US and Afghan troops killed the leader of the Islamic State group’s Afghanistan affiliate in an April raid, US military officials have confirmed. The raid in Nangarhar province targeted the leader, Abdul Hasib, US-Forces Afghanistan said yesterday. His group is affiliated with IS in Iraq and Syria, and the US military calls it Islamic State-Khorasan, or ISIS-K. US-Forces Afghanistan said earlier that if confirmed, the death of the Hasib and his associates would “significantly degrade ISIS-K operations in Afghanistan and help reach our goal of destroying them in 2017.”
The compound was located near the tunnel complex where the US military on April 13 unleashed the “Mother Of All Bombs” — a GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast device that the Pentagon said was the biggest non-nuclear weapon it had ever used in combat.
Afghanistan’s government meanwhile confirmed Hasib’s death on April 27th. “He had ordered the attack on 400 bed hospital in Kabul that resulted in the death and injuries of a number of our countrymen, women. The Afghan government is committed to continuing its operations against Daesh and other terrorist groups until they are annihilated,” it said in a statement, using another name for the IS group.
The Pentagon estimates about 1,000 IS fighters remain in Afghanistan. The jihadists established a foothold there in early 2015 and their numbers now are about half what they were at their peak, US military data show. The Pentagon will ask the White House next week to send thousands more troops to Afghanistan to break a deadlocked fight with the Taliban, a senior official said Thursday.
After a steady downsizing of US troop numbers since 2011, US military commanders say they need to strengthen the numbers on the ground to better support Afghan forces and help retake territory lost to the Taliban.
The Pentagon will ask for 3,000 to 5,000 more soldiers, mainly to be assigned to advise and train Afghan military and police, according to US media.
US troops in Afghanistan number about 8,400 today, and there are another 5,000 from NATO allies, also now in an advisory capacity. But that is a far cry from the US presence of more than 100,000 six years ago, and the Afghan military has struggled to fill the void amid an unrelenting Taliban insurgency.