(CNSNews.com) - U.S. forces in Afghanistan killed a "former Taliban commander" and seven of his associates on Monday in Helmand Province "because we had information that they were planning operations against U.S. and Afghan personnel there in Afghanistan," Pentagon spokesman Rear Adm. John Kirby told reporters on Tuesday.
Kirby said the former Taliban commander -- Abdul Rauf Khadim -- swore allegiance to ISIS/ISIL just a few weeks ago. Kirby also confirmed that Khadim is a former Guantanamo Bay detainee: "He was released in 2007. He was released to Kabul," he said.
Kirby described the U.S. targeting of Khadim as "proof" that former Gitmo detainees "return to the battlefield and to the fight at their own peril."
"And again, these are both reminders that we're going to continue to use all the tools at our disposal -- financial, diplomatic, certainly military, to -- to dismantle al-Shabaab and other groups, networks that threaten U.S. interests as well as the interests of our allies and partner nations."
A reporter asked Kirby about Islamic State activity in Afghanistan:
"The way I would describe ISIL in Afghanistan is nascent at best," Kirby replied. "In fact, I would say more aspirational than anything else at this point. This guy Khadim, we assess that he decided to swear allegiance to ISIL probably no more than a couple weeks ago. And he didn't have a whole lot of depth to any network resources or manpower when he did it.
"I'm not diminishing or trying to dismiss at all the threat that ISIL poses, wants to pose, but what I'm telling you is here in this case, it's nascent and aspirational, and that would be -- that would be an aggressive characterization right now."
Kirby also said the Islamic State is "a group that does want to -- to grow and expand its influence. And you've heard from General Rodriguez, you've heard from General Campbell that they certainly are looking very sharply to see if they're expanding in other areas outside Iraq and Syria, and we know they have those designs."
"And as I've said before up here...you know, we got into this whole rhetorical debate about the Taliban and -- and whether or not we're going to continue to go after them, given that we're in a new mission, and told you then, and this is proof of it today. If they're going to threaten our interest, our allies, our partners in Afghanistan, they're fair game, and they're fair game."
Kirby said the Pentagon still believes Gitmo should be closed. "There's no change to that," he said.