Several fighters with the Islamic State group in Afghanistan are thought to have become the first to desert the organization and join the government's forces, officials from the Kabul-based administration said Wednesday. Around 10 militants with the extremist group, aka ISIS, gave up their allegiance and said that others would soon be willing to join them.
“Daesh fighters have joined the reconciliation process today and put down their guns,” Attaullah Khogyani, a spokesman for the governor of Afghanistan’s eastern Nangarhar province, where the ISIS affiliate in Afghanistan is based, told Stars and Stripes. “This is the first time on the national level that Daesh fighters have given up fighting and joined the peace process,” he said, using another name for ISIS.
Unlike in Syria and Iraq, where the group traditionally has been based, and in Libya, ISIS has struggled to gain traction in Afghanistan, where foreign influence historically has been rejected. The terror group was ousted from Helmand and Kandahar by government forces and are being actively rejected and hunted by the more moderate Taliban in other regions.
ISIS has also been pushed back by attacks from U.S.-operated drones, according to the Stars and Stripes report.
While the group of ISIS fighters in Afghanistan is shrinking, those who have remained are thought to have fled to the mountainous regions of Nangarhar province along Afghanistan’s eastern border with Pakistan.
NATO and U.S. commanders believe there to be between 1,000 and 3,000 fighters left in Afghanistan, most of them former Taliban fighters and members of radical Uzbeki and Pakistani groups who switched allegiances.
Given several defeats in Syria and Iraq by Russia- and U.S.-led coalitions over the past year, and by a shortage of money that has forced a cut in salary for all fighters, the terror group’s ranks have been cut from 35,000 to 25,000, according to a White House report. Efforts to stem the extremist group’s revenue, through targeting trucks carrying oil and blowing up the group's banks, have also helped reduce its numbers.