Afghanistan claims the Islamic State was ‘obliterated.’ But fighters who got away could stage a resurgence. – The Washington Post

ACHIN, Afghanistan — For nearly four years, U.S. and Afghan forces unleashed hundreds of punishing airstrikes in this remote corner of mountainous eastern Afghanistan. The strikes transformed clusters of sparse farming villages, cratering dirt roads and, in some areas, leaving every third mud house demolished.

The target: the Islamic State, whose offshoot in Afghanistan was the group’s most deadly branch outside Iraq and Syria.

By November, the offensive appeared to be a success. The group’s deadly attacks in the Afghan capital have largely subsided, and hundreds of civilians who fled villages here have returned. Afghan President Ashraf Ghani triumphantly declared the Islamic State had been “obliterated.”

But it has now become clear that military operations also scattered many fighters they aimed to defeat: The group’s senior leadership fled further into the Spin Ghar mountains, crossing into Pakistan or pushing north into Konar province’s more rugged terrain. Others simply went into hiding. Afghan officials estimate that hundreds of Islamic State fighters continue to operate across the country, raising the dangerous potential for a resurgence.
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