Photos: Residents return to rubble after IS losses in east Afghanistan

Afghan farmer Gulnar Malik had seen her share of hardships as war ravaged her country for decades -- but nothing prepared the mother of five for the arrival of the Islamic State group. IS militants seized her village in the eastern province of Nangarhar, nearly five years ago, unleashing a tide of carnage and slaughter as they sought to expand their self-declared Syria and Iraq "caliphate" into Afghanistan. Malik went home last month having spent years in the comparative safety of a nearby town, after Afghan military officials announced that IS's Afghan branch, also known as IS in the Khorasan, or IS-K, had been completely defeated in Nangarhar..

Updated On Dec 05, 2019 10:01 AM IST 12 Photos
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Afghan security forces take part in an operation against Islamic State (IS) militants in the Achin district of Nangarhar province on November 25, 2019. The IS “fighters committed a lot of atrocities”, Malik, 55, told AFP shortly after the Afghan army dislodged the jihadists from her home district of Achin, following weeks of house-to-house fighting, shelling and US air strikes. (Noorullah Shirzada / AFP)

Afghan security forces take part in an operation against Islamic State (IS) militants in the Achin district of Nangarhar province on November 25, 2019. The IS “fighters committed a lot of atrocities”, Malik, 55, told AFP shortly after the Afghan army dislodged the jihadists from her home district of Achin, following weeks of house-to-house fighting, shelling and US air strikes. (Noorullah Shirzada / AFP)

Updated on Dec 05, 2019 10:01 AM IST
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Gulnar Malik and her family sit outside their house's premises in Achin district. “They shot dead one of my children and injured another. My dead boy was trying to run away when they shot him,” she recalled, adding that her husband had been detained and tortured over a three-week period. Malik went home last month having spent years in the comparative safety of a nearby town. (Noorullah Shirzada / AFP)

Gulnar Malik and her family sit outside their house's premises in Achin district. “They shot dead one of my children and injured another. My dead boy was trying to run away when they shot him,” she recalled, adding that her husband had been detained and tortured over a three-week period. Malik went home last month having spent years in the comparative safety of a nearby town. (Noorullah Shirzada / AFP)

Updated on Dec 05, 2019 10:01 AM IST
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Afghan security forces during an operation against IS militants in the Achin district. Afghan military officials have announced IS in the Khorasan, or IS-K, had been completely defeated in Nangarhar but some local officials are not convinced that the loss is comprehensive, the Nangarhar gains -- if they hold -- would mark a major accomplishment for Afghanistan’s beleaguered security forces. (Noorullah Shirzada / AFP)

Afghan security forces during an operation against IS militants in the Achin district. Afghan military officials have announced IS in the Khorasan, or IS-K, had been completely defeated in Nangarhar but some local officials are not convinced that the loss is comprehensive, the Nangarhar gains -- if they hold -- would mark a major accomplishment for Afghanistan’s beleaguered security forces. (Noorullah Shirzada / AFP)

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The exact nature of links between IS in Afghanistan and the Middle East remains unclear, but IS-K first emerged in the region in 2014, largely made up of disaffected fighters from the Taliban and other jihadist groups in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Central Asia. IS-K fighters coalesced in the hilly district of Achin in Nangarhar in 2015, the first time they controlled territory inside Afghanistan. (Noorullah Shirzada / AFP)

The exact nature of links between IS in Afghanistan and the Middle East remains unclear, but IS-K first emerged in the region in 2014, largely made up of disaffected fighters from the Taliban and other jihadist groups in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Central Asia. IS-K fighters coalesced in the hilly district of Achin in Nangarhar in 2015, the first time they controlled territory inside Afghanistan. (Noorullah Shirzada / AFP)

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Afghan security forces clear houses during an operation. Is-K confounded early US predictions they would be defeated quickly, withstanding continual air strikes, as well as battles with the rival Taliban. They replenished their ranks using a mix of cash and extreme ideology spread inside Kabul’s universities. (Noorullah Shirzada / AFP)

Afghan security forces clear houses during an operation. Is-K confounded early US predictions they would be defeated quickly, withstanding continual air strikes, as well as battles with the rival Taliban. They replenished their ranks using a mix of cash and extreme ideology spread inside Kabul’s universities. (Noorullah Shirzada / AFP)

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Local militia forces stand guard among houses' debris during an operation against Is-K in the Achin district. An AFP correspondent recently travelled with an Afghan army unit to a small village in Achin and saw the destruction wrought by IS-K. Built on a forested hillside, many stonework buildings had been reduced to rubble, house walls were pockmarked with bullet holes and there were mangled remains of cars on the roadside. (Noorullah Shirzada / AFP)

Local militia forces stand guard among houses' debris during an operation against Is-K in the Achin district. An AFP correspondent recently travelled with an Afghan army unit to a small village in Achin and saw the destruction wrought by IS-K. Built on a forested hillside, many stonework buildings had been reduced to rubble, house walls were pockmarked with bullet holes and there were mangled remains of cars on the roadside. (Noorullah Shirzada / AFP)

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Residents among the debris of their destroyed houses in Achin district. “We were forced to leave our homes. Now we have returned, all our houses and all of our belongings are destroyed,” said local resident Himatullah, 36, who only uses one name. He recalled that when IS-K fighters first arrived, they forced residents to sit on bombs, then detonated them. Another day, they beheaded a man accused of infidelity. (Noorullah Shirzada / AFP)

Residents among the debris of their destroyed houses in Achin district. “We were forced to leave our homes. Now we have returned, all our houses and all of our belongings are destroyed,” said local resident Himatullah, 36, who only uses one name. He recalled that when IS-K fighters first arrived, they forced residents to sit on bombs, then detonated them. Another day, they beheaded a man accused of infidelity. (Noorullah Shirzada / AFP)

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Residents look on after they have returned to their village following four years of fighting between Afghan security forces and IS-K in Achin district. Even though the village now is free of IS-K, it will take time for residents to feel safe, and many are traumatised. “Daesh have planted mines everywhere -- in schools, clinics, people’s homes,” Himatullah said, using the Arabic acronym for IS. (Noorullah Shirzada / AFP)

Residents look on after they have returned to their village following four years of fighting between Afghan security forces and IS-K in Achin district. Even though the village now is free of IS-K, it will take time for residents to feel safe, and many are traumatised. “Daesh have planted mines everywhere -- in schools, clinics, people’s homes,” Himatullah said, using the Arabic acronym for IS. (Noorullah Shirzada / AFP)

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According to an American defence official, Afghan operations supported by US-led coalition air strikes set conditions that in recent weeks forced more than 1,400 IS fighters and their families to surrender. Stalled talks between the US and the Taliban were aimed at striking a deal that would have seen the Pentagon pull troops from Afghanistan in return for security guarantees, while leaving a counter-terrorism footprint in the country. (Noorullah Shirzada / AFP)

According to an American defence official, Afghan operations supported by US-led coalition air strikes set conditions that in recent weeks forced more than 1,400 IS fighters and their families to surrender. Stalled talks between the US and the Taliban were aimed at striking a deal that would have seen the Pentagon pull troops from Afghanistan in return for security guarantees, while leaving a counter-terrorism footprint in the country. (Noorullah Shirzada / AFP)

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An Afghan security personnel next to a damaged IS-K vehicle. In the years since 2015, IS-K proved resilient and resourceful, using tunnels to shelter from an aerial onslaught that famously included the US deploying the “Mother Of All Bombs” in 2017. US military officials no longer detail IS-K’s force strength, but for years it was estimated between 2,500 and 4,000 fighters. (Noorullah Shirzada / AFP)

An Afghan security personnel next to a damaged IS-K vehicle. In the years since 2015, IS-K proved resilient and resourceful, using tunnels to shelter from an aerial onslaught that famously included the US deploying the “Mother Of All Bombs” in 2017. US military officials no longer detail IS-K’s force strength, but for years it was estimated between 2,500 and 4,000 fighters. (Noorullah Shirzada / AFP)

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A child looks on as he walks with a donkey after returning to his village. “We measure (the) Daesh threat in terms of intentions, capabilities and trajectory, not in numbers,” the defence official told AFP, noting that while IS-K has been defeated in Nangarhar, pockets remain and scattered elements will attempt to regroup. “Bottom line, Daesh remains a threat -- they have the will and intent to export terror outside Afghanistan,” the official added. (Noorullah Shirzada / AFP)

A child looks on as he walks with a donkey after returning to his village. “We measure (the) Daesh threat in terms of intentions, capabilities and trajectory, not in numbers,” the defence official told AFP, noting that while IS-K has been defeated in Nangarhar, pockets remain and scattered elements will attempt to regroup. “Bottom line, Daesh remains a threat -- they have the will and intent to export terror outside Afghanistan,” the official added. (Noorullah Shirzada / AFP)

Updated on Dec 05, 2019 10:01 AM IST
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Herat Khan, an Achin elder, said only about 10% of families stayed during IS-K occupation. The government should “help us in reconstructing schools, houses, clinics and mosques,” he said, noting perhaps thousands of homes had been rubbled and that jihadists remained in two places in Achin, but army Commander Najibullah said IS-K had been wiped out. Still, IS-K remains, notably in neighbouring Kunar province as well as in Kabul. (Noorullah Shirzada / AFP)

Herat Khan, an Achin elder, said only about 10% of families stayed during IS-K occupation. The government should “help us in reconstructing schools, houses, clinics and mosques,” he said, noting perhaps thousands of homes had been rubbled and that jihadists remained in two places in Achin, but army Commander Najibullah said IS-K had been wiped out. Still, IS-K remains, notably in neighbouring Kunar province as well as in Kabul. (Noorullah Shirzada / AFP)

Updated on Dec 05, 2019 10:01 AM IST
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