Taliban claims defeat of Islamic State in Northwestern Afghanistan
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The Taliban claimed on Wednesday to have decisively defeated the Islamic State in northwestern Afghanistan, driving over 150 ISIS militants out of Jawzjan province and into the custody of Afghan government security forces.
“The evil phenomenon of Daesh has completely been eliminated and people have been freed from its tortures in Jawzjan province of Afghanistan,” a Taliban spokesman said on Wednesday after a large number of ISIS fighters were taken into custody by Afghan troops. “Daesh” is a derogatory name for the Islamic State.
Reuters notes that the Taliban offensive against ISIS in Jawzjan lasted for several weeks and included some U.S. airstrikes against Islamic State positions, which would very loosely make it a joint U.S.-Afghan-Taliban operation, although the Taliban insists it wanted no American help and the U.S. was trying to obstruct its assault.
In addition to the 152 ISIS fighters that surrendered to Afghan security forces on Wednesday, the Taliban claims it captured another 130 and killed over 150 during the battle. Thousands of civilian refugees were driven out of the area by the fighting.
“The worries of neighboring countries, and the presence of Daesh groups on their borders, have now been removed,” a spokesman for the Afghan provincial government declared, indicating that the defeat is seen as substantial for ISIS.
One of the Islamic State militants who surrendered on Wednesday was a senior leader of the terrorist group, Mawlavi Habib ur-Rehman. Weapons and equipment were also surrendered to Afghan troops by the ISIS fighters.
The Islamic State is not completely down and out in Afghanistan yet. The terror state is currently conducting its own offensive against Jalalabad, with the goal of disrupting peace talks and proving ISIS is still a force to be reckoned with.
As with other regions that were once on the periphery of the Islamic State’s ambitions, operations in Afghanistan received a surge of fighters and funding after the “caliphate” collapsed in Syria and Iraq. ISIS also siphons manpower from the Taliban through defections, a flow Taliban leadership would surely like to reverse by handing its rival a few stinging defeats.
ISIS is believed to have killed a senior Taliban commander with a suicide bombing in mid-July, as well as inflicting dozens of casualties against Taliban fighters with suicide bombings during the June cease-fire between the Taliban and Afghan forces.
As savage as the Taliban can be, the sheer brutality of the Islamic State stands out even by Afghanistan’s gruesome standards. Refugees from ISIS-held areas have reported sadistic executions, rape, slavery, and forced marriage. Even some Afghans sympathetic to the Taliban have recoiled from the Islamic State’s tactics and denounced them as a foreign group seeking to impose an outside ideology on Afghanistan.
From a strategic standpoint, the Taliban not only has good reason to eliminate its extremist rivals before they can poach more manpower or seize more territory. They also know the United States has placed a high priority on eliminating the Islamic State. As Wednesday’s surrender demonstrates, getting rid of ISIS is the one thing Washington, Kabul, and the Taliban can agree on. Peace plans have been developed on far less sturdy foundations of mutual interest, although rarely with partners as unsavory and treacherous as the Taliban.