On February 1, Iran’s state-owned news outlet, Press TV, quoted a member of a Taliban delegation visiting Iran for talks on the Afghan peace process.
The official claimed the U.S. has ferried Islamic State members in Afghanistan on U.S. military helicopters to help them escape areas that fell under Taliban control.
“Daesh were in Nangarhar and Kunar; they existed in those areas,” Suheil Shaheen was quoted as saying. “They were eliminated by the Taliban there, but their members were transferred by choppers. When the Taliban laid a siege on them, we saw that only American choppers could fly as the Afghan airspace is fully under the control of Americans.”
The claim that U.S. military helicopters have been used to ferry IS members around Afghanistan is both old and false.
Back in February 2019, Iranian media claimed U.S. forces in Afghanistan had attacked a Taliban-held prison and freed Islamic State captives there. In reality, the Afghan national military conducted the raid, and the IS prisoners were transferred into the custody of the Afghan Directorate of National Security.
The Russian government has repeated similar unsubstantiated accusations and also accused the U.S. of aiding Islamic State in Syria. In fact, the U.S. helped lead a coalition of more than 70 nations against the terrorist group in Syria and Iraq, and the U.S. military has also targeted Islamic State forces in Afghanistan.
In October 2020, the Washington Post reported that the previous year, the U.S. military had quietly provided air support to the Taliban when they were fighting Islamic State forces in eastern Afghanistan’s Konar province.
Iran’s Press TV further quoted Shaheen as saying:
“After the signing of the agreement, we gave a chance to the Americans to withdraw their troops from Afghanistan, and we were committed not to launch any attacks. So if they terminated the occupation, we were committed to refrain from any assaults or attacks so it would pave the way for intra-Afghan talks. But unfortunately new attacks were launched against us, and we were forced to defend ourselves, and they even tried to capture our region, and they conducted nightly attacks.”
That claim is also dubious. In February, Al Jazeera reported that Taliban attacks had increased since December 2020, while the U.S. military had reduced the number of its troops in Afghanistan to approximately 2,500.
While U.S. air strikes increased in 2020, the U.S. military ceased offensive operations against the Taliban. However, under the agreement signed in February 2020, the U.S. military retained the right to conduct antiterrorism operations on Afghan soil, including operations against Islamic State.