Afghan Special Security Forces have eliminated 22 Islamic State-Khorasan (IS-K) fighters attempting to defend the group’s strategic center of Darzab district in northern Jowzjan province, a statement from the 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 US airstrike in Darzab on April 5.
Since the beginning of 2018, persistent military pressure in Jowzjan province applied by Afghan and US 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 US special operations coupled with US airstrikes continued to decimate the heart of IS-K in Darzab, the statement reads.
Afghan and US forces have killed 90 IS-K fighters this year, a majority were eliminated in Darzab.
“The recent Afghan and US special operations raid will lead to the tactical defeat of IS-K in northern Afghanistan,” stated Gen. John Nicholson, US 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 US 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, Resolute Support said in the press release.
RS further added that like Hekmatullah, IS-K’s new leader in northern Afghanistan is Mawlavi Habibul Rahman, a native Uzbek, and has had intermittent ties to both the Taliban and Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan.
ASSF and US 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 US SOF eliminated four IS-K fighters in Darzab.
On Mar 16, a US 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.