In ISIL and the Taliban , filmmaker Najibullah Quraishi gained exclusive access to the central leadership of the Afghan chapter of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

Exploring the rise of the nascent group and offering a close-up look at ISIL and its relationship with the Taliban, Najibullah was embedded with an ISIL unit, following them as they governed territory under their control.

Najibullah Quraishi talks to Al Jazeera about his film and the themes it explores.

Al Jazeera: You were able to get access to both the Afghan chapter of ISIL and the Taliban for this film. Can you explain a little about how you were able to get that access and what it entailed?

Najibullah Quraishi:  I have been covering the war in Afghanistan since 2001 and have established good contacts with different groups and networks from across the country.

But gaining access to film ISIL and the Taliban was difficult. Whilst it's easy to embed with the Afghan army or police, it took over eight months, and the help of some elders, for them to finally to allow me to film with them.

According to the Afghan government there are about 1,000 ISIL fighters in the country [Al Jazeera]

Al Jazeera: Were you concerned for your safety at any point during the filming?

Quraishi:  As a journalist and filmmaker I was excited to film a group which no one had accessed before.

However, I was also concerned about my safety and worried that I might not make it back home - but I knew I had to tell the story.

Al Jazeera: Was there anything you witnessed but were unable to film that was particularly interesting or powerful?

Quraishi: I tried to film children living under ISIL rule, but was denied. I wanted to ask them who they are and why they attend the ISIL-run school.

Children as young as five years old are taught about jihad and combat [Al Jazeera]

Al Jazeera: Are there any moments in the film that really stand out for you?

Quraishi: Everything stood out for me, but in particular it was when I heard a would-be child suicide bomber name his target, the famous Afghan warlord Commander Jandad Khan.

Al Jazeera: Was there anybody that you met during filming whose story you'd like to tell?

Quraishi: Not as of yet, but it was shocking for me to see children as young as five years old learning about jihad, how to use weapons and how to fight.

ISIL's Afghan chapter, Wilayat Khorasan, is the ancient name ISIL has chosen for the region made up of Afghanistan, Pakistan and parts of neighbouring countries [Al Jazeera]

Al Jazeera: How freely were you able to film in ISIL-held and Taliban-held territory?

Quraishi: I was filming freely while I was with them, but I couldn't film everything I wanted to - I had to gain permission and sometimes they would stop me from filming.

Al Jazeera: Did you witness any foreign fighters - or see anything to suggest their presence - other than those shown in the film?

Quraishi: ISIL told me that they have lots of foreign fighters but repeatedly said "they were not allowed to show me."

Wilayat Khorasan has managed to attract dozens of fighters from the Taliban [Al Jazeera]

Al Jazeera: Do you know how many foreign ISIL fighters there currently are in Afghanistan? How do they come to be there? In the film, an ISIL leader says these fighters first attempted to get into Syria or Iraq and, upon not being able to do so, came to Afghanistan. Do you know whether this is true? 

Quraishi:  ISIL told me that they have many trainers and fighters from Syria and Iraq. Since the Afghan government has limited control over its borders, it's possible for fighters to come in from Pakistan to Afghanistan.

Al Jazeera: How many ISIL fighters are there thought to be in Afghanistan today? And how strong are they thought to be?

Quraishi: According to the Afghan government there are about 1,000 ISIL fighters in the country, but it's difficult to give an approximate number.

They are stronger and worse than the Taliban or other armed groups, and are financially well-equipped.

They offer people $700 a month to join them, and that's a lot of money for a country where over 70 percent of the population, particularly the youth, are unemployed.

The leading commander of US forces in Afghanistan has downplayed reports that ISIL is gaining a foothold in Afghanistan, calling the group "nascent at best" [Al Jazeera]

Al Jazeera: How many Taliban fighters are there thought to be in Afghanistan today? And how strong are they thought to be?

Quraishi: There are no accurate figures, but they are still strong despite some of their fighters joining ISIL.

Al Jazeera: What are the key points you want people to take away from this film?

Quraishi: The film is mainly about the presence of ISIL in Afghanistan, their aims, and plans.

But three things really effected me which I hadn't experienced previously in my career.

First, to see children as five years old being taught about jihad, fighting and weapons; secondly, to interview two would-be child suicide bombers name their target; and third, to hear a police commander dismiss human rights, saying "human right should allow us to torture the prisoner to get the truth out."

The Taliban has rejected Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi's overtures of establishing a 'caliphate' and condemned ISIL for killing its fighters [Al Jazeera]

Source: Al Jazeera