Afghan forces killed an estimated 300 ISIS fighters in an operation mounted two weeks ago, the top US and NATO commander in Afghanistan said on Wednesday, calling it a severe blow to the group.
General John Nicholson, a senior NATO commander in Afghanistan, also confirmed on Wednesday that Afghan soldiers managed to kill top Daesh commanders across the militancy-riddled region.
The ISIS first appeared in Afghanistan at the beginning of 2015, and it had about 3,000 fighters at the height of the movement, many of them former members of militant groups such as the Pakistani Taliban.
The group, also known as ISIS, ISIL, or Daesh, is believed to be confined to three or four of the more than 400 districts in Afghanistan. Last month it claimed responsibility for bombing a demonstration by the Shi’ite Hazara minority in the capital, Kabul, in which at least 80 people were killed.
Nicholson, in New Delhi for talks with the Indian military, which has provided training and some arms to Afghanistan, said Afghan forces had just carried out a counterterrorism operation against the ISIS.
“They killed a number of top leaders of the organization and up to 300 of their fighters,” he told reporters.
“Obviously it’s difficult to get an exact count, but what this amounts to is about 25% of the organization at least, and so this represents a severe setback for them.”
Though the group was previously considered a much smaller threat than its bitter enemies the Taliban, its bomb attack in Kabul underlined how dangerous it could be, even without holding large tracts of territory.
By being more aggressive, the Afghan military was more successful this year against the Taliban than in 2015, when it lost 5,000 men, Nicholson said.