Afghan Leader Vows to Bury IS Affiliate

Afghan Leader Vows to Bury IS Affiliate
Afghan Leader Vows to Bury IS Affiliate

Afghanistan’s President Ashraf Ghani has vowed to “bury” the terrorist Islamic State group’s affiliate in the country, a report said, after Washington granted the US military legal authority to strike the militants in the country.

“This could be a point of no return for Daesh … We will bury Daesh,” Ghani said in an interview released on Monday, using the Arabic acronym for IS.

“Afghans are now motivated by revenge. They (IS) have confronted the wrong people,” Ghani said on the sidelines of World Economic Forum in the Swiss resort of Davos, AFP reported.

The group, which controls territory across Syria and Iraq, has made alarming inroads in Afghanistan’s eastern Nangarhar Province, as the country grapples with a resurgent Taliban insurgency.

IS insurgents claimed a deadly gun and bomb siege targeting the Pakistani Consulate in eastern Jalalabad on January 13, the group’s first major attack in an Afghan city.

In recent months, Afghan forces backed by US drones launched a scorched-earth offensive to beat back IS in Nangarhar, where the group’s reign of terror displaced thousands of people.

The US State Department earlier this month formally designated the group’s affiliate in Afghanistan and Pakistan, which calls itself “Khorasan Province”—as a terrorist organization.

The name Khorasan refers to a historic region that includes parts of modern-day Afghanistan, Pakistan and neighboring countries.

The White House this month also gave the US military legal authority to target the group’s fighters in Afghanistan, the first such authorization for military action against the group outside Iraq and Syria, the Wall Street Journal reported.

The militants have managed to attract disaffected Taliban fighters increasingly lured by the group’s signature brutality.

In a sign of their growing reach in Afghanistan, the group has taken to the airwaves with a 90-minute Pashto-language radio show called “Voice of the Caliphate”.

The government has said it is trying to block the broadcast, which is beamed from an undisclosed location and aimed at winning new recruits.

“The militant network is on the run in Nangarhar,” Ghani added. “They have committed unspeakable atrocities there ... We are starting to drive them out.”

  Army Overhaul

After months of ferocious fighting, Afghan Army units battling the Taliban in southern Helmand Province are facing major restructuring and leadership changes, with several key commanders being replaced, a US military official said on Monday.

Helmand has been a fierce battleground since last fall, with fighting taking place in 10 districts. At times, the insurgents have laid siege on army bases and threatened to overrun large chunks of territory.

Local officials have called for help from central authorities and complained publicly over corruption that includes siphoning off salaries, food, fuel and equipment.

US Army Brig. Gen. Wilson Shoffner, the head of public affairs for the US-NATO mission, said the Afghan Army corps in Helmand is now being “rebuilt” and that senior officers are being replaced.

The reasons for the changes in the Afghan Army’s 215 Maiwand Corps “are a combination of incompetence, corruption and ineffectiveness,” Shoffner said. The corps’ commander has been replaced, along with “some brigade commanders and some key corps staff up to full colonel level,” he said.

Helmand is a strategic region for the Taliban, as it shares a border of more than 250 kilometers with Pakistan. It grows large quantities of opium, used to produce most of the world’s heroin. The harvest is worth up to $3 billion a year and helps fund the insurgency.

The Afghan Defense Ministry confirmed the changes in Helmand. Gen. Dawlat Waziri, the ministry’s spokesman, said brigade commanders have also been rotated out and replaced.

“Soon, other army units will have new commanders there,” Waziri said.

The US and NATO maintain 13,000 troops in Afghanistan, mostly in an advisory and training capacity. There are about 12,000 Taliban fighters in Helmand, up to 60% of them from other parts of the country—evidence the insurgents had reinforced their numbers for the fight.