WASHINGTON --Hafiz Saeed Khan, ISIS's top leader in Afghanistan, was killed in a U.S. drone strike on July 26 in eastern Afghanistan, according to a U.S. defense official.
Khan has been reported as having been killed before, but the official said there has been confirmation that Khan was killed in the airstrike that occurred in Nangarhar Province more than two weeks ago.
Khan was known as the Emir of ISIS-Khorasan, the name of the ISIS affiliate in Afghanistan that has operated mainly in remote areas of eastern Afghanistan along the border with Pakistan.
The number of fighters belonging to the group and the amount of territory held by the group has been reduced by recent Afghan military operations supported by U.S. airstrikes.
Last December, the White House approved an expansion of authorities for the U.S. military in Afghanistan, enabling it to conduct airstrikes against ISIS-Khorasan, which posed a growing threat in eastern Afghanistan.
The Pentagon's latest estimate is that there are now 1,000 to 1,500 ISIS fighters in eastern Afghanistan, nearly half the number estimated earlier this year. Most of these ISIS fighters were members of the Pakistani Taliban that rebranded themselves as ISIS.
"We think we've reduced their numbers fairly significantly in the last six months," Gen. John Nicholson, the top U.S. military commander in Afghanistan, told Pentagon reporters in a video briefing two weeks ago.