Hundreds of ISIS fighters surrender to Afghan, Taliban forces
Over 100 members of the Islamic State’s Afghan cell laid down their arms and surrendered to the Taliban and local government forces in the northern part of the country on Wednesday, just over a month after U.S. and Afghan forces flushed the terror group from its redoubts in eastern Afghanistan.
Roughly 150 members of the terror group known as Islamic State in Iraq and Syria-Khorasan Group or ISIS-K based inJawzjan province were taken into custody by Afghan army units assigned to the military’s 209th “Shaheen” Corps, U.S. officials confirmed to the Defense Post on Wednesday.
“We can confirm that a large number of ISIS-K fighters have indeed surrendered to Afghan authorities,” said coalition spokesman U.S. Army Lt. Col. Martin O’Donnell in a statement.
“While notable, it is premature to draw conclusions that this degradation of ISIS-K equates to its collapse in the north of the country,” he said, adding “there is no safe haven in Afghanistan [Islamic State] or any other foreign fighter fleeing losses elsewhere and looking to reestablish a presence from which to terrorize innocent Afghan civilians and propagate their violent extremist actions.”
Afghan-led operations against ISIS-K enclaves in Jawzjan have “started to disintegrate” the terror group’s presence, amid military pressure from Afghan and coalition forces, Gen. John Nicholson, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, told reporters last month. Aside from Jawzjan, military operations against ISIS targeting the group’s safe havens in eastern Afghanstan’s Nangarhar province as part of Operation Hamza have also been successful, American and coalition officials say.
But Taliban leaders on Wednesday claimed credit for the surrender of the ISIS fighters in Jawzjan, saying their capture was the result of a Taliban-led offensive against ISIS in the country, carried out over the last several weeks.
“The evil phenomenon of Daesh has completely been eliminated and people have been freed from its tortures inJawzjan province of Afghanistan,” said Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid, using an Arabic term for the group, in a statement to Reuters.
The Taliban’s claim of victory comes days after news reports said U.S. officials and members of the Taliban have held direct talks, in an effort to begin peace negotiations. The Pentagon has confirmed the informal talks have taken place, representing a major break in U.S. diplomatic policy regarding the 17-year war.