UPDATED 6:15 PM PT — Sunday, November 17, 2019
The Islamic State is suffering another major blow to its global operations after 241 ISIS fighters surrendered to Afghan security forces in the province of Nangarhar. The group known as ISIS-K saw more than 600 if its members and their families surrender over the past few days.
Number of surrendered #ISIS-K fighters and their families members reached to 615. As result of massive operation by #ANDSF in #Nangarhar high number of ISIS-K fighters surrendered, killed or runaway. Large number of weapon and ammunition’s seized by #ANA. pic.twitter.com/F836ahbdPH
— Ministry of Defense, Afghanistan (@MoDAfghanistan) November 16, 2019
Afghan officials said the majority of detained militants come from Pakistan, a country that faced accusations of harboring Islamic terrorists for years.
“In the name of ISIS, these foreigners came to our country — they committed gruesome acts, as you know,” Commander Nazar Ali Wahidi. “They have executed tribal elders with bombs — they destroyed all houses in Shinwar.”
However, this latest defeat of ISIS is hardly good news for the U.S. and the world. Reports on the ground claimed ISIS militants decided to surrender due to mounting pressure by another terror group — the Taliban — which saw a major resurgence in Nangarhar over the past few months.
Now that ISIS-K is severely decimated in that province, the Taliban may take over — which could increase their bargaining power in the ongoing peace talks with Kabul and Washington.
“We want Taliban to feel comfortable living in Afghanistan, but we don’t want them to come and impose their views on us,” stated Afghanistan’s First Lady Rula Ghani.
Afghan officials said the group has been emboldened by America’s push to reach a political solution to its 18 year war on terror in Afghanistan. The surrender of ISIS-K in a remote eastern province would hardly help advance the stalling negotiations, but it may boost the morale of Afghan security forces in the face of looming U.S. withdrawal from the country.
“Our president ordered the security forces to destroy all the terrorist groups,” said Wahidi. “Today is the last day of ISIS in Nangarhar — some of them who are still fighting will surrender soon.”
The captured ISIS-K militants said they joined the terror group due to poor living conditions and a perpetual tribal war tearing up the country. Very few of them cited ideological motives or the appeal of radical Islam. They said membership in ISIS would put food on their table and provide security — something the Afghan government has failed to do for almost two decades.
“There’s still a lot of violence, and we’re sort of stuck at a level where we haven’t really managed to see momentum shift in favor of the government,” explained foreign policy official Michael O’Hanlon. “In fact, momentum has gradually eked away from the government.”
Talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government have stumbled upon disagreements over a proposed exchange in prisoners, who reportedly may return to the battlefield to restore the rule of terror in the country.
Amid this complex stalemate, Afghanistan’s future remains uncertain.