.”