NANGARHAR, AFGHANISTAN – Ten Afghan fighters for the Islamic State group have surrendered their weapons in eastern Afghanistan, in a first since the jihadis moved into the country, officials said Thursday.
The Islamic State in Afghanistan and Pakistan, named a year ago by the group’s leadership, has stepped up its offensive in the east of the country in recent weeks.
Islamic State fighters have even chased Taliban rebels from strongholds in Nangarhar province next to the Afghan-Pakistan border, but they have also faced attacks from the Afghan army and NATO drone strikes.
“For the first time, 10 so-called Daesh fighters including their two commanders along with ammunitions have joined the Afghan government peace process,” said a spokesman for the Nangarhar provincial governor’s office, using an Arabic abbreviation for the Islamic State group.
Fourteen Taliban fighters had also “chosen the path of peace,” he added.
Malik Nazir, head of the provincial peace committee, said the 10 Islamic State men were active in the Shinwar district between the provincial capital Jalalabad and the Pakistani border.
“We will provide good security and job opportunity for the surrendered men, and will provide basic facilities so that they don’t go to fight again,” said Nangarhar’s deputy provincial governor, Mohammad Hanif Girdiwal.
One of the Islamic State fighters, Zeitoun, told a ceremony to mark their defection that he was “happy to join the peace process. I fought against the government in Daesh ranks for the last nine months.”
Islamic State fighters in Afghanistan are often former Taliban fighters disappointed with their leadership, but also insurgents from neighboring countries.
Despite victories on the ground and a spectacular attack against the Pakistani Consulate in Jalalabad in January, the Islamic State is fighting on multiple fronts, including against the Afghan army, Taliban rivals and American drone strikes.
A little over a month ago, U.S. President Barack Obama gave the U.S. Army more autonomy in fighting the jihadis, authorizing it to more actively target them, according to the Wall Street Journal.