Abdul Hasib, the leader of ISIS-K in Afghanistan, has been killed according to a statement released by the government, as per a report by The Globe and Mail. Pentagon spokesperson Captain Jeff Davis announced two weeks ago that Hasib had likely been killed in a joint raid with Afghan commandos in Nangarhar province which also claimed the lives of two U.S. Army Rangers: Joshua Rodgers, 22, of Illinois, and Cameron Thomas, 23, of Ohio. “The thought is we got him, but we are not certain,” said Captain Davis on Friday, April 28.
The loss of Hasib and other high-ranking ISIS-K officers represents a significant setback for their forces in the area.
According to the statement, that raid did not claim Hasib’s life, but another operation against his Nangarhar province compound, led by Afghan and U.S. special forces last Thursday, succeeded. A joint statement from the U.S. and Afghan forces following the operation indicated an “intense” three-hour firefight which ultimately resulted in the deaths of some 35 enemy combatants and several ISIS-K leaders.
“Within a few minutes of landing, our combined force came under intense fire from multiple directions and well-prepared fighting positions.
“Nevertheless, our forces successfully closed on the enemy, killed several high-level ISIS leaders and upwards of 35 fighters.”
Hasib’s group, which the military calls Islamic State-Khorasan, is affiliated with the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. Hasib’s death marks the second Khorasan province emir killed within the past year. ISIS-K – named after an old name for Afghanistan – has been active since 2015, fighting not only Afghan and American forces, but the Taliban as well.
The raid on the Nangarhar compound was allegedly carried out by 50 U.S. special forces and 40 Afghan commandos, the same composition which made up the earlier raid. Achin district in Nangarhar province was also the target of the 21,000 pound “Mother Of All Bombs” in April, America’s largest non-nuclear weapon, developed during the Iraq War. The air strike resulted in the deaths of 94 ISIS-K fighters, including four of their top commanders. Hasib’s compound was apparently located near the cave complex where the air strike was carried out, but was not within the blast radius – roughly one mile for the air-blast bomb.
Achin is separated from Pakistan by the Tora Bora range of mountains, making the area very difficult to operate against insurgents in; the same area was used by Taliban and al Qaeda forces when they fled from American troops in 2001, and has consistently stymied American attempts to eliminate opposition. The tunnel complexes there were allegedly built originally by the CIA to support Afghani mujahedeen fighters, including Osama bin Laden, against the Soviets to prevent the spread of Soviet power within the region. Many since have concluded that the CIA did their job a little too well, as the tunnels have proven very effective against U.S. forces. In spite of their best efforts, American forces were never able to successfully target bin Laden within the Tora Bora tunnels; he was eventually tracked down and killed in a private residential compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, far from the Afghani border.
Hasib was appointed to leadership last year after his predecessor Hafiz Saeed Khan was killed by a U.S. drone strike. Hasib is suspected of ordering a series of high-profile attacks in Afghanistan, including the Kabul hospital attack in March, when an attack by ISIS-K militants disguised as doctors left at least 30 dead in a siege that lasted over six hours, beginning with a suicide bomber destroying the south gate of the Sardar Mohammed Daud Khan, the country’s largest and best-equipped medical facility.
Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani confirmed the reports of Hasib’s death in a statement.
Update: According to a press release by USFOR-A, the April 27 raid was in fact successful in taking the life of Sheikh Abdul Hasib.
“This successful joint operation is another important step in our relentless campaign to defeat ISIS-K in 2017,” said General John Nicholson, commander of the U.S. forces in Afghanistan.
“This is the second ISIS-K emir we have killed in nine months, along with dozens of their leaders and hundreds of their fighters.”
“I applaud the tremendous skill and courage shown by our Afghan partners. This fight strengthens our resolve to rid Afghanistan of these terrorists and bring peace and stability to this great country. Any ISIS member that comes to Afghanistan will meet the same fate.”
[Featured Image by John Moore/Getty Images]