US military continues to spin a Taliban victory against Islamic State as its own

In the Department of Defense’s latest quarterly report on Afghanistan, the US military claimed the Taliban’s victory against the Islamic State Khorasan Province in Jawzjan over the summer as its own. The US military’s claim highlights just how desperate it is to report success in Afghanistan, and how infrequent those successes are in reality.

At the end of July 2018, the Taliban massed its forces and targeted a large cadre of Islamic State fighters that were based in Darzab district in Jawzjan. The Taliban operation was decisive; the Islamic State was routed. More than 150 of the 600 Islamic State operatives based in the district were killed and an estimated 100 more were wounded. Another 134 were captured by the Taliban. [See FDD’s Long War Journal report, Taliban says Islamic State has been ‘completely defeated’ in Jawzjan.]

Following the drubbing by the Taliban, more than 250 Islamic State fighters and a handful of leaders, including the group’s military commander for the north, surrendered to the Afghan government to prevent being captured by the Taliban.

At the time, both the US military and Afghan government spun the surrender as a successful operation. General John Nicholson, then the commander of US Forces – Afghanistan and Resolute Support, touted the Taliban’s dominance over the Islamic State Khorasan Province as evidence that the security situation Afghanistan is improving.

“I want to highlight a recent success since we last talked, when over 250 ISIS-K fighters and their family members surrendered to the Afghan security forces in Jowzjan, which eliminated one of the three pockets of ISIS in Afghanistan,” Nicholson said at a press briefing in August.

Fast forward to Oct. 31 and the Special Investigator General for Afghan Reconstruction’s {SIGAR} release of the latest quarterly report on Afghanistan. Nicholson’s appropriation of the Taliban’s victory in Jawzjan as a success for the US and the Afghan government is repeated in the report. And it is at the top of the list of so-called counterterrorism successes over the quarter.

“However, counterterror efforts against Islamic State‚Äôs affiliate in Afghanistan, Islamic State Khorasan (IS-K) scored some successes this quarter. In early August, 250 IS-K militants surrendered to Afghan security forces in Jowzjan Province, a development that General Nicholson described as ‘eliminat[ing] one of the three pockets of ISIS in Afghanistan,'” the SIGAR report noted.

Again, the surrender of the Islamic State cadre in Jawzjan was not the result of a successful counterterrorism operation, but the result of a Taliban victory. Additionally, the Afghan government’s treatment of the Islamic State fighters who surrendered has enraged many Afghans, including members of the military. The Islamic State fighters were evacuated using helicopters, while Afghan soldiers, who during the same timeframe were besieged by the Taliban at bases in the north, could not receive critical resupply. Government officials spoke of amnesty for fighters who brutally murdered, raped, and enslaved civilians in Jawzjan.

In fact, the Jawzjan incident highlights just how weak and ineffective the Afghan security forces actually are in the Afghan north. The Taliban did what the Afghan government and military could not do: mass its forces and conduct a decisive military operation against a nest of Islamic State fighters.

The US military’s repeated attempts to spin the Taliban’s victory in Jawzjan as its own only serves to demonstrate just how eager it is to manufacture successes in Afghanistan when they are few and far between.

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

Tags: , , , ,


  • Paddy Singh says:

    For decades, the US has lived behind a facade.

  • Nick Mastrovito says:

    Shows that ISIS-K trusted the GOA/OIR more than the Taliban.

  • And as long as the Afghan government remains as corrupt as it is and does not have the support of the people, things will continue as they have been for at least the past 17 years, before which the Taliban were the government and almost never accused of corruption. They were not an effective government because they were all mullahs with no background in governing but they knew it and begged for help but basically got none..only criticism.

  • herk says:

    taliban and islamic state should both be killed on sight!

  • Pete Speer says:

    At its base the Taliban is a tribal Afghan movement. Daesh is an invention

    of Turkish General Staff with Erdogan as a Johnny-Come-Lately. The TGS still dreams about remaking Turkey as the new Ottoman Empire. They had northern Sunni Iraq in their mitts. They overlooked the determination of the Kurds.

  • JOHN BARR says:

    If you were to ask an average Kabulian what they thought they would probably answer that of course it is an Amercan victory. This is because the average Afghan truly believes that the Taliban and the USA are synonamous. Why? Because they just can’t figure out why the most powerful military in the world can’t defeat a rag-tag guerilla army. So, according to Afghan logic, which is questionable at the best of times, the answer must be that the USA and the Taliban must be in cahoots.

    It’s all about perception, and to say that the Afghan perception of the US presence is negative would be an understatement.

    JWB from Kabul.

  • Robert says:

    Actually, the report stated on page 77, “During the reporting period, the Taliban succeeded in capturing three district centers in Faryab Province. Additionally, the surrender of more than 250 IS-K fighters to government forces in Jowzjan Province allowed the Taliban to further consolidate its position in that province. The UN said they recorded 17% more security incidents in northern Afghanistan in the first half of 2018 than the same period in 2017.”

    That is not pro-Coalition. It clearly stated that “the Taliban succeeded in . . . “

  • North says:

    Bill, how about some balanced reporting on the success we ARE having against Daesh in the Main Effort against them: Nangarhar? Thanks.

  • Dennis says:

    As it would be nice to believe there are two sides of this report, it is difficult to construct a reasoning for either. Why “rescue” anyone from either side? In this scenario, my enemies enemy is still due for death. Should have let it play out. Morale booster for ANA. Our exit should take place soon, if we’re not going to strike when they’re parading around in broad daylight, why bother? Peace with the Taliban? Just who is the numbnuts who put this into action?


Islamic state



Al shabaab

Boko Haram