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Afghan IS Commander Hits 11 of His Own Fighters

IS accuses Taliban militants of being apostates because they have established connections with foreign countries through their office in Qatar

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An Islamic State (IS) commander in Afghanistan killed 11 of his fellow fighters in the Achin district of eastern Nangarhar province, Afghan provincial authorities said.

The Nangarhar governor’s spokesperson, Attaullah Khogyani, told reporters on Friday about the unusual killings carried out by IS commander, Zameen Jan — also known as Abubakar — but provided few details about why the commander would target his own men. Khogyani said that after the killings, the commander was wounded by Taliban fighters who were now holding him.

Local residents and a posting by the Taliban on its Facebook page claimed that Jan took revenge on his fighters after his brother, a member of the Taliban, was killed by IS fighters this week in a gunbattle. IS has not commented on the report.

IS active in Achin

The Islamic State group has established a footprint in a number of Nangarhar districts, including Achin.  Its fighters have launched multiple attacks on government security checkpoints. The group has also engaged in fierce clashes with rival Taliban militants in the province.

Afghan and NATO forces recently launched cleanup operations, and some areas have been cleared of IS fighters. But despite the claims by Afghan authorities to have weakened the group, IS fighters remain active in the province.

Islamic State fighters arrested by Afghan security personal stand outside the Afghan police headquarters in Jalalabad, east of Kabul, Afghanistan, May 9, 2016 Image Source: VOA

Their influence remains so strong that thousands of students in parts of Nangarhar have been unable to attend schools because IS forbade them from opening.  The group also recently restarted its propaganda radio broadcasts in Nangarhar after being knocked off the air by government airstrikes earlier this year.

The Taliban and IS have become enemies as the Taliban view IS as an outside force, according to Kabul-based security analyst Wahid Muzhda. IS accuses Taliban militants of being apostates because they have established connections with foreign countries through their office in Qatar, he said.

Nevertheless, he said that the group’s struggles appear to be weakening its appeal in Afghanistan.

“IS has lost its attraction,” he said, adding that IS “is faced with internal divisions, and many commanders have already abandoned the group.”

Muzhda said that overall, IS is struggling to hold on to conquered territory while under pressure from both the Taliban and the government. (Source: VOA)

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Pakistan Agrees To Cooperate With The U.S. To Achieve Peace in Afghanistan

Khan said Monday that Trump wants Pakistan to use its influence to nudge the Taliban to participate in Afghan peace talks.

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Imran Khan, Pakistan
Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan speaks during a ceremony in Kartarpur, Pakistan. VOA

Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan renewed Wednesday his resolve to cooperate with the United States to achieve a political settlement with the Taliban to end the war in Afghanistan, now in its 18th year.

Khan made the remarks during a meeting with the visiting U.S. special representative for Afghan peace and reconciliation, Zalmay Khalilzad.

“The prime minister reiterated Pakistan’s abiding interest in achieving peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan through political settlement,” Khan’s office said in a statement issued after the meeting.

Khalilzad arrived in Islamabad on Tuesday and held delegation level talks with senior foreign ministry officials before paying the courtesy call on Prime Minister Khan, officials said.

Imran Khan, Pakistan, Afghanistan,
Pakistan”s Prime Minister Imran Khan is seen during talks in Beijing, China, VOA

The U.S. envoy’s visit followed President Donald Trump’s formal request for Khan’s help in finding a political solution to the Afghan conflict.

“U.S. leadership looked forward to working with Pakistan in furthering the shared goal of peace through a political settlement in Afghanistan,” the Pakistani statement quoted Khalilzad as saying.

The Trump administration has tasked the Afghan-born former U.S. ambassador to Kabul to persuade the Taliban to join an Afghan peace process for ending the protracted war.

U.S. and Afghan officials have long accused Pakistan of sheltering Taliban leaders and allowing them to orchestrate attacks inside Afghanistan. Islamabad rejects the charges.

Afghanistan, USA, Pakistan
Afghanistan’s President Ashraf Ghani, center right, and U.S. special envoy for peace in Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad,center left, meet in Kabul. VOA

Khalilzad is on an 18-day trip to region, his third since taking office, and plans to visit Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Russia, UAE and Qatar, where the Taliban maintains its so-called political office.

During his previous two trips to the region, Khalilzad also traveled to Qatar and held marathon meetings with Taliban representatives there. He has held talks with Afghan politicians inside and outside of the government in Kabul.

Taliban officials insist that in talks with the U.S. they are seeking the withdrawal of all U.S. and NATO forces from the country before agreeing to join an intra-Afghan peace dialogue.

In a statement issued Tuesday, insurgent spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said they “will not tolerate foreign occupying and military presence under any circumstance.”

Mujahid also dismissed reports that Khalilzad is discussing with the Taliban possible future political dispensation in Kabul and other related issues.

 

Taliban, Afghanistan, Pakistan
Taliban fighters are seen gathered in Surkhroad district of Nangarhar province, east of Kabul, Afghanistan. VOA

 

“The formation of a government, establishing security and developing Afghanistan is a matter concerning the Afghans. No foreign occupying force has any legal right for determine the fate of Afghanistan, interfere in its matters or make comments as a proprietor,” said the Taliban spokesman.

Khalilzad has shared few details of his talks with the Taliban, though he said last month he was “cautiously optimistic” about achieving a peace deal.

Pakistan’s relations with the U.S. have dipped to historic lows in recent years over allegations of supporting the Taliban and other militants in the region. President Trump’s letter to Khan on Monday was a rare positive development in the fragile bilateral ties.

Lieutenant General Kenneth McKenzie, chosen to be the next commander of U.S. Central Command told Senators on Tuesday that Pakistan’s assistance is key to finding any solution in Afghanistan.

“It is in Pakistan’s long-term interest to have a government in Afghanistan that is stable that they can do business with. It will be hard to reach a settlement without some form of assistance from Pakistan,” McKenzie said during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing.

Donald Trump, democrats, government,, pakistan
U.S. President Donald Trump. VOA

Islamabad has long urged in talks with the U.S. that rival India’s growing influence in Afghanistan was a matter of concern for Pakistan. Pakistani security officials blame Indian intelligence operatives for supporting anti-state militants planning terrorist attacks in Pakistan from Afghan soil, charges both Kabul and New Delhi reject.

Also Read: U.S. President Donald Trump Seeks Pakistan’s Cooperation For Bringing Peace in Afghanistan

“I believe Pakistan knows very clearly that their assistance will be required to reach an end state in Afghanistan. I think the chance that we have is to make it attractive to them so that they see that it is in their best interest to do that,” noted the U.S. commander.

Khan said Monday that Trump wants Pakistan to use its influence to nudge the Taliban to participate in Afghan peace talks. (VOA)