Islamic State’s affiliate in Afghanistan massacred 30 military personnel in the country’s capital Wednesday, only a month after the top U.S. general in Afghanistan said the group was declining.
ISIS operatives used a suicide vest to breach the gate, a tactic often used by the Taliban, before storming the hospital with armed gunmen. The gunmen were dressed as medics to get past the initial checkpoint, another tactic frequently used by the Taliban. Fifty patients and staffers were injured in the attack.
The Afghan special forces took nearly seven hours to neutralize all the ISIS fighters. Afghanistan’s Minister of the Interior Sediq Sediqqi noted that the attack was “complex,” suggesting it needed extensive planning and resources. The use of Taliban tactics could also suggest the group’s operational capacity and training is increasing — which could lead to even deadlier attacks.
U.S. Army Gen. John Nicholson, commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, painted a declining picture of the group in his February testimony to the Senate Committee on Armed Services. “This year alone we have reduced their fighters by half, their territory by two thirds, we’ve killed their leader — in fact, their top 12 leaders — and continue to disrupt their operation.”
Nicholson continued that the U.S. helped the Afghan Security Forces reduce the number of ISIS controlled districts in eastern Nangarhar province from nine to three. Even with leadership disruption, constant U.S. pressure, and loss of territory, the group has proved resilient in its ability to mount major terrorist attacks.
The group deployed a suicide bomber to Afghanistan’s supreme court in February, killing more than 20. The group also frequently targets Afghanistan’s Shiite minority by sending suicide bombers to Shiite mosques to kill dozens.
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