By Shadi Khan Saif
KABUL, Afghanistan (AA) - The Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) with the U.S. air support launched a fresh military operation against the pro-Daesh rebels in the east of the country bordering Pakistan.
The eastern Nangarhar province is believed to be the bastion of pro-Daesh rebels, many of whom are said to have either crossed border from Pakistan, the Central Asian republics or switched allegiance from the Afghan Taliban to the Daesh.
Major Sher Aqa Faqiri, spokesman for the Afghan National Army (ANA)’s 201-Shaheen Corps, told journalists in Jalalabad city the operation is concentrated on the Daesh militants’ strongholds. He said the Kot and Haska Maina districts would be cleansed of the militants in the first phase, and the surrounding districts would be explored for further action afterwards. The ANA Major said military and the Afghan National Police (ANP) would jointly proceed with the operation, and, in case of needed assistance, the U.S. aerial support would be acquired.
“We would not rest until complete elimination of the Daesh militants and dismantling of their network," he said.
This is not the first time the ANSF are going after the resurging militant group in this part of the country. The Afghan Ministry of Defense (MoD) claimed to have cleansed most of the restive districts in Nangarhar in the summer last year. However, locals said many militants who fled during the military operation back then returned when the ANSF left the area.
Captain Bill Salvin, Director Public Affairs for the U.S. forces in Afghanistan, told Anadolu Agency they believe there are currently about 700 Daesh fighters located in southern Nangarhar province with about 200-300 additional fighters in Kunar province. "This is substantially fewer Daesh fighters than this time last year. The efforts of the Afghans, with the assistance of U.S. combat enablers has reduced the Daesh presence by more than half and the number of districts where they are present by more than two-thirds. Gen. Nicholson has said that his goal this year is to eliminate Daesh from the battlefield in Afghanistan," he added.
Up in the northern provinces, local officials claimed last week a son of Tahir Yoldosh, slain leader of the Uzbekistan Islamic Movement (UIM) is busy resettling militants from Pakistan and the Central Asian states, and training them for terrorist activities. Rehmatullah Turkistani, police chief of Jawzjan province, has said it has been a while since the son of Tahir Yoldosh is busy settling down the militants’ families in the north of the country.
Jawzjan is the same province where six workers of the International Committee of Red Cross (ICRC) were killed allegedly by the pro-Daesh rebels earlier this week. Two ICRC workers are still missing.
Meanwhile, Afghan officials in the east of the country have claimed numbers of pro-Daesh rebels here have been reduced to ‘few hundred only’. Major Sher Aqa Faqiri has said heavy losses have been inflicted upon the Daesh rebels. According to the MoD, six pro-Daesh rebels were killed in Nangarhar on Sunday. According to the provincial government, up to 15 joint and special offensives have been conducted this month alone against militants, killing at least 52 and injuring 20.
On Thursday, the Afghan President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani said in a statement that the ANSF and the NATO forces have killed a senior Daesh commander named Qari Munib in a joint operation in Nangarhar. Munib was said to be responsible for facilitating a series of deadly attacks in the capital Kabul, including the suicide bombing in July 2016 against Hazara Shiites that killed more than 80 people and injured hundreds.