At least 40 people have been killed in a new US drone strike in Afghanistan’s troubled eastern province of Nangarhar.
The aerial assaults took place on Thursday night in the Achin district of the province, which is located 120 kilometers (74 miles) east of the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Local Afghan officials said that those killed in the aerial attack were members of the Takfiri Daesh terrorist group, which has gained a foothold in Nangarhar in recent months.
Afghanistan, parts of which have long been considered a bastion of Taliban, has recently been seeing the emergence and expansion of Daesh. Nangarhar, in particular, is one area where Daesh has visibly gained a foothold.
Meanwhile, a Kabul-based US military general claimed on Thursday that the nascent presence of Daesh in Afghanistan has dwindled since the US military stepped up strikes on militant hideouts in the troubled region.
“The capacity of Daesh, we believe, has been lessened,” Brigadier General Charles Cleveland said, adding, “Their overall footprint in Nangarhar we do believe has been lessened as well.”
The US military estimates that between 1,000 and 3,000 Daesh fighters are operating across Afghanistan.
Daesh has been operating mainly in Iraq and Syria.
On June 16, 2015, the Afghan Taliban militant group warned Daesh ringleader, Ibrahim al-Samarrai, also known as Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, against “waging a parallel insurgency in Afghanistan.
The CIA spy agency regularly uses drones for airstrikes and spying missions in Afghanistan as well as Pakistan’s northwestern tribal belt near the Afghan border. Washington has also been conducting targeted killings through remotely-controlled armed drones in Somalia and Yemen.
The US says the airstrikes target members of Taliban, al-Qaeda and other militants, but according to local officials and witnesses, civilians have in most cases been the victims of the attacks.
The rise of Daesh in Afghanistan and the continued Taliban militancy comes despite about a decade and a half of a US-led war against militancy in the country.