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300 ISIS Fighters Killed in U.S.-Afghan Operation in Nangarhar: NATO

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NEW DELHI — An estimated 300 ISIS fighters were killed in a joint Afghan-U.S. operation launched about two weeks ago, NATO's top commander in Afghanistan said Wednesday.

Gen. John Nicholson said the offensive in the eastern province of Nangarhar was part of U.S. operations to degrade the capabilities of ISIS wherever it raised its head, whether in Iraq and Syria or in Afghanistan.

The group, believed to be confined to three or four of the more than 400 districts in Afghanistan, last month claimed responsibility for bombing a demonstration by the Shiite Hazara minority in the capital, Kabul, in which at least 80 people were killed.

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Nicholson, in New Delhi for talks with the Indian military which has provided training and some arms to Afghanistan, said Afghan forces supported by the United States had just carried out a counterterrorism operation against ISIS.

Image: Afghan forces operation against IS militants
A member of the Afghan security force takes position during an operation against ISIS militants in the Khot district of Nangarhar province on Aug. 1. GHULAMULLAH HABIBI / EPA

"They killed a number of top leaders of the organization and up to 300 of their fighters," he told reporters.

"Obviously it's difficult to get an exact count, but what this amounts to is about 25 percent of the organization at least, and so this represents a severe setback for them."

ISIS first appeared in Afghanistan at the beginning of 2015, and had about 3,000 fighters at the height of the movement, many of them former members of militant groups such as the Pakistani Taliban and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan.

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Previously considered a much smaller threat than its enemy, the Taliban, ISIS demonstrated how dangerous it could be with last month's bomb attack in Kabul.

On Tuesday, another U.S. military official said American soldiers helping Afghan troops fight ISIS in Nangarhar were forced to abandon equipment and weapons when their position came under fire.