https://afghanistan.asia-news.com/en_GB/articles/cnmi_st/features/2019/11/08/feature-01
| Security

Decimation of ISIS leaders in Afghanistan leaves group with dwindling options

By Sulaiman

image

 A screenshot from an ISIS video shows concerned-looking members discussing options during a meeting in an undisclosed location in Afghanistan. [File]

KABUL -- Intensified military operations have decimated the leadership of the "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" (ISIS) in Afghanistan, and the remaining members of the terrorist group face dwindling options going forward, government officials and analysts say.

"The remnants of the group who are hiding sporadically in some areas are under constant pressure," said Fawad Aman, deputy spokesman for the Afghan Ministry of Defence.

"Their few remaining fighters are being tracked, and the security forces receive intelligence about their whereabouts every day that is followed with immediate ground and air operations to destroy them," he said.

Farooq Azam, a Punjabi leader of ISIS, was killed along with dozens of his fighters in Achin District on March 25, pointed out Aman.

Meanwhile, "ISIS-K [ISIS Khorasan branch] media chief Hassan Punjabi, who was responsible for recruitment through his campaigns on social media platforms, was killed in an air strike in Khogyani District in September," he added.

ISIS and its leadership are reeling not only from an intensified military campaign in Afghanistan. US special forces in Syria on October 26 killed ISIS's top leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, and a number of his comrades also died in the operation.

In Afghanistan, members of the insurgency are giving up as security forces step up their clearance campaign, Aman said.

"Achin, Pacheragam and other parts of Nangarhar Province have been completely cleared of Daesh [ISIS]," he said, using another name for the terrorist group.

"Because of military pressure, dozens of ISIS fighters in Kunar and Nangarhar provinces have surrendered themselves along with their weapons to the security forces," said Aman, adding that in the past month alone, many ISIS fighters have been killed in various military operations in Nangarhar Province.

On October 24, local authorities in Nangarhar showed to the media 18 ISIS fighters who surrendered after facing stepped-up military operations in the province.

"Afghan and international forces have destroyed most of the centres and bases ISIS built for itself in Nangarhar Province," said Ataullah Khogyani, a spokesman for the Nangarhar governor.

"The ISIS headquarters in Achin District [of Nangarhar], where it had planned its terrorist activities for four years, has been completely demolished," Khogyani said. "The group's training centres, radio station and suicide vest production facilities have also been destroyed."

"Intense operations have been under way for one and a half months in various areas of Nangarhar Province, especially in Achin. They have left 70 ISIS fighters dead and 40 more injured, and dozens of members surrendered to security forces," said Khogyani.

ISIS besieged

ISIS was doomed to fail in Afghanistan from the start, said Nader Ahmadzai, a military and intelligence affairs analyst in Kabul.

"Afghans consider the Islam that ISIS tries to promote in conflict with the original Islam. In addition, all the acts that ISIS commits are against the beliefs and traditions of Afghans," he said.

"ISIS spent a huge amount of money to recruit many fighters, and it was able to bring many areas under its control, but all its efforts eventually failed," he said.

"The Afghan security forces and international forces are strongly determined to defeat and annihilate ISIS," said Ahmadzai.

"The Taliban, who didn't want their place to be taken over by ISIS in Afghanistan, also inflicted heavy strikes and casualties on them and killed many ISIS fighters -- including their key figures in Nangarhar and Badghis provinces," he said.

The remaining ISIS fighters in Afghanistan are being boxed in by both the Taliban and security forces, said Sayyed Hamed Anwari, a political affairs analyst in Kabul.

"In addition to considering ISIS their enemy, the Taliban call them 'Kharijites,' which permits the Taliban to kill them," he said.

Reports say a number of hardline commanders of the Taliban may be planning to join ISIS should peace intra-Afghan talks proceed, but Afghan officials have vowed these individuals will be hunted down just like other members of the terrorist group.

"Afghanistan is not a suitable recruiting ground for ISIS," said Habibullah Janebdar, a political analyst in Kabul. "Afghan youth have studied for the past 19 years, and they're no longer similar to those of 20 years ago. They know the principles and nature of ISIS much better and will no longer join ISIS."

Janebdar praised the efforts of the Afghan security forces against ISIS in Afghanistan.

"The achievements of our country's security forces in fighting against ISIS are praiseworthy because these forces were successful in annihilating ISIS's leaders and thousands of its fighters," he said.

Anwari shares that opinion.

"The security forces have courageously and honourably fulfilled their duty to defend Afghanistan and its people against ISIS," he said.

"They spoiled all the plans of ISIS by killing its leaders, and all the Afghan people praise the security forces for this achievement."

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