U.N. concerned by Islamic State’s ability to unite Afghan insurgents

(Reuters) – The United Nations is concerned by the presence of Islamic State in Afghanistan but says the militant group’s power to unite insurgents is more significant than its capabilities in the war-torn country, a top U.N. official said on Monday.

U.N. envoy Nicholas Haysom briefed the U.N. Security Council on Afghanistan, where attempts are under way to broker an end to 13 years of conflict between the Taliban, who were ousted in a U.S.-led war in 2001, and Afghan and foreign forces.

Afghan forces killed 10 fighters who claimed to be part of Islamic State on Sunday, amid reports that growing numbers of disgruntled Taliban fighters have joined the militant group that has seized swathes of territory in Syria and Iraq.

“It is UNAMA’s (the U.N. mission in Afghanistan) assessment that the group’s presence is of concern, but that ISIL’s significance is not so much a function of its intrinsic capacities in the area but of its potential to offer an alternative flagpole to which otherwise isolated insurgent splinter groups can rally,” Haysom told the council.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s latest report to the Security Council on Afghanistan said a handful of Taliban commanders had declared allegiance to Islamic State and that an increasing number were seeking funding or cooperation with Islamic State…