The battle at the Tora Bora mountains in Nangarhar province has completed its first week, the fighting has intensified as Afghan Army and US forces hunt Taliban and al Qaeda fighters who have infiltrated the region. Scores of Taliban and al Qaeda operatives are reported to have been captured after upwards of 50 terrorists were killed in the initial fighting. A senior al Qaeda leader was also reported to have been wounded in the attack.
Dr. Amin al Haq, who serves as Osama bin Laden’s security coordinator, was reported to have been wounded in the fighting, The Telegraph’s Tom Coghlan reported from Tora Bora. Al Haq is said to have fled across the border into Pakistan’s Kurram agency. As bin Laden’s security coordinator, al Haq commands the elite Black Guard, the fanatical praetorian bodyguards devoted to the security of al Qaeda’s leader.
Al Haq was born in Afghanistan’s Nangarhar province, was educated as a doctor, and practiced medicine in Pakistan. He accompanied Osama bin Laden during the 2001 battle at Tora Bora, and helped senior al Qaeda leaders escape the US and Afghan militia assault on the cave complex.
Several senior al Qaeda leaders — such as Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Saif al Adel, and Walid bin Attash — rose through the ranks in al Qaeda by serving in the Black Guard. A Special Forces raid against the Black Guard camp in Danda Saidgai in North Waziristan, Pakistan in March 2006 resulted in the death of Imam Asad and several dozen members of the Black Guard. Asad was the Danda Saidgai camp commander, a senior Chechen al Qaeda commander, and associate of Shamil Basayev, the Chechen al Qaeda leader killed by Russian security forces in July 2006.
US and Afghan commanders believe they have a large force pinned down in the valleys in southern Nangarhar. “Five hundred infiltrated the area,” Gen. Qadim Shah, the commander of 1st Brigade of the Afghan Army, told Mr. Coghlan. “We have captured 57 fighters from the Taliban and al-Qaeda. They include Chechens, Arabs and Uzbeks.” Local tribesmen are also saying Chinese Muslims, or Uighurs, and “a large contingent of Uzbeks led by Tahir Yuldashev” of the al Qaeda affiliate Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan are fighting in the area.
The fighting has been reported to be heavy in the Tora Bora region. The United Nations reports over 400 Afghan families have been displaced due to the ground combat and NATO airstrikes.
The news of the recent fighting in Tora Bora comes as al Qaeda and Taliban camps in North and South Waziristan recently emptied of fighters. Also, evidence recently emerged the US military has approval to conduct raids inside Pakistani territory. Pakistani troops are reported to have reinforced the border in the Kurram agency.
Nangarhar borders Kunar province to the north, which has been the scene of major battles between the Taliban and US and Afghan forces over the past year. Nangarhar also borders the Pakistani tribal districts of Kurram and Khyber to the south, and Bajaur to the east. The TNSM openly run Bajaur province after the Pakistani government negotiated a peace deal in March, while the Taliban maintain a strong influence in Kurram and Khyber.