DEH BALA, Afghanistan – Two years ago, Pentagon officials said US troops in remote areas of Afghanistan could defeat the Islamic State's branch by the end of 2017.
This month there were US Special Forces in East Afghanistan Still struggling, there was no end in sight.
During a visit by a New York Times reporter in their dusty outpost in the eastern province of Nangarhar, the Americans pointed to the ridges and valleys at the foot of the snow-capped mountains of the Spin Ghar Mountains: there, they discovered, was the Beginning of the territory of the Islamic state in one of the most unpleasant areas of Afghanistan.
Interviews with Six Current and Former US Officials Commenting on It The condition of anonymity indicated that the group is ready to extend its influence if the United States and the Taliban reach a peace settlement. The officials expressed concern that the group is not only destabilizing the Afghan government, but is also linked to terrorist attacks across Afghanistan.
Deep in Afghanistan, the immediate conclusion was to maintain pressure from American patrols and raids and Afghan special forces. But the officials acknowledge that all this is more than a containment effort that could root out the loyalists of the Islamic State here.
Mission Support Site Jones, on the edge of the small village of Deh Bala, is part of the small constellation of Nangarhar Special Forces outposts.
Special Forces units use a counterinsurgency strategy that has been used repeatedly throughout the 18 years of the war. That is, they juggle between clearing territories together with Afghan troops, trying to keep them, and building an Afghan force that could take over the security of the district – allegedly while preserving the Islamic state – when the Americans finally leave ,
He recently met at his outpost in Nangarhar Province. The team leader of a special unit pointed to a map of Deh Bala, which was spread out in front of him.
"They will always hold these mountains," he said of the Islamic State. The team leader spoke of the condition of anonymity because the Pentagon insists that members of special forces do not disclose their names.
The story supports his view: this corner of eastern Afghanistan has protected riots for hundreds of years.
Militant efforts in the area are hindered by changing weather conditions, which can quickly block air support, and by drastic elevation changes in the thousands of feet that restrict troops and equipment that can be safely hauled by helicopter.
In 2015, a small group of tribes composed mainly of former Pakistani Taliban fighters, who pledged allegiance to the Islamic State and its leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, soon grew into a loosely connected web of fighters and commanders across the country
According to American military officials, fighters from all over the region, including Kazakhstan and Tajikistan, and a stream of fighters who fought in Iraq and Syria gradually appeared.
In the first months of the Afghan spin-off, the leadership of the Islamic State in the Middle East sent money to help him. According to official figures, the group has come closer to self-sufficiency by extorting money from the locals and smuggling wood, drugs and raw materials such as lapis lazuli mined in some of the eastern provinces.
Islamic state fighters in Afghanistan are paid considerably more per month than their Taliban counterparts, in some regions by hundreds of dollars. And they could continue to grow.
There are an estimated 3,000 Islamic state fighters in Afghanistan, but their relatively low numbers believe that the group's growing support network of mediators with unclear alliances and the ability to move relatively easily between Afghanistan and Afghanistan are increasing in Pakistan, according to the officials. In recent months, Islamic state cells have appeared in the northern province of Kunduz and in the western province of Herat.
However, no Islamic state cell is more dangerous for maintaining stability in Afghanistan than Kabul, the Afghan capital.
] The Islamic state groups there are increasingly able to escape detection, officials said, and since 2016 have been more frequent high-profile attacks. An estimated 24 attacks were carried out in Kabul last year, leaving behind hundreds of dead or wounded and leaving the Taliban behind. According to official sources, the Haqqani network is the deadliest group in the capital.
In Kabul and other major cities, the recruits of the Islamic state have withdrawn disenfranchised and educated youth from the universities, American officials said. Although the group has long been considered to be local, there is growing concern that it is targeting attacks abroad.
American officials say now that at least one leader of an Islamic state in Nangarhar Province has helped to inspire and guide April 7, 2017, terrorist attack in Stockholm, killing five people and leaving at least 12 were injured when Rakhmat Akilov, an Uzbek citizen, drove a kidnapped beer cart into a crowd. A senior intelligence official said that eight people were arrested in the US for being accused of supporting the offshoot of the Islamic State in Afghanistan.
The group's growing profile, particularly in Kabul, prompted General Austin S. Miller to form an association Special Operations Task Force shortly after he took command of the US-led mission in Afghanistan last year. The US-led task force is working with Afghan police special forces to detect and target Islamic nationals.
According to an American defense official, the task force could lay the groundwork for a post-peace anti-terrorist troop agreement with the Taliban.
However, this idea remains a sticking point in the continuing peace talks in Qatar. American military officials claim that the Taliban pushed this proposal aside and insisted that their fighters fight and defeat the loyalists of the Islamic State.
Recently, however, the Taliban have done little to fight the Islamic State. American officials give the example of Kunar province, where the extremist group has quietly penetrated into Taliban-occupied territory for months, and where Taliban counter-attacks have found little favor. For the most part, the Taliban fighters there have remained focused on attacking the Afghan government forces rather than competing militants.
But the Taliban not only avoid fighting the Islamic State, but also feed its ranks. Taliban insurgents are one of the most important recruiting pools in the Islamic state and, according to officials, often bring with them a wealth of combat experiences.
This has made the American military leadership increasingly concerned that large groups of Taliban fighters are moving to Islam Islamic State if a peace agreement is reached. The Islamic State in Afghanistan is already using propaganda to prepare a concerted recruitment campaign after agreement.
Despite political uncertainty, the unclear future of American forces in Afghanistan and the potential increase in Islamic State fighters, things are slowing down. The war in Deh Bala continues.
Mission Support Site Jones's Special Forces team, named after Captain Benjamin Jones, a Green Beret who was killed in 2014 in Nangarhar province, is currently building his one-year outpost. The team meets with village elders on a weekly basis to discuss the district's security and the results of recent US and Afghan operations.
In a few months, the Special Forces team will return here to the US to be replaced by another department. But the time left is spent in the same way: juggling public relations and training efforts with dangerous raids into the mountains where the Islamic state seeks refuge in the hope that the group will somehow be held back.