US and Afghan troops have killed 19 Taliban fighters and detained five more during an air assault on a known Taliban stronghold in a village in Kunar province.
The combined force launched “a major air assault” against Taliban fighters operating in the village of Omar in the district of Pech (which is also known as Monogai) in Kunar yesterday. The International Security Assistance Force did not respond to an inquiry on the size of the air assault.
US troops, from the 1st Battalion, 327th Infantry Regiment of the 101st Airborne Division, and Afghan soldiers found “numerous insurgent fighting positions, weapons caches, and stockpiles of ammunition within the village” during the assault.
Over the past month, ISAF and Afghan forces have stepped up operations in Kunar, a known haven for al Qaeda, the Taliban, Hizb-i-Islami, and Pakistani Taliban fighters.
On Aug. 26, US troops killed four Taliban fighters in an airstrike in the Pech district. On Aug. 19, special operations forces killed three members of the Taliban subgroup Jamaat ul Dawa al Quran during a raid in the village of Shamun in Pech. Sayed Shah, a wanted commander in Jamaat ul Dawa al Quran, was among those killed.
And in late July and early August, ISAF announced that it was hunting Qari Zia Rahman, who is the Taliban’s top regional commander as well as a senior military leader in al Qaeda. He operates in Kunar and neighboring Nuristan province in Afghanistan, and he also operates across the border in Pakistan’s tribal agency of Bajaur. Qari Zia is closely allied with Faqir Mohammed as well as with Osama bin Laden. Qari Zia’s fighters are from Chechnya, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, and various Arab nations. Earlier this year, the Pakistani government claimed to have killed Qari Zia in an airstrike, but he later spoke to the media and mocked Pakistan’s interior minister for wrongly reporting his death.
The US military has killed other top Taliban and al Qaeda leaders in Pech in Kunar over the past year. On Nov. 26, 2009, Dowron, the Taliban commander of the Pech River Valley was killed in a US strike. Dowron had ties to multiple al Qaeda members and was involved in attacks on Afghan and Coalition forces and bases, as well as on Afghan civilians.
On Dec. 1, 2009, Qari Masiullah, the al Qaeda chief of security for Kunar province, was killed during another operation. Masiullah ran a training camp that taught insurgents how to use and emplace IEDs that were used in attacks on Afghan civilians and Afghan and Coalition forces throughout the provinces of Nangarhar, Nuristan, Kunar, and Laghman.
Also, on Oct. 11, 2009, US forces targeted an al Qaeda base in the mountains in Pech. The raid targeted an al Qaeda commander who is known to use the mountainside base near the village of Tantil to conduct attacks in the Pech Valley. The al Qaeda leader, who was not named, and his cadre are also known to facilitate the movement of foreign fighters from Pakistan into Afghanistan.
Kunar province is a known sanctuary for al Qaeda and allied terror groups. The presence of al Qaeda cells has been detected in the districts of Pech, Shaikal Shate, Sarkani, Dangam, Asmar, and Asadabad; or six of Kunar’s 15 districts, according to an investigation by The Long War Journal.
ISAF has ceded ground to al Qaeda and the Taliban over the past year when it withdrew from outposts in remote districts in Kunar and neighboring Nuristan as part of its population-centric counterinsurgency strategy. The Taliban and al Qaeda have taken advantage of these new safe havens to strike at neighboring districts and provinces.
• Afghan, coalition forces conduct air assault in Kunar, ISAF press release
• Insurgents struck during operation in Kunar; civilian casualty allegations, ISAF press release
• US targets Salafist group allied with the Taliban in Kunar, The Long War Journal
• US hunts wanted Taliban and al Qaeda commander in Kunar, The Long War Journal
• Afghan, US forces hunt al Qaeda, Taliban in northeast, The Long War Journal
• US, Afghan forces target insurgent leaders in the East, The Long War Journal
• Joint forces assault al Qaeda base in Afghan East, The Long War Journal