Tuesday, February 06, 2018

In a new wave of the Afghanistan air war, the U.S. strikes a little-known militant group

The U.S. military has expanded its renewed air war in Afghanistan, striking targets in northeastern Afghanistan affiliated with the Taliban and another small militant group that is known for its roots in China, U.S. military officials said Tuesday.

The bombing has been carried out over the past four days in Badakhshan province’s Wurduj district, said Navy Capt. Tom Gresback, a U.S. military spokesman in Kabul. The strikes targeted training camps, “preventing the planning and rehearsal of terrorist acts near the Afghan border with China and Tajikistan,” U.S. military officials said in a news release.

Gresback said that in addition to the Taliban, the U.S.-led military coalition in Afghanistan has targeted the East Turkestan Islamic Movement in the operation. The Islamist separatist group was formed in northwestern China’s Xinjiang region and cited by the United Nations in 2002 for its ties to al-Qaeda. The movement seeks an independent state that would stretch across several countries in southwestern Asia, including Uzbekistan, Kyrgystan and Kazakhstan, Pakistan and Afghanistan, according to the Council on Foreign Relations.

“U.S. and Afghan National Defense and Security Forces will pursue and destroy all terrorist elements that seek to undermine Afghanistan or use its territory as a safe haven,” Gresback said in an email. “ETIM was under the false pretense they can have sanctuary in Northeastern Afghanistan for their training camps. If any terrorist organization believes they can use Northern Afghanistan, or any part of Afghanistan,  as a base to advance their cause to other countries, they are mistaken.”

The bombing has involved 24 precision-guided munitions dropped from a B-52 on Taliban positions. That set a record for the largest number of guided weapons dropped from a B-52 and followed the Air Force installing rotary launchers on the bombers over the past few years, the news release said. - More, washingtonpost


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