The Pentagon has now been granted the legal authority to actively pursue Islamic State fighters in Afghanistan.
The U.S. military can now go after what refers to as ISIL-K (ISIL-Khorasan) — the Islamic State’s offshoot in Afghanistan and Pakistan — after the State Department officially designated group as a foreign terrorist organization last week, CNN reported.
The change means U.S. forces can now attack the militants as a threat to the U.S. Previous rules of engagement required Islamic State elements to first pose a threat to U.S. forces in the area or to be pursued as part of a specific counterterrorism mission.
The State Department’s designation also means that there will now be consequences for anyone found providing, or attempting to conspire to provide, material support or resources to the Afghan terror organization, according to CNN.
Officials say the offshoot formed in January 2015, pledging allegiance to Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. The group is estimated to have between 1,000 and 3,000 fighters, Military Times reported.
Many of the fighters are individuals who defected rom Tehrik-e Taliban (TTP) an the Afghan Taliban, according to the State Department announcement.
The leader of the new group, Hafez Saeed Khan, is a former member of TTP, a defense official told CNN.
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