A large number of Islamic State-Khorasan Province fighters have surrendered to Afghan forces in the northern Jowzjan province, a spokesperson for the U.S. military and NATO mission in Afghanistan said.
Afghan and foreign media reported on Wednesday, August 1 that as many as 150 ISKP fighters had surrendered to the Afghan army overnight.
“We are aware of and have received similar reports, which follow Afghan-led, and U.S. advised and enabled, offensive operations, and most recently Taliban attacks. We can confirm that a large number of ISIS-K fighters have indeed surrendered to Afghan authorities,” Resolute Support and U.S. Forces-Afghanistan spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Martin L. O’Donnell told The Defense Post.
O’Donnell said USFOR-A and Resolute Support were unable to confirm the exact number of fighters who turned themselves in.
The Afghan Ministry of Defense later said more than 150 ISKP fighters surrendered, including the ISKP commander in Darzab district, Mawlawi Habiburahman and his deputy, Mufti Nematullah.
The ministry said in a statement it was “a result of military pressure and heavy blows against the group.”
“Afghan National Army as the nation’s defense forces, are ready to give sacrifice to bring lasting peace and security to the people and are determined to eradicate terror groups in Afghanistan,” the statement added.
The Afghan National Army 209th ‘Shaheen’ Corps released photos showing some of the ISKP fighters, including some who appear to be children.
“While notable, it is premature to draw conclusions that this degradation of ISIS-K equates to its collapse in the north of the country. That said, there is no safe haven in Afghanistan for ISIS-K, nor ISIS or any other foreign fighter fleeing losses elsewhere and looking to reestablish a presence from which to terrorize innocent Afghan civilians and propagate their violent extremist actions,” O’Donnell said.
Mohammad Hanif Rezaee, a spokesperson for the ANA 209th Corps in the north said that an ISKP “leader and deputy surrendered with more than 150 fighters all at once,” AFP reported.
Thirty women and children also handed themselves in to Afghan authorities, he added.
“While it is still a developing story, we might be convinced that after a heavy one-month long battle against the Taliban, and the U.S. surge earlier this year, that Islamic State project in the north has largely failed,” said Pawel Wojcik, a terrorism analyst who researches jihad in Central and South-East Asia.
“Some ISKP pockets remain in Jowzjan but they seem to be irellevant to what Qari Hekmat had achieved before a U.S. drone hit him in April. His death is the main reason for the Taliban’s success, and that was enabled by U.S. forces.”
ISKP had built a stronghold in the north of Afghanistan but recently the Taliban has been fighting the group after an attack on their forces in Sar-e-Pol last month that killed 15 fighters and a commander.
The Taliban also took credit for the surrender, saying it had “cleared” Jowzjan of ISKP.
This story was updated at 1930 GMT on August 1 to add the Afghan Ministry of Defense statement.