Earlier today, the Islamic State’s Khorasan “province” attacked a memorial held in honor of Abdul Ali Mazari, an ethnic Hazara leader who was killed by the Taliban in 1995. The Islamic State’s loyalists frequently target Shiites in the Afghan capital.
According to the UN’s Jan. 2019 assessment, al Qaeda’s relationship with the Taliban is “long-standing” and “strong.” And al Qaeda “continues to see Afghanistan as a safe haven for its leadership.” The UN estimates that the Islamic State has several thousand fighters in Afghanistan as well.
According to UNAMA’s annual report for 2018, more civilians were killed in Afghanistan than in any year since 2009. The Taliban remains the main culprit when it comes to civilian casualties, killing or wounding more than any other party. But the number casualties attributed to the Islamic State’s branch more than doubled in 2018, as compared to 2017.
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.