WASHINGTON: Afghan­istan told the United States that fighters of the so-called Islamic State (IS) group who surrendered last week will be treated as prisoners of war, and not honoured guests, despite the warm welcome they had initially received, a top US general said on Wednesday.

While pressure has been building for peace talks bet­ween the Western-bac­ked go­­­vernment in Kabul and the Taliban, an Afghan affi­liate of the IS, which has gained a reputation for brutality, is not part of any reconciliation push, US officials said.

Last week, an Afghan governor’s office floated the possibility of amnesty for a group of IS fighters, including two senior commanders, who gave themselves up after being driven from their strongholds by Taliban.

Gen Joseph Votel, head of the US military’s Central Command, said the Afghans acknowledged the surrender, the largest of its kind so far by the militant Islamic State group, “could have been handled better”.

“The government of Afghanistan has assured us that these IS-K fighters will be treated as war prisoners,” Gen Votel said, using an acronym for the Afghan affiliate of the group.

He added that the fighters would be investigated and held to account for any war crimes they committed.

Civilians who fled the last clashes have accused IS fighters of atrocities, giving detailed accounts of women and girls being taken from their families, raped and, in some cases, murdered.

“They have essentially waged a pretty vicious campaign against the people wi­­thout regard to civilian casualties,” the Central Com­mand chief said.

Published in Dawn, August 9th, 2018

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