(RFE/RL) — Combined U.S. and Afghan forces have killed 750 Islamic State (IS) extremists in Afghanistan since early March, reducing the militants’ territory and fighting strength by two-thirds, the U.S. military says.
A statement on May 19 said joint “counterterrorism” forces of Afghan soldiers and U.S. Special Forces also destroyed “cave and tunnel complexes, command and control centers, and logistics nodes,” revealing the “full barbarity” of the militants’ operations.
The statement said “over a dozen” of the ISIS Khorasan forces’ top leadership had also been killed, using the name of the IS affiliate that operates in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Using another widely known acronym for Islamic State, the statement added that “these operations will continue until ISIS Khorasan is defeated in 2017.”
U.S.-backed forces have been in Afghanistan since invading after the September 11, 2001, terror attacks in the United States carried out by Al-Qaeda militants, whose leaders were being harbored by the Taliban-led government.
The coalition drove the Taliban from power, but the militant group has been resurgent in recent years and controls large portions of the country.
U.S. forces in Afghanistan have also been battling IS-linked fighters for more than a year, mainly in the eastern province of Nangarhar.
Nangarhar was the province where the U.S. military on April 13 dropped its most powerful nonnuclear weapon ever used in combat on what it said was a major militant command center, killing some 94 militants.
In early May, the U.S. military confirmed that the IS leader in Afghanistan was killed in a joint Afghan-U.S. operation in Nangarhar.
Abdul Hasib, who was appointed last year following the death of predecessor Hafiz Saeed in a U.S drone strike, was killed in a raid by 50 U.S. Special Forces and 40 Afghan commandos, the military said.
U.S. President Donald Trump is considering a request by the U.S. military to increase U.S. forces in Afghanistan by up to 5,000 troops, adding to the 8,400 U.S. troops now in the country.
The total international force in Afghanistan is about 13,000, down from around 100,000 during the peak of the 16-year U.S. military presence in the country that drove the Taliban from power.