The Obama White House has authorized U.S. military commanders in Afghanistan to legally target an offshoot of ISIS which has been gaining a foothold in the country's volatile Nangarhar province. Military officials welcomed the move as a “significant step.”
We shared military news last week where Defense Secretary Ash Carter hinted at a change in ISIS strategy while giving a speech at Fort Campbell.
Soon after that speech, ISIS in Afghanistan - named ISIL-K by the self-proclaimed Islamic State chapter for what it calls the territory where it operates - was officially labeled as a "foreign terrorist organization" by the State Department.
The Defense Department, in turn, gave ISIS in Afghanistan the "hostile force" label which triggered the White House authorization. Now, the estimated 9,800 troops in Afghanistan will be able to actively target the group just as they can al-Qaeda and its affiliates.
Under previous rules, the U.S. military was able to engage the enemy in Afghanistan in three circumstances: to protect foreign forces; to help Afghan troops ward off an enemy onslaught; and to target al-Qaida and affiliated militants.
According to the State Department, ISIL-K is based on the “Afghanistan/Pakistan region and is composed primarily of former members of Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan and the Afghan Taliban.”
Presently, it is unclear to U.S. military and intelligence officials whether any substantial command-and-control relationship exists between ISIS in Afghanistan and Islamic State leaders in Iraq and Syria.
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