Cairo-U.S. General Commander John Nicholson has said that Afghan forces, backed by the United States, have killed an estimated 300 ISIS ultra-hardline fighters in an operation launched two weeks ago.
The top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan, Nicholson, labeled the loss as a severe blow to the group.
Nicholson said the offensive in the eastern province of Nangarhar was part of U.S. operations to cut down the ISIS capabilities wherever it raised its head, whether in Iraq and Syria or in Afghanistan.
The group, believed to be limited to three or four of the more than 400 districts in Afghanistan, last month claimed responsibility for bombing a demonstration by the Shi’ite Hazara minority in the capital, Kabul, in which at least 80 people were killed.
Nicholson, in New Delhi for talks with the Indian military which has provided training and some arms to Afghanistan, said Afghan forces supported by the United States had just carried out a counter-terrorism operation against the hardline terror group, ISIS.
“They killed a number of top leaders of the organization and up to 300 of their fighters,” Nicholson told reporters.
“Obviously it’s difficult to get an exact count, but what this amounts to is about 25 percent of the organization at least, and so this represents a severe setback for them.”
ISIS first appeared in Afghanistan at the beginning of 2015, and had about 3,000 fighters at the height of the movement, many of them former members of militant groups such as the Pakistani Taliban and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan.
Previously considered a much smaller threat than its bitter enemies the Taliban, the group’s bomb attack in Kabul underlined how dangerous it could be, even without holding large swathes of territory.
On Tuesday, another U.S. military official said American soldiers helping Afghan troops fight ISIS in Nangarhar were forced to abandon equipment and weapons when their position came under fire.
Fighters from the group had circulated photographs of a rocket launcher, grenades, ammunition, identification cards, an encrypted radio and other equipment they said they had seized.
By being more aggressive, the Afghan military was more successful this year against the Taliban than in 2015, when it lost 5,000 men, Nicholson said.