Great success achieved against al Qaeda, ISIS in Afghanistan: Gen Nicholson

WASHINGTON, Dec 9 (APP): US troops have achieved great success
against al Qaeda and Islamic State (IS) operating in Afghanistan this
year, and their counter terrorism efforts will continue to focus on
these groups, Gen Jon Nicholson, Commander of International Forces in Afghanistan, said on Friday.
Addressing a press conference in Bagram with outgoing Defence Secretary Ash Carter, who is paying a farewell visit to Afghanistan,
Gen Nicholson said that the US needed to continue to have enduring counter terrorism efforts in the region which is home to 20 US designated terrorist groups.
“If you look at this past year in terms of our counter terrorism effort, we have focused on Al Qaida and Islamic State in particular with great success and we wish to continue that,” he added.
President Barack Obama this year gave expanded authorities to the US forces to proactively assist and help Afghan army in operations that would have strategic effects. The outgoing President also ordered to retain 8,400 troops in 2017 as against an earlier plan to reduce it to 5,500, giving a further boost to counter terrorism efforts in the war torn country.
Responding to a question, Gen Nicholson said that counter terrorism operations had targeted and killed five of the emirs of the 20 designated terrorist groups in the region in 2016.
As a result of stepped up efforts the Islamic State has lost a third
of its fighters, two thirds of the territory that they have seized and the US counter terrorism forces killed the top 12 leaders, including their emir, Hafiz Saeed Khan.
Against Al Qaida, Farouq al Qatari, who was the external operations director for Al Qaida, was killed on October 23 along with a few of his associates. He was involved within the last year in active plotting against the West, against the United States and its allies, the General said.
The Commander further stated that the US troops in Afghanistan
would keep pressure on these organizations and would continue to take the fight to them.
Responding to another question, Gen Nicholson said that Afghanistan government had a national campaign plan that ends with a reconciliation
with the belligerents or reconciliation with enough of them.
He said that peace deal reached with the Hezb i Islami this year
was an important milestone. “It demonstrates that former belligerents
can reconcile with the government. And next year, they’ll go through a re integration process,” he added.