It has officially been confirmed that ISIS’s top leader in Afghanistan and Pakistan was killed in a U.S. drone strike.
The Afghan ambassador to Pakistan, Omar Zakhilwal, announced to the press, “I can confirm that ISIS-Khurasan leader Hafiz Saeed Khan along with his senior commanders and fighters died in a US drone strike on July 26 in Kot district of Afghanistan’s Nangharhar province.”
At least 23 other commanders were killed along with Khan.
Pentagon press secretary Gordon Trowbridge has also confirmed these deaths.
According to ABC News, Khan was the Emir of ISIS-Khorasan, which is the ISIS affiliate in Afghanistan. Khan is a former member of the Pakistani Taliban who pledged allegiance to ISIS in 2014. RT reports that Khan is believed to have been behind the July attack in Kabul that left 80 people dead and 231 injured. The U.S. airstrike occurred three days after this attack.
Trowbridge told the press that “Khan was known to directly participate in attacks against US and coalition forces, and the actions of his network terrorized Afghans, especially in Nangarhar.”
The confirmation of Khan’s death in particular is significant, as he was thought to have been killed last year. However, it became clear over time that this was merely a rumor.
Khan’s death will also negatively affect ISIS recruiting efforts and operations, according to Trowbridge.
Trowbridge reports that the July 26 airstrike was part of a month-long operation against ISIS. The operation was a combined effort carried out by U.S. and Afghan special operations forces.
Gen. John Nicholson, the top U.S. military commander in Afghanistan, told Pentagon reporters, “We think we’ve reduced their numbers fairly significantly in the last six months.”
RT also points out that Khan’s death is “the second killing of a prominent militant leader in the region in the recent months.” The first leader was Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mansour, who was killed by a U.S. drone strike in Pakistan in May.
The US-Afghan operation has resulted in the deaths of 300 ISIS militants so far, according to a senior US and NATO commander in Afghanistan. Reuters adds that, between January and early August, nearly 140 air strikes against Islamic State targets in Afghanistan have been carried out by U.S. warplanes.
The success of these operations has not come without consequences for U.S. troops, however. According to The Guardian, five U.S. special operations troops were injured in the attack, though they are all expected to make full recoveries.
In another article, The Guardian also points out the fact that there are still concerns about ISIS’s expansion. The group claimed responsibility for a recent attack on a hospital that killed at least 74 people in Quetta, Pakistan. Another group, a faction of the Pakistani Taliban, also claimed responsibility for this attack.
The confirmation of Khan’s death comes shortly after Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump accused President Obama of being the founder of ISIS. Trump said that the terrorist group honors Obama. He also said that Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton is the group’s co-founder.
Featured image via The Sun.