VOA News / January 6, 2016
KABUL – The Afghan government has formed a special force to counter Islamic State and Taliban militants in eastern parts of the country, Acting Defense Minister Masoom Stanekzai announced Wednesday from eastern Laghman province.
“The IS issue is the most important [issue], which should be hard hit,” Stanekzai told VOA’s Afghan service. “People are fed up with this group.”
The 750-person battalion will be formed largely from former Afghan soldiers. The battalion, which is based in the 201st Silab Army Corps in Laghman, will carry out operations against militant groups in eastern provinces.
Ongoing airstrikes against IS in Nangarhar province would continue, but security forces are pursuing a new strategy, Stanekzai said.
“The use of too much force is not that helpful; people should cooperate to help us reach our goal,” he said. “We have changed our war strategy and want to work with local people.”
The announcement comes after hundreds of local Afghans took to the streets of the eastern city of Jalalabad last week, demanding that Kabul step up military operations against Islamic State and Taliban militants in Nangarhar. Jalalabad is the capital of Nangarhar.
Provincial officials say airstrikes against IS in Nangarhar’s Shinwari district have been successful.
Nangarhar’s governor, Salim Kunduzi, said local people are happy with the airstrikes against IS militants.
IS has been active in several districts of Nangarhar, where it launched multiple attacks on government facilities.
IS militants have also been engaged in fierce fighting with the rival Taliban in the province. Dozens of insurgents reportedly have been killed in the fighting between the two militant groups.