U.S. troops killed the head of ISIS’s Afghanistan branch, known as Islamic State Khorasan (ISIS-K), during a June 11 airstrike on the group’s headquarters in the Kunar province, the Pentagon announced Friday. Abu Sayed took over as leader of the group after his predecessor, Abdul Hasib, was killed by Afghan and U.S. forces during a joint raid in April. Before Hasib, ISIS-K was run by Hafiz Sayed Khan, who died in a drone strike in late July 2016. In a statement, Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White said Tuesday’s strike had “also killed other ISIS-K members and will significantly disrupt the terror group’s plans to expand its presence in Afghanistan.”
Sayed’s death marks a significant advancement in the U.S. effort to drive ISIS out of Afghanistan by the end of this year. While ISIS is predominately based in Iraq and Syria, the militant group extended its operations to Afghanistan in 2015. For now, ISIS retains limited territory in Afghanistan, with major strongholds in Kunar and the eastern province of Nangarhar. While the Pentagon estimated that around 2,500 ISIS fighters were stationed in Afghanistan in 2015, they have since reported that ISIS-K is now down to less than 1,000 militants. In addition to battling U.S. and Afghan forces, ISIS-K has also clashed with the Taliban, which maintains a much larger presence in the nation.