The US military confirmed that it killed Abu Saad Orakzai, the Islamic State’s emir for its Khorasan province, in an airstrike in Nangarhar, Afghanistan on Aug. 25. The Afghan government had previously announced his death, but the report was not confirmed.
“The strike resulted in his death,” according to a press release that was issued by Resolute Support, NATO’s command in Afghanistan. The airstrike targeted Orakzai, who is also known as Abu Sayed Bajauri and Abu Sayad Erhabi, “in the eastern area of the Nangarhar province,” and was carried out by US Forces-Afghanistan.
“America and her allies are in Afghanistan to maintain pressure on the networked, trans-regional terrorists attempting to plot, resource and direct attacks from here,” General Scott Miller, the incoming commander of Resolute Support and US Forces-Afghanistan, said. “This is only part of the coalition’s work towards an Afghan security solution, but it is a vital part.”
The Islamic State has yet to announce the death of Orakzai.
The press release that announced Orakzai’s death said that he “is the third Islamic State – Khorasan chief killed in 25 months.” However, that is incorrect. The US military has announced the death of four Khorasan province emirs since July 2016.
The group’s first emir, Hafiz Saeed Khan, was killed in Nangarhar’s Achin district on July 26, 2016. His successor, Abdul Hasib, was killed in the same area of Nangarhar on April 27, 2017. Hasib was replaced by Abu Sayed (AKA Abdul Rahman Ghaleb), who was killed in a US airstrike in Kunar on July 11, 2017, less than four months after he replaced Hasib.
The targeted killing of the Islamic State Khorasan province’s emirs, while necessary, has not slowed down the growth of the terrorist group. Nor has a concerted ground offensive that has targeted Khorasan province’s network in Nangarhar. It has grown from several hundred members to an estimated 4,000 fighters since it was founded in Jan. 2015. Its reach has expanded from several small pockets in Afghanistan to more than a dozen provinces. Additionally, the Islamic State is known to have an active network in Pakistan. The Islamic State has launched a series of high profile and deadly suicide attacks and assaults in both Kabul and Jalalabad over the past two years.
For more information on the strike that targeted Orakzai and the Islamic State’s network in Afghanistan, see LWJ report, Islamic State’s emir for its Khorasan province reported killed.