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KABUL, Afghanistan — A foreign drone strike and ensuing ground operation by Afghan forces have killed more than two dozen Islamic State loyalists in eastern Afghanistan, local officials said.

Islamic State militants have occupied large areas of Syria, Iraq, and Libya, but have struggled to establish a foothold in Afghanistan. In March, President Ashraf Ghani announced the group had been defeated in the east, but regular airstrikes targeting suspected members have been conducted since.

Attaullah Khogyani, spokesman for the provincial governor of Nangarhar province, said 27 Islamic State loyalists had been killed in Saturday’s attack in different areas of Achin district, which borders Pakistan.

"There are some foreign IS fighters among the dead," he said. "There were no civilian casualties."

U.S. military spokesman, Army Brig. Gen. Charles H. Cleveland confirmed American forces conducted a counterterrorism strike in Nangarhar Saturday evening. He would not comment on the number of those killed or their identities, citing protocol.

The strike was part of the U.S. military’s continued counterterrorism mission in Afghanistan, and not related to the recent expansion of American combat capabilities in the country.

Earlier this month, President Barack Obama approved a wider role for the military, allowing leaders to send troops to battle with conventional Afghan forces — instead of Afghan special forces only, which is the current rule — and expanding the use of American air power for offensive missions. The change is not yet operational.

Since combat missions drew to a close in late 2014, the U.S. military’s role in the country has been focused on training and advising Afghan forces, and conducting counterterrorism operations.

The Afghan defense ministry said a number of Islamic State weapons, including at least one heavy machine gun commonly known as a Dashka, were also destroyed.

Zubair Babakarkhail contributed to this report.

wellman.phillip@stripes.comTwitter: @PhillipWellman

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Phillip is a reporter and photographer for Stars and Stripes, based in Kaiserslautern, Germany. From 2016 to 2021, he covered the war in Afghanistan from Stripes’ Kabul bureau. He is a graduate of the London School of Economics.
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