Afghanistan’s top security and intelligence agency, the National Security Directorate (NDS), has reportedly stopped a cell of four ISIS-Khorasan (ISIS-K) terrorists who planned to assassinate U.S. Charge d’Affaires in Kabul, Ross Wilson.
According to an NDS statement obtained and reported by CNN, the ISIS cell was plotting to assassinate Wilson and other Afghan senior officials on Monday. The NDS arrested the cell in an operation in Afghanistan’s Nangarhar province on Monday.
A U.S. State Department spokesperson told CNN the department is “aware of deeply troubling reports that members of ISIS-K were plotting to assassinate U.S. Charge d’Affaires Ambassador Ross Wilson.”
ISIS-K is the ISIS terror group’s offshoot in Afghanistan, operating in Afghanistan’s eastern Khorason province and neighboring Pakistan.
CNN reported the cell’s mastermind, Abdul Wahid, was among those arrested.
Responding to an American Military News request for more information about the about the planned attack, a State Department spokeseperson said, “The United States Embassy in Kabul takes seriously the security of our personnel in Afghanistan and reported threats. We appreciate our cooperation with the Afghan authorities on security issues and related counterterrorism matters.”
Wilson has not publicly addressed the security threat on his life in the days since the ISIS-K cell was arrested. On Wednesday he tweeted, “The United States is committed to bringing about an end to conflict in Afghanistan through a political settlement that ensures this country remains sovereign, unified & democratic, is at peace with itself and its neighbors & can preserve gains made over the last 19 years.”
The security threat against Wilson comes as the President Donald Trump and his administration have worked to withdraw troops from Afghanistan in recent months. In November, acting Defense Secretary Chris Miller said the U.S. would reduce the number of troops in Afghanistan from about 4,500 to 2,500 by Friday, Jan. 15.
ISIS-K’s presence in Afghanistan also complicates efforts towards intra-Afghan peace discussions between the western-backed Afghan government and the Taliban.
Following a deadly attack on a maternity hospital in Kabul last Spring, U.S. and Afghan officials diverged on attributing blame. The special U.S. representative to Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, said the U.S. believed ISIS-K was responsible for the attack, while Afghan Vice President Amrullah Saleh said the attack was carried out by the Taliban and not the “fictional” Islamic State offshoot.
In August, the NDS announced it killed Islamic State leader Assadullah Orakzai in an operation in the eastern Afghan city of Jalalabad.