Female special forces officers join operations against ISIS in Nangarhar

By Khalid Zerai

Female officers can be seen protecting women during an anti-ISIS search operation in Achin District, Nangarhar Province, on December 2. [File]

Female officers can be seen protecting women during an anti-ISIS search operation in Achin District, Nangarhar Province, on December 2. [File]

NANGARHAR -- Female officers of the National Directorate of Security (NDS) joined their male counterparts in search operations in Nangarhar earlier this month.

The operations were conducted against "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" (ISIS) December 2 in Achin District.

Achin District Governor Ashiqullah Sadat on Wednesday (December 11) confirmed the operations and the participation of female security personnel.

The inclusion of female officers was aimed at respecting the local culture and to enable house searches where women were present, according to Sadaat.

"It is a good practice to have Afghan forces accompanied by female troops when they conduct house searches as it will help the operations succeed and make sure women and children don't see any harm," he added. "We have our traditions and culture here, and respecting these values is a great thing."

"We support this kind of practice," he said.

"These special forces came at night and conducted operations in the Bizo Dag area of Achin District," said Khair Muhammad, an Afghan Local Police (ALP) commander. "The female forces came with them too, and this pleased the local people."

"This was the first time that search operations were conducted this way," added Muhammad.

Respecting local norms

"We are residents of this area, and we're Pashtuns too. When men are searched by men, and women are searched by women, such operations become successful. This helps them [the security forces] search everything and easily achieve their target," he said.

Esmatullah, a driver from the Bizo Dag area, confirmed the operations took place in his neighbourhood.

"When the operations took place at night, we weren't able to go out of our homes because soldiers said [using loudspeakers] that no one should come out of their homes," he said.

"In these voices we heard women's voices too asking us to remain indoors. On the next morning, when we went to the house that was searched, we found out that female troops also took part in the operations," said Esmatullah.

"I am Pashtun, and these forces are here to maintain our security; they have always been brave," he added.

"These very soldiers cleared these areas of ISIS fighters," he said. "We are proud of them, and we are very happy that they had woman soldiers with them during the operations and that they searched the houses with honour and respect."

The presence of women in operations "is a great practice that I appreciate", said Bashar Gul, a resident of the Asad Khil area of Achin District. "If women accompany our forces during the operations, our forces will win, and the enemy will fail."

"We have heard that when male troops conduct operations in many areas, ISIS and Taliban fighters escape in women's clothes as men may not search women. But if the forces are accompanied by female troops, the operations can easily succeed," he said.

The latest operation comes after Afghan officials declared the defeat of ISIS in Nangarhar Province last month.

ISIS "was defeated in Nangarhar; its centres were destroyed", acting Interior Minister Masood Andarabi told reporters in Jalalabad, Nangarhar Province, on November 10.

"We will soon destroy its last centres," he said. "With the people's help, we will eliminate it. Some of its smaller units are surrendering; other small units will be eliminated in other provinces."

ISIS is being "completely defeated" in Afghanistan, he said.

About 1,450 ISIS fighters and their family members have surrendered to the government over the past two months, Nangarhar Governor Shah Mahmood Miakhil told reporters in Jalalabad during the surrender of 94 ISIS fighters on December 5.

"I can say that ISIS fighters are on the brink of destruction in Nangarhar," Miakhil said.

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