The Islamic State’s affiliate in Afghanistan continues to thrive despite several U.S. and Afghan military efforts to annihilate the group, Pentagon Chief Spokeswoman Dana White told Voice of America Wednesday.
ISIS in Afghanistan has morphed from a nascent band of militants in 2015 to a full fledged threat in the eastern province of Nangarhar. The group controls a relatively small amount of territory but has used it to launch multiple complex attacks on the capital city of Kabul, killing hundreds with its brutal tactics.
Several U.S. troops have died in Nangarhar province in recent months on missions targeting the terrorist group. The U.S. considered defeat of the insurgents such a priority it dropped the largest non-nuclear bomb in its arsenal on ISIS’s cave network, killing approximately 100 fighters.
“It’s not getting better in Afghanistan in terms of ISIS. We have a problem, and we have to defeat them and we have to be focused on that problem,” White declared. White’s statement contradicts the Pentagon’s recent report on the state of war in Afghanistan which claims that the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) recent efforts as well as “pressure from the Taliban, and a lack of support from the local populace have diminished ISIS-K’s influence and caused it to decline in size, capability, and ability to hold territory.”
The report however admits that ISIS in Afghanistan “remains a threat to security in Afghanistan and the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region and a threat to U.S. and coalition forces, and ISIS-K retains the ability to conduct high-profile attacks in urban centers.”
ISIS is just a small facet of the problem facing the U.S. and ANSF in the Afghan war. Taliban insurgents control more territory in Afghanistan than at any time since the war began in 2001, and ANSF is suffering historic casualties.
President Donald Trump granted Secretary of Defense James Mattis authority June 13 to set troop levels in Afghanistan. Mattis is likely to approve the request of both commanders in charge of the Afghan war, who have publicly testified before Congress that they believe a “few thousand” more troops are necessary to break the current stalemate.
The U.S. mission in Afghanistan focuses on training, advising, and assisting ANSF in the fight against the Taliban and ISIS. Both the U.S. and Afghan goal is to tire the Taliban and force it reconcile with the government. Mattis stressed before Congress that any troop increase would be paired with a broader regional strategy to bolster the reconciliation effort. The strategy has yet to be unveiled, and it may not come with the expected troop increase announcement.
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