A group of 62 Islamic State terrorists, including 30 Pakistanis and two Turkish nationals, surrendered to Afghan military forces in the Nangarhar area on Tuesday.
The Afghan government, which is busy arranging extradition for captured foreign nationals, said the latest in a series of surrenders indicated ISIS is losing its ability to effectively resist the national military.
Afghan officials said the group of 62 ISIS terrorists surrendered after intense pressure from counter-terrorism operations. They handed over a substantial cache of weapons and ammunition when they approached security forces.
The Afghan Defense Ministry said over 600 ISIS fighters and their families have surrendered since the death of Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in late October. Although some Western analysts downplayed the significance of Baghdadi’s death to ISIS operations in theaters outside Syria and Iraq, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said on Thursday that killing the ISIS “caliph” was a landmark achievement and directly influenced hundreds of militants in his country to surrender. In a speech last week, Ghani declared the “backbone” of ISIS in Afghanistan has been broken.
The Afghan government said on Thursday that it will hand about a dozen Indian ISIS fighters who surrendered over to their government in accordance with an extradition treaty between India and Afghanistan ratified in October. The Indian government believes about two dozen young men from the Keralite (also known as Malayali) ethnic group in southwestern India traveled through Iran to join the Islamic State in 2016.
The U.S. government has generally refused to confirm if American troops were involved in any of the recent counter-terrorism operations in Afghanistan. ISIS remnants have also been fighting bloody turf wars against the Taliban. According to Afghan officials, some Islamic State groups are holding out in the mountains because they are waiting for an opportunity to surrender to government troops instead of the Taliban – which they believe, not unreasonably, would simply murder them all after capturing them.
“Reporting from Afghanistan shows that the continued offensive on ISIS-K has resulted in an increasing number of fighters and their families surrendering to the Afghan security forces. Progress is real, but we remain vigilant,” said U.S. Acting Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asian Affairs Alice Wells on Thursday.
The “K” in the designation employed by Wells stands for “Khorasan,” the name commonly associated with Islamic State militants in the Afghanistan region.
“Together with our Afghan partners, the United States is committed to the enduring defeat of ISIS-K in Afghanistan. We’ve seen noteworthy progress on the battlefield in the last several weeks, especially in challenging areas like Nangharhar,” said Wells, referring to the recent surrenders.