Most TTP fighters join ISK in Nangarhar: Gen. Nicholson
WASHINGTON (Pajhwok):The Islamic State Khorasan (ISK), an affiliated terrorist organization to Daesh, were primarily Pakistani Pashtun and their area of influence was now restricted to just a few districts, a top American general based in Kabul said Friday.
ISK were primarily in Nangarhar province and are estimate to be numbering between 1,200 to 1,300 fighters, General John Nicholson, Commander of US and NATO troops in Afghanistan told reporters at a Pentagon news conference.
“They're primarily Pakistani Pashtun…who were previously part of Tehrek-e-Taliban Pakistan, TTP, who then changed alliance to ISK. They were joined by some fighters from Islamic movement of Uzbekistan, who joined them as well,” he said in response to a question.
Nicholson said that Daesh in Afghanistan have some enclaves in Kunar Province but primarily they're in Nangarhar Province. “Their goal was to establish their caliphate the Khorasan Province, with Jalalabad as the capital and Nangarhar as their initial caliphate. Now they've been frustrated in that by us and the operations in July have pushed them down into the mountains of southern Nangarhar,” he said.
“It's primarily in three to four districts. As you know, Courtney, there was a time when they had spread out to nine to ten districts last year in 2015. So the operations this year have helped to push them down. And we will continue these operations into the future,” Nicholson said.
According to him Islami State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in Afghanistan of Islamic State Khorasan first formally applied to Islami State of Iraq an Levant (ISIL) for membership as a franchise of an called Islamic State Khorasan and there is a formal application process that these satellite organizations go through. “I believe the number's around eight of them now. And they -- and they have to meet certain criteria,” he said.
Nicholson said Hafez Saeed Khan was the leader of the Tahrik Taliban Pakistan (TTP) in tribal areas of Pakistan, so he and his fighters formed the initial nucleus of Islamic State Khorasan.
“Then they attracted in other fighters, and so IMU would be the other group of foreigners. Then part of this was they did this through higher pay. So some this was allegiance to a particular leader as he moved over, some of it in terms of the other fighters out that they've attracted has been through higher pay than the Taliban are paid,” he said.
Noting that there was a mixture of reasons for why people joined ISK, Nicholson said over the last year, their numbers have come down heavily. “Some of the appeal of this fighting for money has worn off. They do have effective information operations, an effective advertising campaign to attract fighters. So this is continuing to be part of their appeal,” he added.
According to Nicholson, the Afghan Government controls over 60-70 percent of the country, while Taliban has hold over 10 percent.
“The Taliban clearly control 10 percent and the government controls roughly 65 to 70 percent. So, these are rough percentages. ..We view 20 to 25 percent of the country is contested, meaning the government and the Taliban are fighting for control of that.,” he said.
Nicholson alleged that Pakistan is not putting enough pressure on the Haqqani network. This is the reason for the US Defense Secretary not giving the necessary certification for release of USD300 million in coalition support funds to it.
“He (Carter) said he was unable to certify that there was sufficient pressure being placed on them to justify additional coalition support funds to Pakistan. Kind of a lengthy explanation, but it was his way of saying that there's not, not adequate pressure being put on the Haqqanis,” he said.
“I concur and with the Secretary's assessment on that. Then we, that the Haqqanis operationally have been able to conduct operations inside Afghanistan -- they constitute the primary threat to Americans, to coalition members, and to Afghans especially in and around Kabul,” he said in response to a question.
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