By Army Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone C. Marshall Jr.
DoD News, Defense Media Activity
WASHINGTON, Feb. 10, 2015 – The Defense Department announced today the deaths of eight individuals, including a former Taliban commander, killed during precision airstrikes in Afghanistan.
Pentagon Press Secretary Navy Adm. John Kirby told Pentagon reporters the airstrikes are a “reminder,” and emphasized using all available methods to dismantle terrorist groups threatening U.S., partner and allied interests.
“Yesterday, U.S. forces in Afghanistan conducted a precision strike in Helmand province,” he said, “resulting in the death of eight individuals, to include Abdul Rauf Khadim, a former Taliban commander.”
“These are both reminders,” Kirby said, “that we’re going to continue to use all the tools at our disposal -- financial, diplomatic, certainly military -- to dismantle al-Shabaab and other groups [and] networks that threaten U.S. interests as well as the interests of our allies and partner nations.”
ISIL Nascent in Afghanistan
Kirby discussed ISIL’s desire to spread to other areas outside of Iraq and Syria.
“We’ve talked about this in the past,” he said, “that this is a group that does want to grow and expand its influence.”
Kirby noted that Army Gen. David M. Rodriguez, commander of U.S. Africa Command, and Army Gen. John F. Campbell, commander of NATO’s International Security Assistance Force, said they “certainly are looking very sharply to see if they’re expanding in other areas outside Iraq and Syria, and we know they have those designs.”
The admiral said he’d describe the group in Afghanistan as “nascent at best.”
“In fact,” Kirby said, “I would say more aspirational than anything else at this point. This guy Khadim -- we assess that he decided to swear allegiance to ISIL probably no more than a couple weeks ago. And he didn’t have a whole lot of depth to any network resources or manpower when he did it.”
Kirby emphasized he was not “diminishing or trying to dismiss” the threat ISIL poses, “but what I’m telling you is, here in this case, it’s nascent and aspirational, and that would be an aggressive characterization right now.”
The admiral noted Khadim, and his associates, were targeted because “we had information that they were planning operations against U.S. and Afghan personnel there in Afghanistan.”
“If they’re going to threaten our interest, our allies, our partners in Afghanistan,” Kirby said, “they’re fair game.”
Additionally, Kirby acknowledged Khadim was a detainee at the Guantanamo detention center before his 2007 release to Afghan authorities in Kabul.
This is a great example, he said, of the long discussion held regarding recidivism.
“We said that they return to the battlefield and to the fight at their own peril,” Kirby said. “Mr. Khadim is proof of that.”