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ISIS flees Taliban onslaught, surrenders to Afghan government forces

Coalition airstrikes hit ISIS fighters in Afghanistan's Nangarhar and Jawzjan provinces on Feb. 6, 2018. More than 150 ISIS fighters surrendered to the Afghan government on Tuesday, July 31, 2018, after their Taliban enemies recently launched an offensive against them.

JACOB KRONE/U.S. ARMY

By PHILLIP WALTER WELLMAN | STARS AND STRIPES Published: August 1, 2018

KABUL, Afghanistan — The allied coalition’s battle against the Islamic State in Afghanistan received a boost from another enemy Wednesday, when Taliban guerrillas drove ISIS fighters out of northern Jawzjan province.

More than 150 ISIS fighters surrendered to Afghan government forces after the Taliban launched an offensive against them, officials said. U.S. forces have also been conducting airstrikes against ISIS in the area for months.

“These people were surrounded by the Taliban for several days, but last night they managed to break free and surrender to government forces,” Faqir Mohammad Jawzjani, Jawzjan’s police chief, told Stars and Stripes on Wednesday.

The surrender is a major setback for ISIS in Afghanistan, known as ISIS-Khorasan Province. The group emerged in the country’s east about four years ago and recently appeared to be growing stronger in the north.

Officials say it is difficult to know exactly how many ISIS fighters are operating in the country, but some put the figure as high as 2,000.

“This was Daesh’s last center in the north of Afghanistan,” Jawzjani said, using an Arabic acronym for ISIS. “Now we can say that Daesh is cleared from the north.”

The Taliban, who differ ideologically and culturally from ISIS, said more than 150 ISIS fighters were killed during their offensive and that the weapons of the dead were seized. Government officials were not immediately able to confirm the Taliban’s claimed death toll.

“The root of Daesh has been taken out of Jawzjan,” Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said in a statement.

In 2017, U.S. military officials in Afghanistan said one of their top goals was to eliminate ISIS in the country by the end of the year. The group has proved resilient in eastern Nangarhar province and continues to carry out indiscriminate attacks in Kabul.

Gen. John Nicholson, the U.S.’s top commander in Afghanistan, told reporters last week that U.S. forces were “very concerned about ISIS” and “going fully at ISIS.”

“We also note that the Taliban is fighting ISIS, and we encourage that because ISIS needs to be destroyed,” Nicholson said.

wellman.phillip@stripes.com
Twitter: @pwwellman

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