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.
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.
Bajauri’s death is likely to be touted as a strategic blow to Khorasan province. However, the US military has killed the three previous leaders in the span of 25 months, and yet the group has expanded its operations.
At a Pentagon press conference, General Nicholson again gave a Pollyannish assessment of the state of Afghanistan. He claimed the peace process is working and the Taliban’s offensive is failing, and took credit for a Taliban victory over the Islamic State.
The complex Taliban operation that was designed to eject the Islamic State from Jawzjan highlights the Taliban’s ability to coordinate and mass for attacks in the Afghan north. However it is unlikely that the Islamic State has been “completely defeated” in the north.
The rise of the Islamic State in Jawzjan province over the past year has threatened the Taliban’s operations in the Afghan north.
The US military initially assessed that an attack on Afghanistan’s Ministry of Interior in Kabul yesterday wasn’t the work of the Islamic State, but instead the Taliban’s Haqqani Network. However, the Islamic State’s so-called Khorasan province quickly claimed responsibility for the operation. And today, the group released a photo purportedly showing the 10-man (or adolescent) team responsible.
According to a State Department report published this week, the Taliban continues “to assassinate and threaten religious leaders with death for preaching messages contrary to” its “interpretation of Islam or its political agenda.” As part of its widespread assassination campaign, Taliban gunmen have been killing “imams and other religious officials throughout the country.”