U.S. Green Berets and Afghan special operations troops captured a town that the Islamic State (ISIS) had claimed as their local capital. The large joint operation has been on-going for several weeks and culminated with the capture of Gurgoray on Saturday.
No Americans or Afghan troops were killed in the offensive, which the U.S. military said killed 167 fighters from the Islamic State group – also known as ISIS or Daesh – and involved a complex multipronged attack on Gurgoray, a town purported to be the group’s capital in Deh Bala district in Nangarhar province.
“This area, two months ago, was controlled by Daesh,” Brig. Gen. John W. Brennan Jr., commander of NATO forces in eastern Afghanistan, said at a special operations outpost in Deh Bala. “We pushed them into the mountains, so they cannot harm the people here.”
The U.S. and Afghan offensive involved five Special Forces teams and three Afghan commando companies. In total, 600 members of the U.S. Army Special Forces, also known as Green Berets, participated in the mission, which began in April and continued into June, a U.S. military officer said.
Checkpoints manned by U.S. Special Forces, Afghan commandos and police now rise high above the valleys of Deh Bala, while American fighter-bombers continue to blast the Gurgoray Valley to stifle movements there by ISIS remnants.
Nangarhar province is one of the few places Americans continue to fight alongside Afghan forces in battle, and it has also been the deadliest spot for U.S. servicemembers, with a third of American combat deaths occurring there last year.
The finger-like mountain ridges and wheat-filled valleys of Deh Bala district in Nangarhar have long provided shelter to insurgents – the Taliban, al-Qaida and now ISIS.
The district’s center lies 21 miles south of Jalalabad, the provincial capital where ISIS claimed recent deadly suicide attacks, and 11 miles west of Aachin, where the U.S. military in April 2017 dropped the largest bomb in its arsenal, “the mother of all bombs,” on an ISIS cave network.
Due to its location on the border with Pakistan, Deh Bala served as a key supply route for ISIS.
“ISIS was using this site as a site to prepare and stage high-profile attacks,” said Lt. Col. Joshua Thiel, commander of 3rd Battalion, 1st Special Forces Group.
After airlifting Afghan commandos and Special Forces teams to the ridges surrounding the valley, the coalition troops controlled the high ground and put the ISIS fighters under fire as they gradually closed the noose as they forced them out.
U.S. officials said they found evidence of ISIS fighters from 10 different countries in Gurgoray.
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