Afghan troops, backed by American air support, Sunday launched a major offensive against Islamic State, or IS, bases in the eastern Nangarhar province.
A regional military spokesman, Shirin Aqa, told reporters in the provincial capital of Jalalabad that security forces have been tasked to clear Kot and Haska districts of IS militants before extending the action to other districts. Afghans refer to IS by its Arabic acronym of Daesh.
He said that both military and police forces have been involved in the counter-IS operation and they will be provided with air support by US forces if needed. The army spokesman explained that the offensive will continue until the threat is eliminated in the area.
“We can confirm that the United States is providing combat enabling support, to include air support, to our Afghan partners,” said U.S. military spokesman Brigadier General Charles Cleveland in a written statement sent to VOA.
IS affiliate, Islamic State Khorasan Province or ISK-P, has been trying to establish a foothold in Afghanistan since the beginning of 2015.
But U.S. counterterrorism airstrikes and repeated ground offensives by Afghan forces have prevented the loyalists of the terrorist group from extending their extremist activities beyond a few districts of Nangarhar.
The top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, General John Nicholson, told a congressional hearing in Washington this past Thursday that the Afghan government along with U.S. counterterrorism forces have achieved significant successes against IS in within the last year.
The general said that initially the group was active in 11 districts in Nangahar but it has now been confined to a only few districts.
“We have reduced their fighters by half, their territory by two-thirds, we have killed their leader, in fact their top 12 leaders and continue to disrupt their operations,” said Nicholson.
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IS militants have also come under attack from the rival Taliban insurgency in parts of the country.
The eastern Afghan province borders Pakistan and General Nicholson says that fighters from the anti-state Pakistani Taliban as well as outlawed Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan mostly fill IS ranks in Afghanistan.