5 US special operators wounded fighting ISIS in Afghanistan

5 US special operators wounded fighting ISIS in Afghanistan
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The top U.S. commander in Afghanistan said Thursday that five U.S. special operators were recently wounded in clearing operations against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). 

The U.S. special operators were conducting partnered operations with Afghan special operators in the southern Afghanistan province of Nangarhar, Army Gen. John Nicholson said during a press briefing. 

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The injuries occurred during operations conducted in the last few days and were from small arms fire and shrapnel, Nicholson said. 

The wounds were not life-threatening, and two of the service members have returned to their units, while three were evacuated from Afghanistan, Nicholson said. 

“They are in good spirits and have talked to their families,” he said. “We expect a full recovery.”

The U.S. and Afghan forces were moving south to clear ISIS from the province, Nicholson said. 

He estimated there are somewhere between 1,000 to 1,500 members of ISIS in Afghanistan, down from about 3,000. ISIS members are mostly in the provinces of Nangahar and Kunar, Nicholson said 

The president gave the U.S. military the authority to strike ISIS targets in Afghanistan in January. 

“We have killed many [ISIS] commanders and soldiers, destroyed key infrastructure, capabilities, and logistical nodes,” Nicholson said. “Fighters are retreating south into the mountains of southern Nangarhar as we speak.”

Nicholson said many ISIS fighters in Afghanistan were members of other groups, and that he's seeing "convergence" between the different terrorist groups in the country. 

Those groups include Islamic State Khorasan Province (ISKP), ISIS's affiliate in Afghanistan; Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan. 

Nicholson said an overwhelming majority of ISIS fighters in Afghanistan were forced out of Pakistan by its counterterrorism operations.

He estimated about 70 percent are former members of the TTP, "complete with their leadership." 

Updated 1:16 p.m.