Taliban create Lashkar-e-Khorasan to hunt Predator spies
The Taliban have created a group assigned to hunt down tribesmen suspected of providing information to the CIA that enables the Predator campaign to target terrorist leaders in Pakistani tribal areas.
The group, known as the Lashkar-e-Khorasan, or Army of the Khorasan, was established in North Waziristan last year by both the Haqqani Network and Taliban forces under the command of Hafiz Gul Bahadar, The Express Tribune reported. The creation of the group was confirmed by Pakistani intelligence officials, tribesmen, and members of the Taliban.
The Pakistani government continues to maintain that Bahadar and the Haqqani Network are "good Taliban" as they do not attack the Pakistani state. But both Bahadar and the Haaqani Network shelter al Qaeda and also various Taliban groups that do conduct attacks in Pakistan and Afghanistan.
The Lashkar-e-Khorasan was first established as a "loose network with members casually going out and trying to find out who is providing information to the US," but has become an "organized" unit that is "scientifically on the counter-intelligence line," a Taliban member associated with Bahadar's group told the The Express Tribune.
The unit is estimated have more than 300 fighters and to operate primarily in the Datta Khel, Mir Ali, and Miramshah areas. These three areas are strongholds of the Haqqani Network and Bahadar's Taliban forces, as well as for al Qaeda and allied terror groups, and have been heavily targeted by the CIA.
The group has sought to uncover the network of tribesmen believed to be aiding the US Predator campaign that targets leaders and operatives of al Qaeda and allied groups, including the Haqqani Network and Bahadar's fighters. The Predator campaign has focused on taking out al Qaeda's external operations network, which is assigned to hitting Western targets. The campaign has also targeted terror groups that attack the Afghan and Pakistani states.
The local anti-Taliban spy network is thought to observe the location of meetings and to plant tracking chips on compounds and vehicles used by the terror groups. The information is provided to the CIA, which then executes the attacks via unmanned Predator and Reaper strike aircraft. The US has executed 234 strikes total since the program began in 2004; 224 of those strikes have taken place since January 2008. Of the 234 strikes since 2004, 168 have taken place in North Waziristan. [See LWJ report, Charting the data for US airstrikes in Pakistan, 2004 - 2011.]
The Lashkar-e-Khorasan not only attempts to root out the spy network, it carries out the executions. Increasingly, the Taliban's counterintelligence unit has been executing so-called US spies in batches. On March 1, the Taliban executed four "US spies" in North Waziristan; four more were executed on March 21.
The Lashkar-e-Khorasan has also carried out the executions of alleged spies outside of North Waziristan. On Feb. 5, the Taliban executed four people accused of "spying for Indian and Jewish intelligence agencies" in the district of Karak, and on March 18, the Taliban executed a spy in Kohat.
The executions are occasionally carried out in public, in a brutal fashion. On May 21, 2010, the Taliban placed suicide vests on the so-called spies, and detonated them in front of crowds of onlookers.
The Taliban's usage of the term "Khorasan" indicates that they are working in conjunction with al Qaeda in the effort to hunt down the spy network in North Waziristan. Al Qaeda's forces in Pakistan and Afghanistan are known as Qaidat al-Jihad fi Khorasan, or the Base of the Jihad in the Khorasan. It was in North Waziristan that the US killed Mustafa Abu Yazid, the leader of Al Qaeda in the Khorasan, in a Predator strike last summer.
The Khorasan is a region that encompasses large areas of Afghanistan, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Iran. The Khorasan is considered by jihadists to be the place where they will inflict the first defeat against their enemies in the Muslim version of Armageddon. The final battle is to take place in the Levant: in Israel, Syria, and Lebanon.
Mentions of the Khorasan have begun to increase in al Qaeda's propaganda since 2007. After al Qaeda's defeat in Iraq, the group began shifting its rhetoric from promoting Iraq as the central front in its jihad and has placed the focus on the Khorasan.