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The last Americans fighting in Afghanistan

In April and July 2018, Andrew Quilty accompanied the US Special Forces Operational Detachment. He had an exceptional access at the front lines in Afghanistan, where is one of the last American units still in active combat, 17 years after the war began.

When Andrew Quilty met the 12 men of the Operational Detachment Alpha team in July, they had been fighting the Islamic state in Khorasan for four months. Better known as the "Green Berets", this division of the US Army Special Forces specializes in commando actions, unconventional warfare, and formation of allied troops.

Based on a farm located at the mouth of the remote Mohmand Valley in eastern Afghanistan, their mission is to work with their Afghan Special Forces counterparts to defeat the Islamic state in the region, and to increase the presence of the Afghan government in the valleys that extend from Nangarhar province to the Pakistan border.

The fighting in the Mohmand Valley began in April 2017, after the United States opened the jihadists' front line by dropping the largest non-nuclear bomb ever used in combat. They bombed relentlessly from the air, then they went on foot, securing the villages one by one with their Afghan counterparts.

The emergence of the Islamic state in Afghanistan has demonstrated the country's growing instability. It also strengthened the role of the United States, at a time when it had begun to withdraw. While U.S. joint military operations killed 600 Islamic state fighters in 2018, experts point out that the Islamic state has a large pool of potential recruits on both sides of the border. "It is difficult to defeat the I.S.K.P militarily without first addressing the reasons for the group's emergence," said Borhan Osman, the International Crisis Groups senior analyst for Afghanistan.

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