US military kills Islamic State Khorasan province leader in Kunar

The US military killed the leader of the Islamic State’s Khorasan province for Kunar in an air strike on Aug. 10. The commander, known as Abdul Rahman, was a “primary candidate” to take control of Khorasan province after the US took out previous emir Abu Sayed last month, according to US Forces Afghanistan.

USFOR-A announced the death of Rahman and said he was killed along with three unnamed “senior” members of the group in an airstrike in Kunar’s Pech district.

Khorasan province appears to be relocating some of its senior leadership from the eastern province of Nangarhar to the rugged, mountainous northeastern province of Kunar, which has served as a redoubt for the Taliban, al Qaeda and a host of allied jihadist groups.

Rahaman is the second senior Khorasan province killed in Kunar in the past two months. The US military killed Abu Sayed, the last overall emir for Khorasan province, in an airstrike in Kunar’s Watapur district on July 11.

USFOR-A later announced that it killed four top leaders of the group, including its “mufti” or religious leader, as well as a member of the shura or executive council. USFOR-A identified the leaders as mufti Sheik Ziaullah, shura member Assadullah, Watapur emir Mulawi Hubaib, and Haji Shirullah a commander who was a member of Gulbuddin Hekmatyar’s Hizb-i-Islami faction.

Khorasan’s previous two emirs were killed by the US in Nangarhar. The US killed Hafiz Saeed Khan, its first emir, in an airstrike in Nangarhar’s Achin district on July 26, 2016. Khan, a former leader in the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, served as the group’s emir for more than one and a half years before his death.

The US killed Abdul Hasib, Khan’s successor, during a joint US and Afghan raid in Nangarhar on Apr. 27. Two US soldiers were killed during the fighting.

In step with previous announcements of the deaths of Khorasan province leaders, USFOR-A said that Rahman’s death is “yet another blow to the senior leadership.”

“There are no safe havens in Afghanistan,” General John Nicholson, the commander of US Forces Afghanistan, was quoted in the press release as saying. However the quote appears to be canned, as Nicholson has made the exact same statements in previous announcements.

“We will hunt them down until they are no longer a threat to the Afghan people and the region,” Nicholson said. He made the exact same comments in a statement released on July 30.

However, the Islamic State’s Khorasan province – which has far fewer resources and personnel, and a smaller base a of support than the Taliban and its allies – has weathered a concerted US and Afghan military offensive in Nangarhar and the persistent targeting of its leaders for nearly two years. It hasn’t slowed them down. Khorasan province has recently executed deadly suicide attacks in Afghanistan, including the July 31 suicide assault on the Iraqi Embassy in Kabul and the Aug. 2 bombing on a Shiite mosque in Herat.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.

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  • Truthful James says:

    Good publicity, but does not make a dime’s worth of difference in this war.

    Afghanistan is not a country but rather a colloquy of fiefdoms .

    Turn it into a set of independent tribal realms. Here, put our main effort to the aid of the Northern Alliance. For the rest let the Taliban fight it out with Daesh and alQaeda. The winner will be run by Pakistan’s ISI anyway

  • Ted Hitchcock says:

    With juicy depth and specificity! Thank you!

    I’m having trouble reconciling my conflicting images of Islamic State Khorasan. On the one hand, I picture young uneducated guys creeping around among stone huts in the remote mountains of Kunar and Nangarhar, doing their best to avoid drones and Special Forces. On the other, I hear about them pulling off horrific bombings and complex attacks in far away places around Afghanistan and Pakistan. Might they also have some operational arm tucked away in some other quieter, more convenient place arranging or contracting outrages?

  • JHC says:

    If we haven’t slowed them down, why are they making the effort to relo to Kunar?

  • Den says:

    He didn’t even make his first pay-day! Next!

  • gitsum says:


  • Nato21 says:

    Talk about leaks! ISIS is leaking like a sieve. This guy was just being considered for the job and they dropped a dime on him. With apparently all sides against ISIS opening any sort of franchise operation. ISIS is not a real player in the game in Afghanistan. Certainly they can commit suicide attacks and other mayhem occasionally but they are at the bottom of a large collection of heavily armed outlaw militant groups fighting over the same turf. It’s the law of the jungle and they’re at the bottom of the food chain.

  • Malaysia12 says:

    Not only have they managed to retain much of their territory in Nangahar in face of blistering govt/US offensive

    They are expanding territorially in jawzjan, Faryab, ghor provinces in the north
    That fact that these fighters are ‘rebranded Taliban’ should not comfort but concern us, since it indicates IS has broad appeal across Taliban ranks
    We can expect more such defections increasing IS presence across the country

    Add to that their highly effective urban cells in Kabul, Herat and other major cities, and it looks like IS is on the up and up


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