The United States intends to step up military operations against Daesh in eastern Afghanistan during a temporary ceasefire between the Afghan government and the Taliban, the top U.S. general in Afghanistan said on Friday.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani on Thursday announced the first unconditional ceasefire with the Taliban, coinciding with the end of the Muslim fasting month. But that excludes other militant groups such as Daesh.
The group has developed a stronghold in Nangarhar, and become some of the country’s most dangerous militants since they appeared around the start of 2015.
“(Operations against ISIS) will continue, in fact will be even intensified during this period of ceasefire as we focus on ISIS,” U.S. Army General John Nicholson, commander of U.S. and international forces in Afghanistan, told reporters.
Nicholson said the ceasefire could free resources for operations against Daesh, but some would remain to monitor the Taliban and for force protection.
“We’re going to leave resources devoted to protecting our forces and watching the enemy, even those that participate in the ceasefire, as well as intensifying the pressure on ISIS,” Nicholson said on the sidelines of a meeting of NATO defense ministers in Brussels.
Afghan commandoes, supported by U.S. Special forces and American and Afghan air power, have been carrying out an operation against the militants in Nangarhar.
The exact number of Daesh fighters is difficult to calculate because they frequently switch allegiances, but the U.S. military estimates that there are about 2,000 fighters. —Reuters