ISIS Afghan leader killed as new US commander takes charge

ISIS Afghan leader killed as new US commander takes charge

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Gen. Joseph Votel, United States Central Command commander, Gen. Scott Miller, Resolute Support mission commander, and Gen. John Nicholson, outgoing Resolute Support mission commander, stand for the playing of the NATO Hymn during a change of command ceremony in Kabul, Afghanistan, September 2, 2018. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Sharida Jackson)

WASHINGTON — The leader of ISIS in Afghanistan was killed by a U.S air strike in August, the Pentagon said Sunday, the third time U.S. forces have successfully targeted a self-proclaimed emir of Islamic State – Khorasan group since July 2016.

Killed was Abu Saad Orakzai, the Pentagon said. The strike occurred on Aug. 25 in the eastern area of the Nangarhar province of Afghanistan,

“America and her allies are in Afghanistan to maintain pressure on the networked, trans-regional terrorists attempting to plot, resource and direct attacks from here,” Gen. Scott Miller, the new commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, said in a news release. “This is only part of the coalition’s work towards and Afghan security solution, but it is a vital part.”

Miller assumed command on Sept. 1. He replaces Gen. John Nicholson, the longest-serving commander of U.S. and NATO forces, in the post since March 2016.

During the change-of-command ceremony, Nicholson called on the Taliban to “stop killing your fellow Afghans” and reminded all parties that “it is time for this war in Afghanistan to end,” according to news reports.

However, Nicholson also warned the Taliban and other opponent of Kabul that “until you are willing to start talking, we will keep fighting,” according to news reports.

The U.S. has about 14,000 troops in Afghanistan.

In response to questions from TMN, Nicholson said the training by the U.S. and other coalition members is critical to help Afghans keep pressure and be on the offensive against ISIS-K, Al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups while getting the Taliban to peace talks.

“A reconciliation with the Taliban would make it very difficult for these terrorists to live and operate in Afghanistan, thus hindering their ability to regenerate and conduct international attacks,” Nicholson said in an email. “Peace and reconciliation will therefore contribute to security from the violent extremist organizations and terrorists.”

Nicholson would not comment directly on suggestions by some analysts that Afghanistan should be framed in the same way as the U.S. military commitment has been with Germany — open-ended to ensure stability.

“While I provide recommendations and military advice, I do not make policy. You have heard from me and many in the government about the United States’ commitment to the conditions-based strategy, which is working,” Nicholson said in his e-mail response.

“In their (coalition members’) joint statement they were clear,” he said. “They will sustain the non-combat Resolute Support mission that delivers training, advice and assistance to the Afghan security institutions and forces until conditions indicate a change in the mission is appropriate, and will extend financial sustainment of the Afghan forces through 2024.”

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