AT News Report-KABUL: Afghan Special Security Forces eliminated 22 IS-K fighters attempting to defend IS-K’s strategic center of Darzab district, Jowzjan province, a statement from US forces said on Monday. The operation occurred six days after Qari Hekmatullah, the IS-K emir for northern Afghanistan, and his bodyguard were killed by a U.S. airstrike in Darzab on Apr. 5. Since the beginning of 2018, persistent military pressure in Jowzjan province applied by Afghan and U.S. Special Operations Forces (SOF) have reduced IS-K to an isolated group of fighters devoid of leadership.
The fighters that choose to stay with IS-K face a similar fate as its leaders. Afghan and U.S. special operations coupled with U.S. airstrikes continue to decimate the heart of IS-K in Darzab. Afghan and U.S. forces have killed 90 IS-K fighters this year, a majority were eliminated in Darzab, the statement added.
“The recent Afghan and U.S. special operations raid will lead to the tactical defeat of IS-K in northern Afghanistan,” stated Gen. John Nicholson, U.S. Forces – Afghanistan commander. “Pockets of former Taliban fighters may claim allegiance to IS-K, but they are isolated and losing. We have them on the defensive. They will not win.”
A series of Afghan Special Security Forces (ASSF) and U.S. SOF counterterrorism operations focused on dismantling the terrorists’ leadership leaves IS-K without direction. IS-K in Jowjzan now selects its leaders from a dwindling, revolving door of insurgents with a history of divided loyalties.
Like Hekmatullah, IS-K’s new leader in northern Afghanistan is Mawlavi Habibul Rahman, a native Uzbek. Also like Hekmatullah, Rahman has had intermittent ties to both the Taliban and Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, the statement added.
ASSF and U.S. SOF killed an IS-K platoon commander and another terrorist fighter during a partnered nighttime raid in Mughul, Mar. 26-27. Four days earlier on Mar. 22, ASSF and U.S. SOF eliminated four IS-K fighters in Darzab.
On Mar. 16, a U.S. airstrike killed IS-K platoon commanders, Omair and Abu Samaya, as the duo met in Sar-e Pul province. Later that evening, an ASSF nighttime raid on the IS-K headquarters in Jowzjan resulted in the removal of another 13 terrorists. Afghan forces captured Omair and Abu Samaya’s predecessor Khitab Aka, IS-K’s former head facilitator of foreign fighters in Jowzjan on Jan. 28.