US confirms death of ISIS leader in Afghanistan

US forces in Afghanistan confirmed Sunday that the head of ISIS in the country was killed in a strike a little over a week ago.

The strike, on Saturday, August 25, was in the eastern area of Nangarhar province and killed Abu Sayed Orakzai, according to a statement from US forces in Afghanistan.

CNN reported previously that the ISIS leader and 10 other fighters from the terrorist group were killed in an airstrike, according to provincial spokesman Attaullah Khogyani.

Khogyani told CNN previously that Afghan and coalition forces carried out the strike after receiving intelligence from Afghanistan’s National Directorate of Security.

“America and her allies are in Afghanistan to maintain pressure on the networked, trans-regional terrorists attempting to plot, resource and direct attacks from here,” Army Gen. Scott Miller, commander of US and NATO forces in Afghanistan, said in a statement Sunday. “This is only part of the coalition’s work towards an Afghan security solution, but it is a vital part.”

The death of the leader is the third time US forces have killed a self-proclaimed head of ISIS in Afghanistan since July 2016, according to the US.

Future peace talks

Miller officially assumed command of the NATO-led forces at a ceremony in Kabul on Sunday, NATO announced, taking over the role from Army Gen. John Nicholson.

In his departing remarks, Nicholson spoke to the possibility of peace talks with the Taliban, who say they share an enemy with the US and its allies — ISIS in Afghanistan.

“I believe that some of the Taliban want peace,” Nicholson said. “But they’re being encouraged to keep fighting.”

At the handover ceremony, Miller echoed Nicholson.

“There are groups in Afghanistan who want nothing more than to harm others,” Miller said. “These groups thrive in ungoverned spaces, they raise money, they recruit, they plan, they inspire attacks. We must maintain pressure on them.”

On Sunday, Taliban commander Mullah Sher Agha told CNN’s Sam Kiley that Taliban commanders inside the country are willing to begin peace talks.

“Peace negotiations should be among Afghans and for Afghans,” Agha told CNN. “We should not wait for Pakistan, Iran, Russia or America to bring peace to Afghanistan.”

Last month the Taliban launched a brazen attack on Ghazni, a strategic city south of the capital, seizing key buildings and engaging in gunbattles with security forces. At least 16 people were killed and 40 injured, the majority of them Afghan security forces.

The Ghazni attack showed that the Taliban may enter talks if they have a position of strength. Yet even with a shared goal of eliminating ISIS from Afghanistan, the Taliban still view the US and the Afghan government with distrust.

“Enemy is first ISIS, then government,” Taliban commander Agha said.