Drone strike kills ISIS recruiter in Afghanistan

A drone strike in Afghanistan has killed Abdul Rauf, the top recruiter in Afghanistan for the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

Afghanistan’s National Directorate of Security confirmed the death in a Facebook post Monday morning, along with the deaths of five other militants. 

{mosads}The killing of Rauf, who was formerly held by the United States at Guantanamo Bay, is the first known drone strike against an ISIS militant operating in Afghanistan.

The strike took place in Kajaki District in Afghanistan’s southern Helmand province, where U.S. Marines once held a large presence during the Afghanistan War. 

The U.S.-led coalition in Afghanistan did not confirm Rauf’s death, but said: “We can confirm that coalition forces conducted a precision strike in Helmand province on 9 February resulting in the death of eight individuals threatening the force.”

Rauf was a former Taliban commander who defected to become ISIS’s “deputy emir” in Afghanistan and form his own group of insurgents. He was captured by U.S. forces in December 2001, released to Afghan custody in December 2007, and freed in 2009, according to the Long War Journal. 

Rauf was seen in an online video that surfaced last month recruiting militants in Afghanistan for ISIS. U.S. officials have not confirmed that ISIS is in Afghanistan, though they have said they are aware of reports that the terrorist group is trying to gain a foothold there. 

Army Gen. John Campbell, the top commander in Afghanistan, is scheduled to testify to members of Congress this Thursday about progress on the mission there, which shifted from a combat mission to an advisory mission in December. 

Defense hawks criticize the president’s drawdown timeline, and say it should depend on security conditions in Afghanistan, versus an “arbitrary” timeline. 

Defense secretary nominee Ashton Carter said last week that he would be open to recommending a modification of that timeline if necessary. 

Currently, there are about 10,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan. The U.S. is planning to draw down to about 5,000 troops by the end of the year, and to about 1,000 by the end of next year. 

— This story was updated at 12:47 p.m.

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