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Centcom Commander: Afghan government will prosecute ISIS-K terrorists

U.S. Army Gen. Joseph Votel, U.S. Central Command commander, speaks to the press at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., Aug. 08, 2018. (DoD photo by U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Angelita M. Lawrence)

Fighters with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria-Khorasan terror group being held in Afghanistan will be prosecuted for their crimes, the commander of U.S. Central Command told Pentagon reporters August 8th.

Army Gen. Joseph L. Votel also said ISIS-K is “not reconcilable” and must be eradicated. The group is an offshoot of ISIS operating in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and it has claimed responsibility for terror bombings in both nations.

Some 200 ISIS-K fighters surrendered to Afghan forces. “The government of Afghanistan has assured us these ISIS-K fighters will be treated as war prisoners,” Votel said. The ISIS fighters will be investigated and held to account for any war crimes they were found to have committed, he added.

“I want to highlight that the fight to eradicate ISIS-K being conducted by the United States and our Afghan partners continues,” the general said. “We’ve killed numerous ISIS-K fighters this year, and as you may remember, we continued operations against other terrorist organizations like al-Qaida during the recent Eid cease-fire between the government of Afghanistan and the Taliban.”

Continuous, Effective Campaign

Votel stressed that the military campaign against ISIS has been continuous and effective, and that it was, in part, responsible for the surrender of the group in the first place.

Forces in Afghanistan are applying military pressure on the Taliban to convince them to enter talks toward reconciliation with the Afghan government, he noted. “We have no illusions about reconciliation with ISIS-K,” Votel said. “Our mission is to destroy this organization.”

The Khorasan group has adapted the mindless violence of ISIS, the Centcom commander told reporters. “ISIS-K is not a popular insurgency in Afghanistan,” he said. “Everybody is against them.”

The bottom line is that the ISIS-K fighters were taken off the battlefield, the general said. “Taking ISIS-K fighters off the battlefield through attrition or surrender will make not only Afghanistan a safer place, but also protects the United States, its partners and allies,” he said.

Votel said he believes the strategy in Afghanistan is about right, but that he expects the incoming commander of forces there, Army Gen. Austin S. Miller, to make “tweaks” to it. Votel said he wants to look at minimizing vulnerabilities to Afghan forces, and especially wants to look at employment of high-end Afghan special operations forces and ensuring those forces are used correctly and not overused.

Votel said the U.S. Army’s purpose-built security forces assistance brigade has been doing well, and that the unit currently in Afghanistan advising Afghan forces is sharing data, intelligence and information with the brigade due to replace it.