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‘Most IS men in Afghanistan are TTP fighters’

Updated Aug 01, 2016 10:11am

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WASHINGTON: Almost 70 per cent of the fighters of the militant Islamic State (IS) group in Afghanistan are Pakistani Taliban who joined IS after having been forced out of their country, says a top US commander.

Gen John W. Nicholson, who commands the US and Nato forces in Afghanistan, also said that although the United States had been fighting in Afghanistan for 15 years, a dozen terrorist groups were still operating in the country.

“In the case of Islamic State Khorasan province, the majority of the members are from the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP),” said the general while briefing Washington-based journalists at the Pentagon earlier this week. Many of these terrorists were forced out of Pakistan by the Zarb-i-Azb military operation, he added.

Gen Nicholson said that many IS fighters in Nangarhar province came from Pakistan’s Orakzai tribal agency. “And they were former members of the TTP, complete with their leadership, who wholesale joined Islamic State, pledged bayt (allegiance) to Islamic State and joined them earlier this year,” he said, adding that 70pc, roughly, of those fighters were from the banned TTP and many of them were Pakhtuns from Orakzai.

Gen Nicholson said the IS, also known by Arabic acronym Daesh, militants were exporting their radical ideology from their bases in Iraq and Syria to Afghanistan and other countries in the region.

“Daesh is only one of nine US-designated terrorist organisations here in Afghanistan,” he said. “Additionally, there are three other violent extremist organisations.”

Alarmed by the increasing influence of these militant groups, the United States recently resumed its air strikes in Afghanistan. The Air Force Times reported on Friday that since last month there had been a dramatic increase in the US air strikes on militant targets in Afghanistan.

“Strikes against Afghan targets hit a 2016 high this month, specifically between July 19 and 25, when more than 70 munitions were employed,” Lt Col Chris Karns, spokesman for the US Air Forces Central Command, told the newspaper. F-16s, MQ-9s and B-52s conducted most of the operations.

“These groups are the principal focus of our counterterrorism mission,” Gen Nicholson said, adding that besides Daesh and the Afghan Taliban, the Pakistani Taliban and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan were also operating. Some fighters from both groups have now migrated over to join Daesh.

Gen Nicholson said Daesh was involved in last Saturday’s attack in Kabul that left more than 80 civilians dead.

He said Daesh controlled around 10 districts in Nangarhar province in December last year. But since January, when President Barack Obama authorised US forces to participate in counterterrorism attacks, the group has been forced to retreat from some of the areas.

Gen Nicholson said the increasing influence of Daesh in Afghanistan had also led to clashes between them and the Afghan Taliban, contributing to Daesh’s retreat from some areas. “So, now since January, their area has shrunk to...parts of three or four districts in southern Nangarhar.”

He said the US forces were now working with Afghan security forces to reclaim significant portions of the territory that was previously controlled by Daesh. Many Daesh commanders and soldiers were killed in these joint operations and their key infrastructure capabilities and logistical nodes were destroyed, he added.

“Daesh fighters are retreating south into the mountains of southern Nangarhar. We will continue to stay after Daesh until they are defeated here in Afghanistan,” Gen Nicholson said.

He explained that this “critical fight” was part of a larger global strategy against the IS and coincided with ongoing operations in Iraq and Syria. He said there were an estimated 3,000 IS fighters in Afghanistan in January, many of them members of other terrorist groups that changed allegiance.

Published in Dawn, August 1st, 2016

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Comments (25) Closed



Hassan Aug 01, 2016 02:26pm

Pak & Afg need to strengthen its border management.

Taimoor Khan Aug 01, 2016 02:45pm

Pakistani power players have been saying from day one that the TTP is controlled by forigen powers to cause havoc inside Pakistan. Now when they been flushed outside Pakistan and moved into Afghanistan, shouldn't the American general be pondering over on going after those forces who were/are sponsoring the TTP and working on the possibility that their rebranding into ISIS is an attempt to keep the region and Pakistan in particular, destabilized?

PAKISTANI Aug 01, 2016 03:14pm

will someone ask Nicholson where the TTP fighters came from? they came to Pakistan from Afghanistan when US forces started bombing Afghanistan after 9-11. So these militants have returned to the place where they belong. Pakistan should seal its border with Afghanistan and not let these militants return.

Zak Aug 01, 2016 03:21pm

@PAKISTANI agree 100%.

Zak Aug 01, 2016 03:22pm

@Taimoor Khan well said.

A Dejected Karachiite Aug 01, 2016 03:36pm

Now that you know this fact, please target them. If you want cooperation of Pakistan, let our air force and commandos operate in Afghanistan. They will kill them more effectively than your heavily armed force.

SHAHID MAHMOOD Aug 01, 2016 04:12pm

@A Dejected Karachiite A very well put point Sir.

Fahad Mirza Aug 01, 2016 05:29pm

simply said, these are all created by US. how they are getting funds and weapons ?? if US know so much information about them, why they can't stop there funds and weapons. US wants this all wars

Factual Aug 01, 2016 05:29pm

Pakistan repeatedly asked Afghanistan to seal the border on their side. If they had done so, militants would be trapped. Unfortunately they didn't and allowed TTP to freely move inside Afghanistan. Now, here is the result.

Arslan Aug 01, 2016 05:37pm

Do More in Afghanistan! Clean up the country you are meant to be in control of.

bathurst Aug 01, 2016 05:41pm

if ttp is involved in destabilizing pakistan then the role of india and afghanistan can not be ignored.

Mustafa R. Aug 01, 2016 06:33pm

General sahib is belaboring the obvious. IS and TTP are both single-point agenda organizations, destruction of Muslim countries from Syria, Libya, Iraq, Turkey, Iran and Pakistan. Their main targets are large Muslim nations; Pakistan, Iran and Turkey. Iran is not an easy target so Turkey and Pakistan are their main targets for now.

Mustafa R. Aug 01, 2016 06:36pm

@A Dejected Karachiite;

' If you want cooperation of Pakistan...'

They have the cooperation they need; access to Afghanistan and it is free.

Salaam Namaste Aug 01, 2016 07:03pm

@Fahad Mirza You jumped happily on the problem that US created during 80s, now it is backfiring you. So you can not call it as complete US problem. Remember, your gov was the only gov to have officially accepted Taliban

frkh Aug 01, 2016 07:22pm

@Salaam Namaste arm twisting politics and coercion is not the same as 'ur govt accepted this and did that'. US policy around the world is either 'my way or the highway'. If you don't cooperate they 'will bomb u to stone age'.

Harinder Phitchitsingh Aug 01, 2016 07:51pm

So it means India and members of afghan govt support them

Harinder Phitchitsingh Aug 01, 2016 07:55pm

@Salaam Namaste Afghan Taleban and TTP are completely different organizations with different M.O.

xpakistani Aug 01, 2016 07:56pm

If this is true very bad news for the region. All other outfits are saints when compared to Daesh. This needs a major political and socio-economic incentive to wean them away. Military force does not work if not accompanied by a healing touch.

Khan Aug 01, 2016 08:21pm

Good Job Pakistan Military. Thanks for displacing these foreign agents (TTP) created by Afghans/USA/HINDUSTAN agencies against PAKISTAN. Their prime job was to attack Pakistani installations and now when they are displaced and removed, they have become menace for their own creators.

Thank you again Pakistan Military.

Zafar Aug 02, 2016 04:36pm

Sure sure ... it was Pakistan that created ISIS because Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi was in Adiala Jail Rawalpindi .... These Americans are getting funnier by the day!!

vmo Aug 02, 2016 04:44pm

TTP, LeT, Daesh blah blah are all merceneries...they have no cause, they dont care who , where or for whom they kill as long as they get paid

Yousuf Aug 02, 2016 05:35pm

@PAKISTANI : You are absolutely right.

YS-USA Aug 02, 2016 09:10pm

@Fahad Mirza, if their objective is to de-stabilize Pakistan, they are definitely funded and equipped by india.

waseem Aug 02, 2016 11:49pm

US need to do more in Afghanistan.

Khan Aug 03, 2016 12:49am

@Zafar ... Frustraed by Bush and now Trump...