Mawlavi Shahidullah Shahid, a former Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) spokesperson and the first to pledge allegiance to ISIS in Afghanistan, has been killed in a U.S. drone strike in the country’s eastern Nangarhar province, according to local media reports.
TOLO News agency, Afghanistan’s first 24-hour news television network, has reported that Shahid, said to be an ISIS leader for Khorasan province, was killed alongside ISIS deputy commander Gul Zaman, his deputy Jahanyar and five other ISIS fanatics. In total, U.S. drone strikes in the region killed 25 people in the Tuesday attack. Afghanistan’s intelligence agency, the National Directorate of Security (NDS), confirmed the deaths Thursday.
Speaking on the condition of anonymity and citing sources inside Afghanistan, a Pakistani official told the New York Times: “It was a pretty massive hit. So many [ISIS] fighters and commanders have been killed in one go.”
It is suspected that Shahid wanted to incite violence and instigate terror in eastern Afghanistan, according to the NDS.
“Shahidullah Shahid, whose real name was Sheikh Maqbool, wanted to launch a regional fight and that to begin from Afghanistan’s Nangarhar province in order to become an influential figure of Daesh,” NDS spokesperson Haseeb Sediqi told TOLO News, using an Arabic acronym for ISIS.
Drawing on increased support from disaffected Taliban fighters on both sides of the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, ISIS has seen a dramatic rise in its support in Afghanistan, according to local media; however, Afghan intelligence have insisted that the expanding threat will be countered.
“Wherever Daesh are active and threatening the safety of our citizens [they] will be targeted and eliminated,” Sediqi continued.
Afghanistan’s Ministry of Interior Affairs (MoI) recently announced the formation of a joint armed unit, consisting of the Afghan National Police, Afghan National Army and NDS. The joint force is designed to heighten levels of coordination among Afghanistan’s security services to more effectively shut down ISIS spin-off groups and affiliates.
In the past week, more than 100 terrorists have been killed in joint anti-terrorism raids carried out by the Afghan security services, the Ministry of Interior Affairs has stated in a series of news releases.
Praising Afghan efforts in a recent op-ed for the Washington Post, David Petreaus, commander of coalition forces in Afghanistan from 2010-2011, and the Brookings Institution senior fellow Michael O’Hanlon said: “To their enormous credit, Afghan soldiers and police continue to sustain many of the gains of recent years, even after NATO forces have drawn down by 90 per cent.
“But Afghan forces have paid a heavy price, losing several thousand personnel a year. And this year’s casualties are at least 50 per cent greater than last year’s […] In these circumstances, we should be wary of removing those key enablers - in the form of U.S. air power, intelligence, combat advisers and Special Operations forces - that Afghanistan still needs from us.
“We went to Afghanistan for a compelling reason: to ensure that Afghanistan never again served as a sanctuary for al-Qaeda, as it did when the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks were planned there under the Taliban. The importance of that mission continues.”
President Barack Obama’s plans would see the current deployment of 9,800 U.S. troops at 21 bases across Afghanistan reduced to an embassy presence in Kabul by the end of 2016.