NEW YORK, Dec 26 (APP):Da’esh/ISIS is far from being vanquished in eastern Afghanistan, surviving intense pressure from American airstrikes and raids by United States and Afghan forces, The New York Times reported Tuesday.
Despite the fact that the terrorist group is on the run in its core territory in Iraq and Syria, the newspaper said it has waged brutal attacks in eastern Afghanistan that have displaced thousands of families and forced even some Taliban fighters to seek government protection, the newspaper said in a dispatch from Khogyani.
The shifting dynamic has, in turn, threatened the American-backed government tenuous hold on the region, the Times said.
“And two years into the joint United States-Afghanistan operation, a clear understanding of the Islamic State (Da’esh) affiliate, the latest enemy in the long Afghan war, still evades even some of those charged with fighting it,” it said, pointing out that the American military even dropped the largest bomb in its arsenal on the Da’esh complex in eastern Afghanistan in April, killing a number of its fighters.
General John Nicholson, the top American and NATO commander in Afghanistan, recently said that 1,400 operations and airstrikes had removed from the battlefield more than 1,600 Da’esh fighters since March more than double the estimate from early in the year.
The Times pointed out that those numbers are described as ‘inflated’ by some Afghan and other Western officials. But the Americans say they are an indication that the group continues to replenish its ranks with new fighters.
“Part of the reason the two-year joint operation by the United States and Afghanistan against (Da’esh) has made little progress is simply that the two forces are operating in a terrain where they have had little control for years,” the report said. “Airstrikes and commando operations bring bursts of pressure, but the militants have release valves all around them.
Da’esh’s local affiliate in Afghanistan first emerged in 2014, the report pointed out.
The Times said, “The Afghan governments authority in Khogyani, in a remote region of Nangarhar Province, has long been confined to the district compound and the immediate surroundings. The Taliban ruled the rest. Opium has been grown all around.
“After years of war with no clear victor, the region had settled into a strange sort of calm as the Taliban and the government found ways to coexist, as has happened to varying degrees around the country.
“Although the Taliban are known for their opposition to girls education, in Khogyani, the militants here allowed schooling, showing a willingness to drop a demand that had lost them hearts and minds before. In return for having nominal control, the government has paid the salaries of teachers and health workers that the Taliban could not afford…
“Some officials believe it was only a matter of time before extremists seeking relevance would be attracted to the Islamic State…
“People in Khogyani say the Islamic State (Da’esh) militants are better armed and fight harder than the Taliban.”
If you tie a Taliban fighter to the trunk of this tree, and then you tell him ISIS is coming, he will run so hard that he will uproot the tree with him, said Malik Makee, a tribal elder who runs a militia of several dozen men in support of the government, helping to maintain a buffer around the district center.