LINKEDINCOMMENTMORE

Washington — Five U.S. special operations troops were wounded in combat with Islamic State fighters in eastern Afghanistan, the senior U.S. commander in the country said Thursday.

Gen. John Nicholson, the top commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, said the five were hit by small arms fire or shrapnel during a combat operation conducted with Afghan special operations forces in the eastern province of Nangarhar.

He did not say exactly when it happened, describing it only as “in the last few days.” He said operations there began about a week ago against the IS, an acronym for the Islamic State.

Speaking to reporters at the Pentagon from his headquarters in Kabul, Nicholson said none of the wounds are life-threatening. Three of the soldiers have been evacuated from the area, and two have been returned to duty.

Nicholson said the casualties happened during a counterterrorism operation in which Afghan forces have recaptured ground previously held by the Islamic State, following U.S. airstrikes. He said the operation has resulted in the killing of a number of IS commanders and fighters, with others retreating south into mountainous areas of southern Nangarhar.

He said the number of IS fighters in Afghanistan has declined from an estimated 3,000 at the start of this year to between 1,000 and 1,500. The majority of those in Nangarhar are former members of a Pakistan Taliban group known as TTP, he said, adding that they were largely forced out of Pakistan by a government offensive and joined IS earlier this year.

Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Read or Share this story: http://detne.ws/2adVqbP