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.