ISAF captures al Qaeda's top Kunar commander


Coalition and Afghan special operations teams captured al Qaeda's top military commander in Kunar during a raid in the eastern province late last year.

Abu Ikhlas al Masri served as al Qaeda's operations commander before he was captured in a special operations raid in Kunar in December 2010.

Abu Ikhlas is an Egyptian citizen who has spent years in Afghanistan and has intermarried with the local tribes. He maintains an extensive network in Kunar due to his close links with the tribes. Abu Ikhlas was named al Qaeda's operations chief for Kunar province in early 2008. He assumed command of Kunar operations after his predecessor, Abu Ubaidah al Masri, was promoted to take over al Qaeda's external operations branch (Abu Ubaidah died in early 2008 of a disease).

Abu Ikhlas's capture was reported by The Wall Street Journal today in an article that noted al Qaeda's strong presence in Kunar and the Afghan east. In March, The Long War Journal was aware of Abu Ikhlas's capture, but held the information at the request of US intelligence officials, who cited operational security concerns. Abu Ikhlas is currently being interrogated and has provided information on al Qaeda's network in Kunar and the wider east.

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, Asadabad, Shigal, and Marawana; or eight of Kunar's 15 districts, according to an investigation by The Long War Journal.

Despite the known presence of al Qaeda camps in the provinces, US troops have abandoned several combat outposts in Kunar and the neighboring province of Nuristan after major attacks on remote bases. US Army commanders said that the outposts were closed or turned over to Afghan forces as part of a new counterinsurgency strategy to secure population centers.

But as the US military began drawing down its forces in Kunar and Nuristan in late 2009, it acknowledged that al Qaeda camps were in operation in Kunar. ISAF noted these camps and bases when it announced the death of an al Qaeda leader during a raid on a base in late 2009, as well as in a press release announcing the deaths of two senior al Qaeda operatives in 2010. On Dec. 1, 2009, ISAF announced that Qari Masiullah, the al Qaeda chief of security for Kunar province, was killed during an operation in Kunar. 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.

On Oct. 11, 2009, US forces targeted an al Qaeda base in the mountains in Pech. The raid targeted an unnamed al Qaeda commander who is known to use a 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. ISAF uses the term foreign fighters to describe operatives of al Qaeda and allied terror groups from outside Afghanistan.

In October 2010, ISAF identified another al Qaeda camp in Kunar, when US aircraft bombed a compound in the Korengal Valley. Among those killed in the strike was a senior al Qaeda commander and two operatives. Abdallah Umar al Qurayshi, a Saudi, was a senior al Qaeda commander who coordinated the attacks of a group of Arab fighters in Kunar and Nuristan provinces and also maintained extensive contacts with al Qaeda facilitators throughout the Middle East. The two operatives also confirmed killed in the strike were Abu Atta al Kuwaiti, an explosives expert; and Sa'ad Mohammad al Shahri, a longtime jihadist and the son of a retired Saudi colonel.

Special operations teams have been hunting top al Qaeda leaders and its network for years. Last summer, ISAF announced it was hunting Qari Zia Rahman, who serves as the Taliban's top regional commander in the northeast and 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 agencies of Bajaur and Mohmand.

Rahman has been the target of three large conventional operations and multiple special operations raids over the past year. Conventional US and Afghan forces are currently conducting a major offensive, Operation Iron Eagle III, in the eastern Kunar districts of Sar Kani and Marawara. The US military said Qari Zia Rahman is not the target of the operation but acknowledged he uses the area frequently.

"This is not focused on QZR [Qari Zia Rahman] per se, but overall insurgent operations in the area," Lieutenant Colonel Patrick Seiber told The Long War Journal. "But it does happen to be in an area he's worked in previously and if we were able to get him that would certainly be an added bonus/benefit."

More than 100 Taliban fighters and six US soldiers have been killed during the ongoing operation in Kunar. The governor of Kunar province said 132 Taliban fighters have been killed, 20 have been wounded, and 47 more have been captured during the operation. The governor claimed that many of those killed were "foreigners" but did not provide numbers or nationalities.

US and Afghan special operations teams are also launching raids targeting Qari Zia Rahman during the current Kunar operation.



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READER COMMENTS: "ISAF captures al Qaeda's top Kunar commander "

Posted by gregg Kavet at April 6, 2011 9:05 AM ET:

"The Long War Journal was aware of Abu Ikhlas's death in March"

Is he dead or captured alive?

Posted by Bill Roggio at April 6, 2011 9:48 AM ET:

Gregg,

He was captured, not killed, my editor caught it right after publishing and corrected. My apologies.

Posted by Soccer at April 6, 2011 11:00 AM ET:

Sorry Bill but I'm tired right now, what dos this mean?

"Abu Ikhlas al Masri served as al Qaeda's operations commander before he was captured in a special operations raid in Kunar in December 2010.

Read more: http://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2011/04/isaf_captures_al_qae.php#ixzz1IlrbW2I3"

So, was he captured before?

Also, I remember you talking about how he is almost as senior as Qari Zia Rahman. Intermarrying with the local tribes is a desperate attempt to stay in Afghanistan and maintain it as a "safe haven" without running away to Pakistan. I know it sounds bad, but a man like this deserves to be executed, not captured and fed for the rest of his days in a comfy Guantanamo jail cell.

Posted by Bill Roggio at April 6, 2011 1:07 PM ET:

Soccer,

He was captured in December, except the report of him being captured just came out. I knew about this in March but was asked not to report on it then. Does that answer your question?

QZR is AQ's regional commander, Abu Ikhlas was the provincial commander.

Posted by Soccer at April 6, 2011 1:34 PM ET:

Bill, yes it does. Sorry, I was tired when I made that post from working. Thanks for the clarification.

Hopefully this will put a dent in Al Qaeda in the Kunar/Nuristan area, but I doubt it. But I've always thought it was stupid for these guys to remain in Afghanistan, when they have a perfect safe haven just across the border in Pakistan.

But then again, I remember reading an article back in I think November of how Al Qaeda was slowly moving back into Kunar and Nuristan. They did that to get away from the drones.

Posted by Soccer at April 6, 2011 1:37 PM ET:

Here is a very recent article:

http://mg.co.za/article/2011-04-06-al-qaeda-on-the-rise-in-afghanistan-again/

Here is the one I was talking about in the other post:

http://nationaljournal.com/nationalsecurity/al-qaida-returning-to-afghanistan-for-new-attacks-20101018?print=true

"Target rich environment" comes to mind.

Posted by Soccer at April 6, 2011 1:41 PM ET:

Here is another one in which you are referenced. Please merge this post with the other ones.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/afghanistan/8432864/Al-Qaeda-setting-up-training-centres-in-Afghanistan.html

Posted by Bill Roggio at April 6, 2011 1:43 PM ET:

I would argue that AQ never left Kunar...

Posted by Justin at April 6, 2011 1:48 PM ET:

Why dont we use drones in Afghanistan to take out small pockets of fighters, that confuses me. unless we already do and I just dont know it

Posted by Soccer at April 6, 2011 2:07 PM ET:

Most likely. The initial invasion of Afghanistan with the special forces and JDAM bombings alongside the Northern Alliance never made it's way to Kunar. I could imagine it has always remained a *somewhat* safe haven for terrorists.

Bill, you are an informed blogger and I know you have access to the inner rungs of ISAF military command. Why don't they start a drone campaign in Kunar and Nuristan like they do in Pakistan's tribal areas? It wouldn't be scrutinized for it's "illegality" and they would no doubt hit some very high value targets with the drones there.

Why don't they do it there? I think it's because Nuristan and Kunar are very very rugged and mountainous, but surely, that wouldn't matter to the drones?

Posted by Soccer at April 6, 2011 3:49 PM ET:

Yeah Bill, a lot of people are getting the idea of a drone campaign in Kunar and Nuristan. Justin has the right idea too. You can tell us why they don't do it Bill!

Also, just to let you know, I read on a usenet group today that Sharabat Khan was indeed killed in the March 17 drone strike along with several foreign fighters. The post also said that Khan and Hafiz Gul Bahadur were considering moving to Afghanistan to escape the drones. What do you think of this, Bill?

Here is a BBC article (not the usenet post I read, I'll try to dig that up) confirming Khan's death:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/mobile/world-south-asia-12779232

Posted by Bill Roggio at April 6, 2011 3:53 PM ET:

We use all manner of air assets in Kunar; helos, fixed wing, UAVs, as well as JSOC raids. And when we get al Qaeda leaders or operatives in those strikes (see Quyarshi, Kuwati, and Shahri) I report that, and when we get one in a special operations raid, I report that too.

There is nothing compelling about "drones." The reason I chart their use in Pakistan is because of the unique nature of that fight: inside "allied" territory, Pakistani denial, good Taliban, etc. and the fact that Pakistan refuses to police their own territory which has now become safe havens for al Qaeda, etc.

UAVs (or drones as they are incorrectly called) are just a weapons system If the US decided it could use fixed wing in the hunt in Pakistan, I'd track that too, given the situation in Pakistan, etc.

Posted by TMP at April 6, 2011 4:01 PM ET:

Those Mtns - Especially in Kunar / Nuristan play hell with eyes in the sky......While there are opportunities for Preds/Reapers......Boots on the ground still are needed....

With that said, we should be taking more shots with UAVs in the mid-term throughout Nuristan and Kunar.......We should be using Air-Cav more throughout both areas.......Logistics is a nightmare within the area.

Posted by Dan at April 6, 2011 4:05 PM ET:

This has to be one of the most important captures in years.

Posted by Soccer at April 6, 2011 4:08 PM ET:

Your post reminds me of Petraeus' legendary "we have our teeth in the enemy's jugular and are not letting go" statement. Nobody can deny we are doing our best to find, kill, and dismantle terrorists wherever we possibly can.

It seems this "Al Qaeda returning to Afghanistan" thing is actually in a media blitz now. It was reported on back in Oct/Nov but nobody seemed to care. Now, it is part of a mainstream news cycle, and people are somewhat alarmed by the development.

I have been thinking to myself for months about AQ's presence in Kunar and Nuristan, and with the current media blitz, and your article about an AQ commander being captured there, I can see people are finally starting to take notice. It's also good that the mainstream media has finally taken note of a 3rd operated, Said Al Shahri, being killed in the September strike in the Korengal. It seems people all around are becoming more informed about Al Qaeda and the real, manifest threat they face to us.

Drones are a media hype, so they definitely find them compelling to grab headlines, especially when they milk the talking point that they are "illegal". If you remember when I first started posting here, I was always very cautious to blame Pakistan for terrorism and I would always focus on Al Qaeda in eastern Afghanistan, because I know they are still there. But of course everyone knows that Pakistan has good Taliban and they have not done nearly enough to police their own borders and launch operations to ensure security for their citizens.

Posted by JT at April 6, 2011 4:47 PM ET:

I am impressed with the ability to keep HVT captures or kills quiet, including the willingness of those reporting to hold off on reporting when asked.

kudos, Bill.

Posted by Dan A at April 6, 2011 5:11 PM ET:

Bill:
Now it obviously seems that ISAF has decided these areas of Kunar and to a lesser extent Nuristan can't just be left alone. In your opinion is the previous concept of isolated mountain outposts with permanent garrison and limited local patrolling or the policy now of containment with periodic strikes and sweeps a better policy? It isn't obvious which is more effective/resource intensive.

Posted by Bill Roggio at April 6, 2011 6:19 PM ET:

Dan A.,

It isn't obvious to me which strategy will work better at the moment. What I do know, and this is something I've hammered away at for years, the idea that just leaving Kunar and Nuristan to the locals, wasn't a good idea.


Soccer, I reiterate that the idea that AQ has "returned to Kunar" is false. They never left. As I have shown numerous time (so many times since late 2009 that I must have bored the pants off of you all) AQ has had a continuing presence in the province. This is why I've documented all of the raids against AQ leaders, and AQ-linked Taliban leaders, ad nauseum.

Posted by Jean at April 6, 2011 6:27 PM ET:

Great news !!! Abu Ikhlas - That’s a real HVT, lots of our folks have chased this guy for years. He intermarried into families in Matin and Nagalam, there was rumor that OBL attended a family wedding in the AO in 2004. Ikhlas is directly responsible for American KIAs. Sweat him and then string him up.

Posted by Ghost Soldier at April 6, 2011 7:05 PM ET:

I would suppose he's providing the information that's leading to the current operations we're reading about.

Posted by Soccer at April 6, 2011 7:08 PM ET:

Thanks Bill. You are great, there is nobody that even comes close to you when it comes to this stuff. And I mean that.

What I meant, was returning to Afghanistan in a significant manner, enough to garner media attention and show a visible presence of AQ in Kunar/Nuristan. But of course you, better than anybody else would know they never left, really.

The statement by a Taliban commander claiming these training camps in Kunar will train fighters for attacks on foreign targets is a very worrying and troubling development. I know it's easy for me to say, but I hope they are all rooted out and eliminated.

Posted by Marlin at April 6, 2011 10:34 PM ET:

Interestingly, Obama is still willing to send over additional Special Forces units at this time.

The Pentagon is quietly deploying a new detachment of Army Rangers to Afghanistan, increasing the number of elite U.S. commandos on the ground there as the Obama administration prepares to begin withdrawing conventional forces from the country this summer, military officials told National Journal.

The officials said that more than 100 additional Rangers had arrived in Afghanistan recently to begin targeted operations against militants in eastern and southern Afghanistan. The Rangers, highly-trained soldiers from the Pentagon’s secretive Joint Special Operations Command, are being used to raid suspected insurgent safe houses and hunt down specific Taliban leaders.

[...]

“We have stepped up the tempo of precise, intelligence-driven operations to capture or kill insurgent leaders,” Gen. David Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, told the Senate Armed Services Committee in late March. “In a typical 90-day period, precision operations by U.S. special-mission units and their Afghan partners alone kill or capture some 360 targeted insurgent leaders.”

[...]

That system has been put in place in Afghanistan as well, allowing Special Operations troops there to conduct what amount to round-the-clock operations against Taliban and Haqqani leaders. An official from the U.S.-led International Security Assistance Force in Kabul said there are five times as many targeted raids by Special Operations forces in recent months, with elite commandos mounting nearly more than six strikes per day against insurgent targets.

National Journal: U.S. Sends New Elite Forces to Afghanistan As Drawdown Looms

Posted by Soccer at April 6, 2011 11:12 PM ET:

Yes, I remember reading on Bin Laden attending a wedding in Kunar way way back. I'll try to dig that up for readers and post it up here.

And sorry, I meant "operative", not operated. This new Firefox seems to use autocorrect on things that do not need to be corrected.

I wonder if Bin Laden is looking over his shoulder when he slips into Kunar or Nuristan. It seems like too much of a risky situation to even think about in his case.

And Bill, while I think your explanation was adequate, what I meant is using the same 'drone' campaign we do in Pakistan in Kunar and Nuristan. If we use it the exact same way, would we achieve, more or less, the exact same, mostly positive results? I also wonder how many US soldiers that would salvage.

Posted by Johno at April 7, 2011 1:33 AM ET:

Nuristan was the birthplace of the anti Soviet resistance and its cradle/safe-haven thru out the entire war. In the mid 80's hundreds (if not thousands) of Wahabi's moved into the area and many intermarried. They never left. There are many reasons for this, one which will surprise many is that the local people are white and there is an abundance of ginger/blond haired brides to be had by the foreigners. However the main military reason has more to do with the hover ceiling of helicopters without ground effect and the trajectory flight characteristics of JDAM in thin air. Nuristan is full of all-year-round habitats which have abundant clean water and farmland and are located above 3000m & are thus immune from heliborne assault troops and air-strike. The Wahabi's know it - so should you.

Posted by Soccer at April 7, 2011 1:57 AM ET:

Thanks, JohnO. You make great points, and I can see why the enemy has chosen Kunar and Nuristan as safe havens. I also appreciate the fact that the media is FINALLY starting to take note of these two deadly provinces. Qari Zia Rahman even said himself, the beginning of the Soviet defeat in Afghanistan was in Kunar and Nuristan, and the same fate will become of the Americans if they do not straighten their acts out.

http://robertlindsay.wordpress.com/2011/01/30/osama-bin-laden-on-top-of-the-world/

"On September 28, 2006, Pakistani sources said that a new Ayman al-Zawahiri tape was circulating but had not yet been released. They said it had been recorded around the border between Bajaur and Kunar. On October 31, 2006, Pakistani intelligence said they think that they have Zawahiri “boxed in” in a 40-mile square area bordered by the Khalozai Valley in Bajaur and the village of Pashat in Kunar, and they hope to capture him in a few months.

There is also evidence that bin Laden is in that area. For instance, Osama reportedly attended a wedding of a daughter in or near Bari Kot in Kunar Province in 2002. In September 2003, according to a Newsweek article on September 8, bin Laden was said to be hiding north of the Pech River Valley in Kunar."

http://www.jamestown.org/single/?no_cache=1&tx_ttnews[tt_news]=524

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/1539009/US-outpost-takes-fight-to-the-Taliban.html

There is lots more examples to drive the point home, but I have always thought to myself that Bin Laden could indeed, at least sometimes, still visit Kunar or Nuristan. A way to still be "in Afghanistan" without actually treading the path of ISAF/special forces.

The new media spotlight may perhaps force NATO to launch more operations like the one they recently have in Marawara, where I once read that Qari Zia Rahman was rumored to be staying in. He very well, also, could be in Kunar or Nuristan.

http://www.dvidshub.net/news/68384/afghan-coalition-forces-conclude-significant-kunar-operation

Hopefully this recent successful operation is one of many that ends in success in these areas. They even captured an insurgent propaganda radio station! Hooah!

Posted by Jean at April 7, 2011 8:09 AM ET:

Nuristan is a mess. Our failure to establish a presence in the early days allowed the enemy to establish and maintain a presence. The local government cut deals in order to stay in power. Also, the Taliban and local officials are splitting the mineral wealth proceeds. We made the mistake of trying to deal with Nuristan as a province, when in fact it is 4 separate valleys with distinct cultures and mores. What passes for their educated class left the area long ago. This allowed the AQ to establish a presence and maintain a presence. Our solution was to throw a battalion minus without adequate support to resolve the issue.
The first governor Nuristan was an operator, he was on the outs with the Wardaks (defense minister family) so he received no support from Kabul. They were probably arguing over proceeds from mineral and timber. His replacement was killed on trip home from Kabul “car accident”. He currently lives a comfortable life in India.

Our friends in Panshir are not above selling their extensive weapons collection to their brothers in Nuristan

Posted by TMP at April 7, 2011 9:57 AM ET:

I doubt very much if UBL is alive, he ever comes back across that Pak line (even into Nuristan). Makes no sense for him to. 10X the risk Vs the reward.

Why Pred/Reapers are also far less effective in Nuristan is of course the Mtns (continuous) but the woodland areas....Eyes in the sky simply can't see through all of it, with any level of confidence to call in a strike...

Zawahiri & Gulb Hek continue to move in Kunar and Nuristan because they stay within our OODA loop. Simple as that. And the only way we are going to get within their OODA loop is blind luck....or with HUMINT. That HUMINT, in this region of the world is going to come from snatch and grab Ops.

Posted by Soccer at April 7, 2011 12:44 PM ET:

HUMINT, and lots of it, is what we have seem to have extracted from Abu Iklhas Al Masri. Funny how they always talk about never giving into the "infidels" but then give up so much information on their comrades when push comes to shove.

I have a question for Bill, or any informed readers: Why is it that Al Qaeda's top leadership is so often formed with name "Masri"?

Posted by Bill Roggio at April 7, 2011 1:48 PM ET:

Al Masri means "the Egyptian" - the al Masris usually are part of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad cadre then joined al Qaeda when Zawahiri merged groups in the 90s.

Posted by Johno at April 7, 2011 3:00 PM ET:

If you wanted to locate the whereabouts of the leadership of an enemy force you would go to where the terrain allows them to maintain supplies and negate your superior firepower. You would then study where your enemy fought the hardest and you suffered the most. If still doubtful you would monitor the area for an inexplicable action- something which seemed to defy reason, something extremely violent which suggested a panicked response to an unguarded moment or interaction. If this "slaughter of the innocents" did occur you might wonder why cameras, journals & medical records were "robbed" from the dead & not their vehicles. If you did all this you might find yourself on the path from Nuristan to Munjon.

Posted by TimSln at April 7, 2011 5:10 PM ET:

Great report Bill and an excellent comments thread. An informative and insightful read.

Posted by Soccer at April 7, 2011 8:10 PM ET:

Thanks Bill, that explains why so many Egyptians have been killed in the tribal areas. It seems they are automatically given a higher rank than others in AQ's leadership roles.

Now if we can only surpass killing Mustafa Abu Al Yazid (Saaed Al Masri) with Bin Laden or Zawahiri.... that'd be the day!

Posted by steve m. at April 7, 2011 8:11 PM ET:

Any more info on Munjon?

Posted by TMP at April 8, 2011 12:16 AM ET:

I still contend we should be (should have been since 2002) doing more DA Ops in the Pak border regions. Making these people understand, sheltering "certain" individuals will cause lots of pain and no moment of assured peace. We can still own the night there for several hour Ops at a time (and at the times and places of our choosing). Then leave.

We have done just this on multiple occassions, reported occassions at that (few and far between). More of these need to be done. Sholud have been happening since 2002. HUMINT would come from it. Actionable HUMINT!

The other avenue we should have been persuing is finding the meanest, toughest, relatively young knuckle dragging Pastun SOB....and let him know he will have all the gold and treasure he wants....as long as he brings us scalps (and HUMINT). And be rewarding him so. Z-man, Hek Gulb and UBL would all be dead by now.

Posted by Jean at April 8, 2011 8:18 AM ET:

AQ has had a foothold in Kunar well prior to 9/11. OBL is credited with brokering the peace deal with the Korengal tribes during the Taliban era. Abu Ikhlas was defintive presence in the Pech. He donated money to re build mosques and other projects. The lead Mullah for Kunar ran had a Madrassa in Asadabad. He freely offered up that some his students had gone over to the darkside (Wahibs)

Posted by villiger at April 8, 2011 12:04 PM ET:

Astonishing how much knowledge resides here amongst commenters and Bill of course. So one can assume that ISAF is not short of info/knowledge/intel/tactics either. Would it be unfair to assume that Pakistan is the reason for the slow progress and the prolongation of this War?

If so its really high time for an aggressive change of tack--as TMP suggests more direct attacks and more Sp Ops.

The drones are conspicuous by their absence again. 3 weeks since the last attack and counting. Very worrisome.

Now that Cameron has played good cop and offered to drop another billion dollars in their kitty, time for the US to draw some red-timelines for Pak and threaten to cut their own logistics-corridor through Baluchistan and turn off the money-suuply as well. Enough kid gloves, gotta start playing rough with this uncouth lot.

Posted by Infidel4LIFE at April 8, 2011 2:07 PM ET:

Indig. forces working for the CIA may be the best choice to target these people. Snatching people at nite-or day may be paying off. I also think OBL wants us to think him dead. damn i hope he is.

Posted by jean at April 9, 2011 11:38 AM ET:

Knowledge of Kunar,

Unfortunately, despite numerous sitreps and reports. there is a loss of knowledge as units RIP. The recent history kunar was well documented by a DOS rep posted to Kunar in 2004-05. A must read for any leader deploying or serving in Kunar

On another note The breach of security caused by Wiki leaks is immeasurable It was very sobering to read my detailed SITREPs and other information. Depsite their claims, I did find names of Afghans that supported our efforts. It was treason, pure and simple.

Posted by John at April 9, 2011 1:57 PM ET:

FYI The recent operations in Kunar struck at QZR's home village.
During the Taliban era most of the rugged areas of Kunar and Nuristan (then part of Kunar) were a no-man's land. The Taliban kept out because the locals played them off against the Northern Alliance, whose center was in the nearby Panjshir Valley. When the Taliban evacuated Jalalabad in 2001, Kunar and Nuristan fell under the loose control of the Eastern Shura. Some SF went to Asadabad but nthere was no real Coalition presence until 2003 and sizeable troop presence until 2006.

Posted by Soccer at April 9, 2011 10:09 PM ET:

Jean, what do you think about my post where I linked to Bin Laden attending a wedding in Kunar? COULD HE be there, do you think? I would really like to get your take on that.

Posted by jean at April 9, 2011 11:31 PM ET:

I don't think his moving around Kunar would go with out notice, he would be crazy to get on the wrong side of the kunar river, its a true obstacle. But there are some great hiding spots in provinces that share a border with kunar/nuristan with remote villages with good size populations.

My educated guess is that he did visit the area in 2004/05. There is an open source report about US troops coming to close to his position and his body guards considered killing him. Also the attack on Blessing could have been a diversion to move him out of the AO.

His OPSEC is excellent, they need to track his family connections, the old ones and the new ones. Even ET phoned home.

Posted by jean at April 9, 2011 11:46 PM ET:

To echo John's comments. Kunar was controlled by 3 warlords, during the Taliban era. COF cut some deals on the front end. They were adept at playing the blame game and playing one side against the other, one spent sometime in Bagram. Nice guy....no table manners.

Posted by Johno at April 10, 2011 4:49 AM ET:

Asadabad is about as Nuristani as Ciudad Juarez is Texas. Sure some folks speak the same & friendly-like to strangers - but it ain't Texas. Nuristanis are mountain people. Lots of good live-stock, dairy products & sweet corn produces strapping very tough independent people. Kamdesh, Wagal etc is still 'The Big Smoke' - the kinda place you'd go to for a wayward cousin's wedding or a tooth pulled; but nonetheless a place your grandma 'wouldn't be seen dead in!' Doesn't amount to a whole lotta beans unless your life depended on it and the "Americans with beards" were trying to press your neck. The Wahabis understand the 'heli-this fixed wing that' mindset of their enemy and have adapted & made informed decisions. You need to do the same.

Posted by John at April 10, 2011 10:41 AM ET:

John, great comments on Nuristan. The hospitably ends when you walk out of the village. Then its game on Donkey Kong.

Kunar locals claim the Korengalis are a displaced tribe that were kicked out of Nuristan with in the last 200 years.

I thought it was kinda of wife's tale, but did here from multipliable sources including some knowledgeable HTT types.

Posted by Soccer at April 10, 2011 12:46 PM ET:

Jean, you must reply to me ASAP.

http://college-ethics.blogspot.com/2009/07/osama-in-kunar-afghanistan.html

Pakistani officials say he is in Kunar Afghanistan, because their intelligence shows that most plots against Pakistan comes from Kunar. What do you think of this? I know I'm asking a lot of questions but I am so intrigued by this topic. And what do you think about the 'reverse safe haven' concept - that the terrorists use Kunar and Nuristan as a base to plot attacks against Pakistan - instead of it being the other way around? And what do you think about Pakistan having more checkpoints on their side of the border, as the official claims, than NATO does on the Afghan side of the border?

Also, it is reported that Mullah Fazlullah may be in Kunar:

http://tribune.com.pk/story/31093/pakistani-spies-trace-fazlullah-to-kunar-province/

Posted by Johno at April 10, 2011 2:51 PM ET:

If you were hiding from "Americans with beards" the first thing you would do is base yourself at least a few days march from any 4WD passable track. That rules out all of the NWFP and most of eastern Afghanistan and all of Kunar. The next box to tick would be HOGE - that is about 1500 m for the Blackhawk, same for the Chinook and the Mi17. The Apache don't carry many passengers beard or no beard but why chance it. So we are now at 3000m abv sea level. However a single 12.7mm hit makes an Apache 'stagger' and lose airspeed at this height so you & your pal could chance a visit to grandma's place 'down at 3000m'. You then tick the box asking for 5 kms of trail a metre wide and a nice gradient to bring on what the Nuristanis call "the shadow of the mountain" - altitude sickness to you & me. Above 4000m rules out farmland. So now you have a very small area to search for your holiday home.

Posted by TMP at April 10, 2011 7:36 PM ET:

@Johno - AMEN - Now just getting HQs to understand this, 10 years on....

Posted by Soccer at April 11, 2011 1:38 AM ET:

Bill will understand what I mean when I say I hope Afghanistan has an 'al Baghdadi' moment - a moment where a top leader is killed that decapitates their abilities on both sides of the border. Afghanistan had their Zarqawi moment when Dadullah was killed, now I hope they have their Al Baghdadi moment when someone like, say, QZR is HOPEFULLY killed in some raid in Kunar when he happens to be there. That would damage their abilities significantly.

Let's hope that happens.

Posted by jean at April 11, 2011 8:23 AM ET:

Soccer,

Ask Bill to give you my emails in you want to have an in depth discussion. I think the Pakistani are great spinners. Also, The Frontier Corps and Pakistan Army units are out numbered in the North FTA. They are probalby cutting deals, not to mention the influence of the ISI.

Johno- Great comments. I think they quit looking for him. Most our dudes in Kunar/Nuristan just focus on the next patrol/operation and staying alive.

Posted by Johno at April 11, 2011 3:21 PM ET:

People fight for family & friends for many good reasons however they only fight for strangers for money.
In Afganistan since 1979 people fought because they were paid. Despite what people may think it was a given - if the muj weren't paid they left the next day and tried to sell their Type 57's ASAP. Not a lot of money by western standards but it was better than farm labouring. Bit like the GI Bill.

Anyone tells you different wasn't there or is lying. Nothing wrong or unusual with that in a tribal society. The Wahabis locked into this when they decided to set up bases in Afghanistan to attack the west in the mid 80's. They were not remotely interested in fighting the Russians despite what you might have read & were derided mercilessly by even the most REMF muj for it.
You may think this is a weakness it is not. Saudi money is endless (unless you decide to carpet bomb Saudi for a year) and they know it. So if you have endless amounts of cash to pay boys with goat dropping (cheers Bill) between their toes, who's mission is to be the focal point of a trillion dollars worth of hardware floating in the Arabian Sea or outer space or whatever - who do you think is going to win?
Obsessing about OBL,AZQ, Duddallah, Gehga Gehga MO,US, E isn't going to bring victory closer - in fact the opposite - they do not drive the conflict petro dollars, poverty & Wahabi politics do & none of those originates from Afghanistan.
A feat of arms is what it will come down to as you will never be able to stop the flow of cash.
The Wahabis have chosen the battlefield and it is the foothills of the Hindu Kush. The question is are we going to charge towards them as modern day mounted knights in all our armoured splendour or is it going to be longbow against longbow. At the moment we are looking very french.

Posted by Soccer at April 11, 2011 3:48 PM ET:

JohnO, your comments are very very good and make me think very deeply.

As for the "French" comment, well - a friend of mine deployed in Asadabad in Kunar says "Blame the UN rules of engagement."

I have always believed it is completely within our power to kill them all, we just need to ignore the UN and Pakistan and simply go in and wipe them out. Either that or be prepared to fight this war for the next 100 years.