A senior military commander of the Taliban- and al Qaeda-linked Hizb-i-Islami Gulbuddin was captured two days ago during a raid in the Afghan province of Khost.
The Hizb-i-Islami Gulbuddin (HIG) commander, who was not named, was “the senior leader for all [HIG] operations in Khost province,” the International Security Assistance Force stated in a press release. He and several insurgents were captured by combined Coalition and Afghan special operations teams during a raid on April 25 in the district of Sabari.
The special operations teams have maintained intensive pressure on HIG since the beginning of this year. On Feb. 16, Farid, HIG’s media emir who has direct links to the Taliban, was captured during a raid in Parwan. His capture was directly linked to the quick roundup of five other HIG commanders.
Over the past month, ISAF has focused on HIG’s network in the district of Sabari in Khost province. There have been eight raids against HIG cells in Sabari since March 29. One of those raids, on April 12, netted HIG’s district leader for Sabari and his deputy.
Sabari is a known stronghold of the Haqqani Network, which is allowing HIG to operate on Haqqani turf. The Haqqani Network, whose leadership is based in North Waziristan, is known to have operated a forward command and control center in Sabari in the past.
Background on the Hizb-i-Islami Gulbuddin
The Hizb-i-Islami Gulbuddin, the Haqqani Network, and Mullah Omar’s Quetta Shura make up the three strongest terror groups in Afghanistan. All three have close ties to al Qaeda and other jihadist groups based in Pakistan and Central Asia.
HIG is led by Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, a notorious opportunist who has links with al Qaeda, Iran, and Pakistan’s military and intelligence establishment.
Hekmatyar was a key player in the Soviet-Afghan war and led one of the biggest insurgent factions against Soviet and Afghan Communist forces. But Hekmatyar’s brutal battlefield tactics and wanton destruction of Kabul following the collapse of the Afghan Communist regime in the early 1990s led to the demise of his popularity. The Taliban overran his last stronghold south of Kabul in 1995 and forced him into exile in Iran from 1996-2002.
HIG forces conduct attacks in northern and northeastern Afghanistan and maintain bases in Pakistan’s Swat Valley as well as in the tribal agencies of Bajaur, Mohmand, Kurram, North Waziristan, and South Waziristan.
In May 2006, Hekmatyar swore alliance to al Qaeda’s top leader, Osama bin Laden. “We thank all Arab mujahideen, particularly Sheikh Osama Bin Laden, Dr. Ayman al Zawahiri, and other leaders who helped us in our jihad against the Russians,” he said in a recording broadcast by Al Jazeera.
“They fought our enemies and made dear sacrifices,” Hekmatyar continued. “Neither we nor the future generations will forget this great favor. We beseech Almighty God to grant us success and help us fulfill our duty toward them and enable us to return their favor and reciprocate their support and sacrifices. We hope to take part with them in a battle which they will lead and raise its banner. We stand beside and support them.”
Al Qaeda’s former leader in Afghanistan, Mustafa Abu Yazid, openly stated in an interview with Al Jazeera in 2009 that al Qaeda works with HIG and that al Qaeda maintains good relations with Hekmatyar’s cadres. Yazid said a point of contention is HIG’s unwillingness to unite under the banner of the Taliban’s Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.
“There is a relationship with the Hizb-i-Islami, Yazid told Al Jazeera. “They visit us and we sit with them… our relations with them are good, not bad.”
Over the past year, Hekmatyar has put forward a so-called peace plan, which calls for the removal of all ISAF troops in six months and the dissolution of the Afghan government.
Despite Hekmatyar’s pledge to al Qaeda, senior US generals have stated that he can be weaned from the insurgency and brought into the Afghan government. In early 2010, Major General Michael Flynn, then the top intelligence official in Afghanistan, called both Hekmatyar and Jalaluddin Haqqani “absolutely salvageable” even if they currently support and harbor al Qaeda.
Raids against HIG leaders in Khost province since March 29:
ISAF Joint Command operational update, April 27, 2011: The top HIG military commander was captured in the district of Sabari.
ISAF Joint Command operational update, April 17, 2011: A HIG facilitator was captured in the district of Bak.
ISAF Joint Command operational update, April 12, 2011: HIG’s district leader for Sabari and his deputy were captured in that district.
ISAF Joint Command operational update, April 11, 2011: Four Haqqani Network fighters were captured during raids that targeted HIG commanders in the district of Sabari.
ISAF Joint Command operational update, April 4, 2011: A HIG facilitator was captured in the district of Sabari.
ISAF Joint Command operational update, April 2, 2011: A HIG facilitator and a fighters were captured in the district of Sabari.
ISAF Joint Command operational update, March 31, 2011: Several “insurgents” were captured during a raid that targeted a HIG military commander in the district of Sabari.
ISAF Joint Command operational update, March 29, 2011: A HIG facilitator who operated in Jaji Maidan district, Khost was captured in Sabari.