The United States intends to step up military operations against ISIS in eastern Afghanistan during a temporary ceasefire between the Afghan government and the Taliban, senior US officials said on Friday.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani on Thursday announced the first unconditional ceasefire with the Taliban, coinciding with the end of Ramadan, the Muslim fasting month. The ceasefire excludes other militant groups such as ISIS.
The ISIS group has developed a stronghold in Nangarhar, on the porous eastern border with Pakistan and is among the country’s most dangerous militants since it appeared around 2015.
“(Operations against ISIS) will continue, in fact will be even intensified during this period of ceasefire,” US Army General John Nicholson, commander of US and international forces in Afghanistan, told reporters.
The ceasefire could free resources for operations against ISIS but some would remain to monitor the Taliban and for force protection, he told journalists on the sidelines of a meeting of NATO defence ministers in Brussels.
US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said the United States could now redirect significant military capabilities towards ISIS and other militant groups.
“If the Taliban take full advantage of the ceasefire in the best interests of the Afghan people, then many of the surveillance assets we (have) overhead could be reoriented to ISIS-K, to Al Qaeda and other foreign terrorists that have no business being in Afghanistan in the first place,” he told reporters. The regional branch of the militant group is often called ISIS Khorasan (ISIS-K).
Afghan commandos, supported by US Special forces and American and Afghan air power, have been carrying out an operation against the militants in Nangarhar.
The number of ISIS fighters in Afghanistan is uncertain because they frequently switch allegiances, but the US military estimates the number at about 2,000.
Before the start of a meeting on Islamic State militants, Mattis said the United States remained committed to fighting the militant group in Syria and any premature exit would be a “strategic blunder.”
“While we are nearing the defeat of the so-called physical caliphate in Iraq and Syria, terrorists operations elsewhere have increased... The US remains committed to the conditions based approach,” Mattis added.
نستخدم ملفات الكوكيز لنسهل عليك استخدام مواقعنا الإلكترونية ونكيف المحتوى والإعلانات وفقا لمتطلباتك واحتياجاتك الخاصة، لتوفير ميزات وسائل التواصل الاجتماعية ولتحليل حركة المرور لدينا...اعرف أكثر