Obama approves air strikes against Islamic State in Afghanistan
The Obama administration has granted the U.S. military new authorities to strike the Islamic State in Afghanistan, signaling a more sustained fight against the extremist group outside of its base in Iraq and Syria, officials said on Wednesday, according to The Washington Post.
A defense official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss internal decisions, said new rules of engagement approved last week permitted commanders in Afghanistan to launch air strikes against Islamic State militants because of their affiliation with the group, in the same way it targets fighters linked to al-Qaeda, The Washington Post reported.
Under previous regulations, the U.S. military was able to conduct air strikes in Afghanistan in three circumstances: to protect foreign forces; to help Afghan troops ward off an enemy onslaught; and to target al-Qaeda and affiliated militants.
Read alsoThe Washington Post: Defeating Islamic State will take decadesAccording to a second official, who also spoke on condition of anonymity, the U.S. military has struck militants identified with the Islamic State in Afghanistan in the past, but those strikes were launched on the basis of the fighters’ “hostile intentions” rather than their affiliation with the group’s Afghanistan cell.
While the decision does not signal a dramatic change for U.S. activities in Afghanistan, it strengthens commanders’ authority against assorted militants there and, more generally, is another illustration of the expanding U.S. campaign against the Islamic State beyond its home base.