ISIS in Afghanistan may be planning attacks on US forces

ISIS in Afghanistan may be planning attacks on US forces

Defense officials on Friday said "individuals" in Afghanistan — whom local media identified as Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militants — were planning attacks on U.S. and coalition forces there, necessitating drone strikes earlier this week.  

"The strikes were against individuals known to be planning attacks against U.S. and coalition personnel," said a U.S. military spokesman in Afghanistan.

The spokesman did not elaborate on what kind of attacks or where the individuals were planning attacks against U.S. and coalition forces. 

ADVERTISEMENT
The U.S. has about 9,800 U.S. troops in Afghanistan at 17 U.S. bases and five coalition bases around the country. 

"The strikes were precision strikes using unmanned, remotely-piloted aircraft," the spokesman said. 

Local Afghan news outlets reported Thursday that a U.S. strike on Tuesday in the Nangarhar province in eastern Afghanistan killed two senior ISIS leaders and more than a dozen militants. 

The two senior leaders were Shahidullah Shahid, a former Pakistan Taliban spokesman, and Gul Zaman, Afghan intelligence officials reportedly told local media.

The Pentagon confirmed in a statement Thursday that a strike Tuesday and two strikes Monday took place against "individuals threatening U.S. and coalition forces," but did not elaborate. 

Pentagon spokesman Navy Capt. Jeff Davis said Friday, "We do not have any battle damage assessment such that we would be able to confirm specific individuals who [were killed]."

Pentagon officials have downplayed the presence of ISIS in Afghanistan, saying they are largely disaffected members of the Taliban who have "re-branded" themselves as ISIS. 

Still, officials say they are keeping a close eye on those militants, who now operate in three provinces in Afghanistan: Nangarhar in the east, Farah in the west and Helmand in the south. 

"The decision of some Taliban militants to re-brand themselves as ISIL has not posed a significant threat to the Afghan government's legitimacy, nor to its ability to maintain control over sovereign territory," said Pentagon spokeswoman Henrietta Levin, using a different acronym for ISIS. 

"That being said, we are monitoring closely to see whether this limited re-branding of disaffected Taliban fighters will have a meaningful impact on the ground," she said. 

The strike comes after President Obama officially ended the U.S. combat mission in Afghanistan in December and ahead of a planned troop drawdown in the country by next year. 

U.S. forces are currently advising and assisting Afghan forces and conducting counterterrorism missions. They are slated to draw down to an embassy presence of about 1,000 in Kabul.

The U.S. previously conducted an airstrike in February that reportedly killed another senior ISIS leader, Mullah Abdul Rauf, in Helmand.

A U.S. military spokesman confirmed the strike at the time, which he said resulted "in the death of eight individuals threatening the force."