PENTAGON – A majority of Islamic State (Isis) members in Afghanistan are former Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) fighters, the commander of US and NATO forces in Afghanistan has said.
General John Nicholson also revealed that despite American forces fighting terrorists in the region for over a decade, there were still about a dozen local and international terrorist groups operating in the country.
Nicholson told journalists at the Pentagon that the most members of Islamic State Khorasan province were from the TTP – also called Pakistani Taliban – who joined the IS affiliate after they were driven out of the country following Pakistan’s counter-terrorism operation, Operation Zarb-e-Azb.
Nicholson said about 70% of the current league of IS fighters in Nangarhar province, where almost 10 districts have been under IS control since December 2015, were former TTP fighters. He said new IS recruits included both TTP fighters as well as their leaders, who joined the international terrorist group in huge numbers.
Most of these militants belong to Pakistan’s Orakzai tribal agency and joined the international terror group earlier this year, after being radicalized by its leaders in Iraq and Afghanistan, the US commander said.
The US commander said American air strikes targeting the militants had forced them out of some areas and that US troops were now working with Afghan security forces to reclaim significant parts of the territory from IS. “Daesh fighters are retreating south into the mountains of southern Nangarhar. We will continue to stay after Daesh until they are defeated here in Afghanistan,” Nicholson said during the media briefing, IBT reported.
He added that the increasing influence of Isis in Afghanistan had triggered clashes between them and the Afghan Taliban, further forcing the former to withdraw from several areas.