Posts Tagged ‘Nangarhar’

Six dead as suicide blast hits Afghan political rally

December 3, 2017

AFP

© AFP | Afghan volunteers carry an injured boy to hospital after the suicide attack in Jalalabad

JALALABAD (AFGHANISTAN) (AFP) – At least six people were killed when a suicide bomber drove a motorcycle into a crowd at a political rally in the eastern Afghan city of Jalalabad on Sunday, police said.

The crowd had gathered in a sports stadium for a demonstration in support for President Ashraf Ghani, said Nangarhar province’s police spokesman Hazrat Hussain Mashriqiwal.

Image result for Nangarhar, afghanistan, map

“Six people including a woman and a child have been killed and 13 more injured, all of them civilians,” he told AFP by phone.

The toll was confirmed by the provincial governor?s spokesman as well as a local health director, who said some of the wounded were in a serious condition.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack, but Nangarhar province is considered a hotbed for the Islamic State (IS) group, which emerged in Afghanistan in late 2015.

The Taliban also have an active presence in parts of the province.

Afghan and US officials have stepped up their attacks on IS, saying the group was steadily losing territory with fighters largely confined to two or three districts in Nangarhar compared to around nine in January.

But the group has also intensified attacks across the country, particularly in the east and in the capital Kabul, recruiting followers and in some places challenging the Taliban on their own turf.

Last month a suicide attack claimed by IS militants hit a political gathering in Kabul, killing 14 people.

Political rivalries have also been intensifying in the country before next year’s long-delayed district and parliamentary elections, which would pave the way for a 2019 presidential ballot.

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Daesh beheads 15 of its own fighters in Afghanistan after infighting

November 23, 2017

The Taliban and Daesh have frequently fought each other in Nangarhar and both have been targeted by sustained US air strikes. (Reuters)

JALALABAD, Afghanistan: Daesh on Thursday beheaded 15 of its own fighters due to infighting in Afghanistan’s eastern province of Nangarhar, the local government said.

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Further details were not available and there was no confirmation from Daesh, whose local branch is known as Daesh in Khorasan, an old name for the area that includes modern Afghanistan.
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Separately, a bomb exploded in Nangarhar’s capital, Jalalabad, the same day, killing at least eight people, although there was no indication of who may have been responsible.
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Attaullah Khogyani, the provincial governor’s spokesman, said the 15 Daesh fighters were executed after a bout of infighting in the group, which has become notorious for its brutality. The killings occurred in the Surkh Ab bazaar of Achin district.
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Nangarhar, where the movement first appeared around the beginning of 2015, is a volatile hub for Daesh and other militant groups on Afghanistan’s porous border with Pakistan.
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The Taliban and Daesh have frequently fought each other in Nangarhar and both have been targeted by sustained US air strikes.
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However the exact nature of the relationship between the two groups is little understood. There have been isolated incidents in Afghanistan in which the fighters from the two groups appear to have cooperated.
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According to Afghan intelligence documents reviewed by Reuters earlier this year, security officials believe Daesh is present in nine provinces, from Nangarhar and Kunar in the east to Jawzjan, Faryab and Badakhshan in the north and Ghor in the central west.
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The Fence Driving a Wedge Between Pakistan and Afghanistan

November 2, 2017

Bloomberg

By Ismail Dilawar  and Kamran Haider

  • Border smuggling dwarves official trading between neighbors
  • Pakistan has only fenced 43 kilometers of large pourous border

On the upper deck of the Hamza Fort border check-point in Pakistan’s South Waziristan, Major General Nauman Zakaria points to a 12-foot high fence just yards away — the latest initiative the military says will stem insurgent attacks across a more than 1,000 mile disputed border with Afghanistan.

“There won’t be an inch of international border that shall not remain under our observation,” said Zakaria, who has served in counter-insurgency operations in restive border regions of south and north Waziristan.

At an estimated cost of more than $532 million, Pakistan has started fencing the 2,344-kilometer (1,456 miles) border with war-torn Afghanistan, the latest measure that’s driving a wedge between the fractious neighbors who have accused each other of harboring insurgents launching cross-border attacks.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has condemned Pakistan for instigating an “undeclared war of aggression” against his nation. While only 43 kilometers has so far been fenced since May, Ghani’s administration has repeatedly denounced and threatened armed confrontation over its construction across the disputed Durand Line, which divided the largely ethnic Pashtun communities in the region during British colonial rule.

Despite the objections, Pakistan is proceeding with its plan as Islamabad faces increased U.S. pressure to act against terrorists. President Donald Trump in August strongly denounced the nation’s alleged duplicity. He said the nuclear-armed Islamic Republic continues to harbor militant groups, such as the Taliban-affiliated Haqqani Network, which have attacked American-backed forces in Afghanistan.

After visiting Islamabad during a tour of South Asia last month, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said he was concerned terror groups are undermining political stability in Pakistan and called on leaders there to join in eradicating fighters that seek safe haven within its borders.

Feasibility Questioned

Pakistan’s military expects to complete construction of the chain-linked and barbed-wire topped fence across the South Waziristan portion by December 2018. No timeline has been given for completion of the entire length of the border and there are questions over whether the plan is logistically feasible along the porous and often mountainous terrain.

There are 235 crossing points, some frequently used by militants and drug traffickers, of which 18 can be accessed by vehicles, according to a report by the Afghanistan Analysts Network research group last month.

A soldier stands by a new border fence in Pakistan’s South Waziristan.

Photographer: Aamir Qureshi/AFP via Getty Images

The Taliban are used to moving with ease between the two countries in the often lawless border lands and are usually waved through by Pakistan security forces, according to the AAN, citing conversations with multiple current and former Taliban fighters, doctors and Afghans living in the region. Pakistan’s military has long denied supporting militant groups, including the Taliban.

While there has been some tightening of security since, the AAN said more than 2,000 Taliban commanders traveled to the southwestern Pakistani city of Quetta in July 2015 to witness Mullah Akhtar Mansour’s ascension to the group’s leadership, before his death last year when he was killed in Pakistan by a U.S. drone strike.

“It was like a free highway,” Asad Munir, a retired brigadier who served in Waziristan and other border regions, said about one of the crossing points in Birmal. Militants won’t sit idle and will find alternative routes to sneak across the fenced border, he said.

Officials from Afghanistan’s foreign ministry didn’t respond to calls seeking comment, though in April the ministry’s spokesman, Ahmad Shekib Mostaghni, said “any type of unilateral actions” along the Durand Line will be “ineffective, impractical and impossible” without Afghanistan’s agreement. The country will use its security forces to stop the fencing if diplomacy fails, he said.

Nafees Zakaria, a spokesman for Pakistan’s foreign ministry, said in a text message that the border fortification was being misconstrued by Afghanistan and is “instrumental in curtailing cross-border movement of terrorists and other undesired elements, smuggling of drugs, weapons and other goods.”

Opiate Trade

The fencing may reduce rampant smuggling which is valued at $3 billion by the Pakistan-Afghanistan Joint Chamber of Commerce & Industry — more than double the size of official trade between the two nations. Pakistan’s central bank recorded the bilateral trade at $1.2 billion in the financial year ended June.

The barrier is also aimed at reducing the drug trade across the border, which fund the Taliban’s operations in Afghanistan. About 40 percent of the opiates produced in the war-torn country are used in and transit through Pakistan, according to the United Nation’s. The UN estimates that Afghanistan’s opium poppy production grew by 700 tons to 4,800 tons in the decade ended 2016.

“Pakistan is one of the biggest transit routes for the smuggling of drugs from Afghanistan,” said Syed Tahir Hussain Mashhadi, a retired colonel who is a member of Pakistan’s Senate committee on narcotics control. Pakistan’s anti-narcotics force “is trying its best to control it, but lacks power to keep the whole border sealed.”

— With assistance by Eltaf Najafizada

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-10-31/the-fence-driving-a-wedge-between-pakistan-and-afghanistan

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Joint military operation out of question, Pakistan will tell Tillerson — Does China’s Money Run Pakistan? Or The ISI?

October 22, 2017

By Amir Khan

Published: October 22, 2017
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is set to arrive in Islamabad on his maiden visit later this month. PHOTO: REUTERS/FILE

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is set to arrive in Islamabad on his maiden visit later this month. PHOTO: REUTERS/FILE

KARACHI: Pakistani policymakers have put together their agenda for talks with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson who will arrive in Islamabad on his maiden visit later this month to enlist “Pakistan’s help for American effort to reach a peaceful solution in Afghanistan”.

Tillerson’s trip comes amid an uptick in Taliban violence in Afghanistan where US-led coalition forces have been battling to quell an increasingly bloody insurgency since the ouster of the Taliban regime in 2001.

President Donald Trump’s top foreign policy aide would be told that Pakistan is willing to further strengthen the intelligence information sharing mechanism with the US in consonance with its national security, according to the agenda shared with Daily Express.

Pakistan offered US joint operation against Haqqanis: Khawaja Asif

“He [Tillerson] will be told that only Pakistani security forces will conduct counterterrorism operations on its soil – and that a joint operation with American or Afghan forces is out of question,” a source said.

Earlier this month, Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif, who recently toured the US, said in a television interview that Pakistan has offered the United States a joint operation against terrorists on its soil. However, he later clarified that he never said Pakistan could allow foreign boots on ground.

According to sources, Pakistani officials have prioritised the issues to be taken up with Tillerson which include the recent strain in Pak-US ties; President Trump’s new Afghan strategy; Pakistan’s role in the Afghan peace process; and Pakistan’s reservations on India’s role in Afghanistan, etc.

Army says ‘joint operation’ on Pakistan’s soil out of question

Top government functionaries would also tell President Trump’s aide that the American policy of pushing Pakistan to ‘do more’ must end as no other country has done as much as Pakistan has in the global war against terrorism. “It would also be conveyed to Tillerson that Pakistan wants to promote relationship with the US on the basis of sovereign equality,” a second source told Daily Express.

The Pakistani side, especially the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) would stress the need for intelligence sharing in the fight against terrorists. The Americans would be asked to share actionable intelligence on terrorists on Pakistan’s soil, and Pakistani forces would take action against them.

US and Afghan officials allege that the Haqqani network, the Afghan Taliban faction responsible for some the most deadliest attacks in Afghanistan, maintains safe havens inside Pakistan – an allegation Islamabad vehemently denies.

‘Seven JuA militants killed in NATO, Afghan forces raid’

Sources said that Pakistani officials would also ask Tillerson to impress upon the administration of President Ashraf Ghani to dismantle the sanctuaries of terrorists who are using the Afghan soil as a launching pad for mounting attacks inside Pakistan. Though Kabul denies any sanctuaries of Pakistani terrorists on its soil, but Omar Khalid Khorasani, the chief of TTP-Jamaatul Ahrar, was killed in a US drone strike in eastern Afghan province of Paktia earlier this month.

Pakistan would also called for revitalising and reenergising the Quadrilateral Coordination Group (QCG) for finding a political solution to the insurgency in Afghanistan, sources said. The quartet, which is made up of Afghanistan, Pakistan, China, and the United States, met on October 16 in Oman after a long hiatus in an effort to resurrect the moribund Afghan peace process.

President Trump’s Afghan strategy envisages a greater role for Pakistan’s arch-rival India in Afghanistan. But Tillerson would be told that Islamabad could never reconcile to this idea because it is convinced that New Delhi wants to use the Afghan soil to destabilise Pakistan.

Pakistan, Afghanistan to conduct joint border ops under US supervision: Kabul

The multibillion-dollar China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is also expected to come up for discussion during Tillerson’s visit. US Defence Secretary James Mattis said last week during a hearing of the US Senate Armed Services Committee that CPEC runs through a disputed territory — an allegation originally levelled by India to thwart the project.

The Pakistani side, according to sources, would make it clear to Tillerson that CPEC is very important project for the development of its economy and for regional connectivity and hence any attempt to make it controversial would not be acceptable.

Sources said that Tillerson’s visit is very significant as it would clarify Trump’s policy and set course for future Islamabad-Washington relations.

https://tribune.com.pk/story/1538241/1-joint-military-operation-question-pakistan-will-tell-tillerson/

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Pakistan, Afghanistan in angry tangle over border fence to keep out militants

October 19, 2017

ANGOOR ADDA, Pakistan (Reuters) – Pakistan is betting that a pair of nine-foot chain-link fences topped with barbed wire will stop incursions by Islamist militants from Afghanistan, which opposes Islamabad’s plans for a barrier along the disputed frontier.

Pakistan plans to fence up most of the 2,500 km (1,500 mile) frontier despite Kabul’s protests that the barrier would divide families and friends along the Pashtun tribal belt straddling the colonial-era Durand Line drawn up by the British in 1893.

Pakistan’s military estimates that it will need about 56 billion rupees ($532 million) for the project, while there are also plans to build 750 border forts and employ high-tech surveillance systems to prevent militants crossing.

In the rolling hills of the Angoor Adda village in South Waziristan, part of Pakistan’s restive Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), three rolls of barbed wire are sandwiched in the six-foot gap between the chain-link fences.

“(The fence) is a paradigm change. It is an epoch shift in the border control management,” said a Pakistani army officer in command of South Waziristan during a presentation to foreign media on Wednesday.

“There will not be an inch of international border (in South Waziristan) which shall not remain under our observation.”

Pakistan’s military has so far fenced off about 43 km of the frontier, starting with the most violence-prone areas in FATA, and is expected to recruit tens of thousands of new troops to man the border. It is not clear how long it will take to fence the entire boundary.

But Pakistan’s plans have also drawn criticism from across the border.

A soldier stands guard along the border fence at the Angoor Adda outpost on the border with Afghanistan in South Waziristan, Pakistan October 18, 2017. REUTERS/Caren Firouz

Gulab Mangal, governor of the eastern Afghan province of Nangarhar, told Reuters the wall will create “more hatred and resentment” between two neighbors and will do neither country any good.

“The fence will definitely create a lot of trouble for the people along the border on both sides but no wall or fence can separate these tribes,” he said.

“I urge the tribes to stand against this action.”

Pakistan has blamed Pakistani Taliban militants it says are based on Afghan soil for a spate of attacks at home over the past year, urging Kabul to eradicate “sanctuaries” for militants.

Afghanistan, in turn, accuses Islamabad of sheltering the leadership of the Afghan Taliban militants who are battling the Western-backed government in Kabul.

Both countries deny aiding militants, but relations between the two have soured in recent years. In May, the tension rose when 10 people were killed in two border villages in Baluchistan region.

The clashes occurred in so-called “divided villages”, where the Durand Line goes through the heart of the community, and where residents are now bracing for the fence to split their villages in two.

Pakistan’s previous attempts to build a fence failed about a decade ago and many doubt whether its possible to secure such a lengthy border.

But Pakistani army officials are undeterred by the scepticism and insist they will finish the job as the country’s security rests on this fence.

“By the time we are done, inshallah, we will be very sure of one thing: that nobody can cross this place,” said the Pakistani officer in charge of South Waziristan.

Reporting by Reuters TV in South Waziristan and Hamid Shalizi in Kabul; Writing by Drazen Jorgic

US soldier killed in Afghan operation against IS

August 17, 2017

AFP

© AFP/File | Wednesday’s death, the latest blow to American forces in Afghanistan, follows a Taliban suicide bomb attack in Kandahar earlier this month that killed two US soldiers

KABUL (AFP) – A US soldier has been killed in Afghanistan in an operation targeting Islamic State group insurgents, commanders said Thursday, in the latest blow to American forces in the war-torn nation.

The death brought the number of US soldiers — who are supposed to be in a non-combat role in Afghanistan — killed in action in the country so far this year to 10, one above the tally for the whole of 2016.

“One US service member has died as a result of wounds suffered Wednesday during a partnered operation with US and Afghan forces in Eastern Afghanistan,” United States Forces-Afghanistan said in a statement.

“US and Afghan forces were also injured during the operation aimed at further reducing Islamic State of Iraq and Syria-Khorasan presence in Afghanistan,” it said, referring to the IS group’s regional affiliate.

The wounded were later evacuated for treatment, the statement added.

Earlier this month two US soldiers were killed in Kandahar when a Taliban suicide bomber rammed a vehicle filled with explosives into their convoy.

The deaths come as President Donald Trump considers sending more troops to Afghanistan to help beat back a resurgent Taliban and an increasing IS presence.

US forces have been regularly targeting IS fighters in Afghanistan since the insurgents gained a foothold in the east of the country in 2015.

The US has killed several leaders of the group’s Afghan affiliate in recent months and says it wants to defeat the outfit by the end of the year.

In April, the US military dropped the so-called Mother Of All Bombs on IS hideouts in a complex of tunnels and bunkers in eastern Nangarhar province, killing over 90 militants.

The Pentagon said the GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast device was the biggest non-nuclear weapon it had ever used in combat.

IS continues to wreak havoc in the war-torn country. Earlier this month it claimed an attack on a mosque in Herat that killed 33 worshippers.

Senior Islamic State commanders killed in Afghanistan air strike: U.S. military

August 13, 2017

By Josh Smith

Reuters

KABUL (Reuters) – Several senior members of Islamic State’s central Asian affiliate were killed in a U.S. air strike in Afghanistan, officials said on Sunday.

The attack on Thursday killed Abdul Rahman, identified by the U.S. military as the Kunar provincial emir for Islamic State of Iraq and Syria-Khorasan, according to a statement from the command in Kabul.

“The death of Abdul Rahman deals yet another blow to the senior leadership of ISIS-K,” said General John Nicholson, the senior U.S. commander in Afghanistan.

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Abdul Rahman

Three other senior ISIS-K members were also among those killed in the strike in eastern Kunar province.

Nicholson has vowed to defeat Islamic State militants in Afghanistan this year.

The group’s emir, Abu Sayed, was reported killed in a strike on his headquarters in Kunar in July, the third Islamic State emir in Afghanistan to be killed since July 2016.

In April, Nicholson deployed a 21,600-pound (9,797 kg) “Massive Ordnance Air Blast” bomb against Islamic State positions in neighboring Nangarhar province, one of the largest conventional weapons ever used by the United States in combat.

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Smoke rises after the U.S. strikes positions during an ongoing operation against ISIS in Nangarhar province

On Saturday, Afghan officials said as many as 16 civilians, including women and children, had been killed by a U.S. air strike in Nangarhar, but American officials said only militants were killed.

As part of an increased campaign against both Islamic State and the Taliban, the dominant Islamist militant group in Afghanistan, the U.S. Air Force has dropped nearly 2,000 weapons in the country as of the end of July, compared to fewer than 1,400 in all of last year.

Despite some battlefield successes by Afghan and American special operations troops, Islamic State has continued deadly attacks around Afghanistan, fueling fears that the group is seeking to bring the group’s Middle East conflict to Central Asia.

Reporting by Josh Smith; Editing by Kim Coghill

Suicide Bomber Targets Pakistan Paramilitary Force, 2 Dead — The Taliban quickly claimed responsibility — Motorcycle attacker

July 17, 2017

PESHAWAR, Pakistan — A suicide bomber hit a vehicle carrying Pakistani paramilitary force members on Monday, killing two soldiers, including an officer, and wounding seven, a police official said. The Taliban quickly claimed responsibility for the attack.

Police superintendent Imran Malik said the attack happened in Peshawar, on the edge of the Khyber tribal area that borders Afghanistan. The attacker was riding a motorcycle, he added.

Pakistan’s Tehrik-e-Taliban, an umbrella for Pakistani Taliban factions, was behind the attack, according to a statement by the militants’ spokesman, Mohammad Khurasani, distributed to the media.

The attack came a day after the Pakistan army announced it had launched an operation in the Khyber tribal region to rout Islamic State militants it said were operating in the area. The Islamic State in Khorasan as it is known in Afghanistan and Pakistan is based in Afghanistan’s eastern Nangarhar province which abuts Pakistan and the Khyber tribal region.

The local Islamic State affiliate emerged a few years ago, mainly from disenchanted Taliban fighters espousing the IS’ ideology.

The paramilitary force, known as the Frontier Corps, is the front-line force battling militants in Pakistan’s tribal regions stretching hundreds of kilometers (miles) along its border with Afghanistan.

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Frontier Corps soldiers

Afghanistan: New U.S. Troops to Go In as Islamic State Fighters Killed in Tora Bora, Nangarhar Province

June 17, 2017

KABUL, Afghanistan — A top Afghan security official says he welcomes the U.S. government decision to send an additional 4,000 U.S. troops to Afghanistan.

Gen. Tariq Shah Bahrami, acting Afghan defense minister, said Saturday the decision was in consultation with the Afghan government. The mission for the new U.S. troops will be to train and advise Afghan security forces.

Meanwhile, Bahrami says army security forces recaptured Tora Bora in eastern Nangarhar province. He said at least 22 Islamic State group fighters were killed and 10 others were wounded in a clearance operation.

A major plan of the Islamic State group was to establish the Khorasan province but it has been foiled by security forces.

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U.S. Military Says Troops Killed Islamic State Leader in Afghanistan

May 8, 2017

U.S. Army Rangers and Afghan Special Forces carried out the operation on the night of April 26

Afghan security officials shown in action against Islamic State forces last month. On Sunday, the U.S. military said ISIS’s leader in Afghanistan was killed in a raid on the night of April 26.

Afghan security officials shown in action against Islamic State forces last month. On Sunday, the U.S. military said ISIS’s leader in Afghanistan was killed in a raid on the night of April 26. PHOTO: GHULAMULLAH HABIBI/EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY
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May 7, 2017 5:43 p.m. ET

KABUL—The U.S. military on Sunday said its forces killed Sheikh Abdul Hasib, Islamic State’s leader in Afghanistan, in a joint raid with Afghan soldiers in the eastern Nangarhar province.

A combined force of U.S. Army Rangers and Afghan Special Forces—who were dropped into the Mohmand valley near the border with Pakistan by helicopter—carried out the operation on the night of April 26 in which a number of the extremist group’s top commanders were also killed, according to a U.S. military statement.

The U.S. military has since said it is investigating whether the two U.S. soldiers that died in the operation were killed by friendly fire.

“This successful joint operation is another important step in our relentless campaign,” said General John Nicholson, the top commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan. “This is the second ISIS-K emir we have killed in nine months, along with dozens of their leaders and hundreds of their fighters.”

The operation took place in the same area where the U.S. military dropped one of the largest nonnuclear bombs in its arsenal, nicknamed the “Mother of All Bombs”, on an Islamic State tunnel-and-cave complex that was being used as a base.

In the weeks leading up to the blast, U.S. and Afghan forces killed more than a dozen Islamic State fighters, driving the militants out of villages that had been occupied for years into the mountains, according to Afghan special forces that were camped by a river in the valley there during a recent visit to the area.

Residents there were returning home for the first time in years to inspect the damage. Locals interviewed by The Wall Street Journal during the visit to the area were supportive of the strike and hoped for compensation after years of hardship.

The Islamic State Khorasan, as the Afghan affiliate is known, emerged in Afghanistan in late 2014, as most coalition troops were withdrawing from the country.

The group established a foothold in the east and has been working to win pockets of support in other parts of the country, targeting disgruntled Taliban commanders and other armed groups.

The U.S. military said Islamic State’s Afghan leader was responsible for a recent attack on a military hospital in Kabul that killed over a hundred people. It was the worst in a series of high-profile attacks claimed by the group in capital.

Islamic State’s presence in the area has shrunk dramatically in the weeks since U.S. and Afghan forces have pressed an offensive into its eastern stronghold, but its profile has risen since it started claiming attacks in the capital last year.

A number of other militant groups have also pledged allegiance to Islamic State, including, for example, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, which cooperates with the Taliban in north Afghanistan and has become a growing concern to neighbors in Central Asia.

While the Taliban remain by far the greatest threat to the U.S.-backed government in Afghanistan, there are concerns that Islamic State could expand if left unchecked.

Coalition officials also worry that Islamic State fighters fleeing the conflict in Iraq and Syria could seek safe haven in Afghanistan’s vast ungoverned spaces.

Write to Jessica Donati at Jessica.Donati@wsj.com

Appeared in the May. 08, 2017, print edition as ‘Islamic State Leader In Afghanistan Killed.’

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