The Taliban and U.S.-backed Afghan National Defense Security Forces (ANDSF) respectively launched offensives in northern Jawzjan and eastern Nangarhar provinces against their mutual enemy the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL), killing more than 180 jihadists, the government announced this week.
In Jawzjan, where the two terrorist groups have recently been competing for influence and territory for months, the Taliban launched a coordinated attack, losing ten of its fighters and killing at least 16 ISIS militants, Khaama Press (KP) reported Thursday, citing a statement from the 209th Shaheen Corps of the Afghan military.
The attack resulted in the injury of 14 ISIS jihadists and detention of nine others. ISIS also wounded 11 Taliban militants and arrested two others.
“According to Shaheen Corps, clashes between the two sides continue as the Taliban militants are attempting to clear Darzab district from the presence of ISIS militants. The anti-government armed militant groups including Taliban and ISIS militants have not commented in this regard so far,” KP reports.
As the group’s so-called caliphate began to fall apart in Iraq and Syria, ISIS has been attempting to establish another emirate in Afghanistan, but it has suffered major setbacks in recent days in both Nangarhar and Jawzjan, which borders Turkmenistan.
Since ISIS officially established a presence in Afghanistan in early 2015, the group’s operations have been concentrated in eastern Afghanistan’s Nangarhar province along the Pakistan border. The Nangarhar operation targeted ISIS “near the village of Gargari, where ISIS fighters were attempting to establish a regional capital,” Fox News reported this week, noting that “the district is next to Aachin, where the U.S. military dropped its largest non-nuclear combat weapon – the MOAB – to eradicate ISIS from its base in Afghanistan’s Nangarhar province in April 2017.”
Brig. Gen. Lance R. Bunch, the top U.S. air commander in Afghanistan, told reporters late last month that ISIS has tried to “establish their caliphate” in Nangarhar province twice this year alone.
Growing tensions between ISIS and the Taliban has prompted deteriorating security conditions in Jawzjan, once a relatively safe province.
The incident in Jawzjan comes after U.S.-backed ANDSF captured “ISIS’s main stronghold after a prolonged assault that killed nearly 170 terrorist fighters and resulted in no American deaths,” Fox News reported Sunday, citing military officials.
Reuters learned from U.S. Lt. Col. Josh Thiel that the recent offensive, part of an operation that began in April, took place in Nangarhar’s remote Deh Bala district that sits on the border with Pakistan.
“This was one of the main green zones that did two things. One, it provided money, finance, logistics to ISIS (Islamic State) and we’ve taken that away from them,” Col. Thiel declared. “Additionally, ISIS was using this as a site to prepare and move high-profile attacks on Kabul and Jalalabad.”
Nangarhar is rich with opium, which various terrorist groups in Afghanistan are known to use to generate funds for their nefarious activities.
However, Reuters notes, “The fighters in Deh Bala, next to Achin district where the U.S. military dropped its largest non-nuclear bomb last year, were funding themselves by illegal logging and talc mining, as well as exploiting local villagers.”
In the course of the operation, which ended in June but continues except mine clearance operations, U.S.-backed Afghan troops reportedly killed an estimated 167 ISIS jihadists.