Treasury designates head of al Qaeda’s eastern zone in Afghanistan

The Treasury Department announced today that it has added Nayf Salam Muhammad Ujaym al Hababi, a senior al Qaeda leader based in Afghanistan, to the US government’s list of specially designated global terrorists.

Hababi, who is also known as Farouq al Qahtani, wears multiple hats for al Qaeda. And the government’s dossier for him demonstrates that there is no firm dividing line between the jihadists’ insurgency operations in South Asia and their plotting terrorist attacks in the West.

In his “key leadership role,” Hababi “is responsible for planning attacks against US and Coalition forces in Afghanistan, contributing to al Qaeda’s external operations planning, and fundraising on al Qaeda’s behalf.” External operations means terrorist plots in the West or against Western interests.

Indeed, “Hababi planned to carry out attacks in the West, including in the United States and other Western countries” as “revenge for the deaths of senior al Qaeda leaders.” He has been “consulting on al Qaeda operations worldwide” since 2011.

Adam J. Szubin, the Acting Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, noted in Treasury’s press release that Hababi “has a long history of directing deadly attacks against US forces and our Coalition allies in Afghanistan, along with plotting al Qaeda terrorist operations in the United States and around the world.”

Hababi’s fundraising activities have supported both al Qaeda’s international plotting and its role in the Afghan insurgency as well. Since 2010, he has helped raise funds and also had a say in “authorizing spending on behalf of al Qaeda.” As of 2012, according to Treasury, Hababi “solicited funds from supporters in Gulf countries to support al Qaeda’s external operations and also expected to receive funds from Gulf-based donors for activities in Afghanistan.”

Treasury lists a variety of ways in which Hababi has been involved in the fighting in Afghanistan “since at least 2009.”

In 2009, “he led operations in northeast Afghanistan that included attacks against US military bases.” Hababi “participated in two attacks against Coalition Forces convoys” the following year. He has also overseen the acquisition of weapons, “including rocket propelled grenades,” for distribution to jihadists in Afghanistan.

Suicide bombers “affiliated” with Hababi have been “tasked to attack Afghan bases and Coalition convoys in Afghanistan” since 2012. In early 2013, Hababi “and his battalion intended to take control of Kunar Province, Afghanistan and establish a base to launch external operations on behalf of al Qaeda.”

As of 2015, he has been the “emir for the Eastern Zone of Afghanistan” and, in that capacity, has been “responsible for finding a new sanctuary for al Qaeda.”

Treasury’s designation provides clues concerning Hababi’s role in the insurgents’ gains last year.

He “worked on attack plans for fighting in northeast Afghanistan” in 2015 and “has been in charge of al Qaeda-sponsored training in northeast Afghanistan” for several years. In addition, Hababi “directed the delivery of funds and weapons to Taliban associates in Afghanistan for use in future attacks.”

Discussed in Osama bin Laden’s files

Hababi’s importance to al Qaeda can be seen in declassified files recovered during the raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan in May 2011. In a memo to bin Laden dated June 19, 2010, for example, Atiyah Abd al Rahman heaped praise on Hababi. [See LWJ report, Osama Bin Laden’s Files: ‘Very strong military activity in Afghanistan.’]

“As I have reported before, we have a good battalion over there [Afghanistan] led by brother Faruq al Qatari,” Rahman wrote, referring to Hababi by his nom de guerre. “He is the best of a good crew,” Rahman continued. “He recently sent us a message telling us that he has arranged everything to receive us; he said the locations are good, there are supporters and everything.”

Rahman’s memo shows, therefore, that Hababi has been deeply involved in the relocation of al Qaeda cadres from northern Pakistan into Afghanistan for several years.

Another missive found in Osama bin Laden’s lair also includes a discussion of the move back into Afghanistan. In a letter dated Oct. 21, 2010, bin Laden told Rahman, who ironically was subsequently killed in a US drone strike, that al Qaeda should relocate as many “brothers” as possible to the eastern Afghan provinces of Nuristan, Kunar, Ghazni and Zabul to avoid the US drone campaign in North and South Waziristan. [See LWJ report, Bin Laden advised relocation of some leaders to Afghanistan due to drone strikes in Waziristan.]

Bin Laden knew that Hababi had cleared the way for his al Qaeda comrades to live and fight in Afghanistan. And Hababi continues to wage jihad there, while plotting terror around the world, to this day.

Note: The spelling of certain words (such as al Qaeda) and abbreviations have been standardized throughout this article, including in quotes from the Treasury Department.

Thomas Joscelyn is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Senior Editor for The Long War Journal.

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2 Comments

  • Evan says:

    More conflicting information from this administration…

    So is AQ defeated?

    Absolutely not. Not by a long, long shot. These guys play 2-3 moves ahead, they’re thinkers, educated, trained, intelligent, motivated, and very resourceful.

    One is left to wonder, with the current situation in the middle east, et al. What has 15 years of continuous warfare gained for my country? Are our enemies defeated? Is thier will to fight shattered and broken? Are we safer now, for our efforts?
    What has ANY of this brought to my people? Freedom? Liberty?
    Or just the opposite.

    The enemy thrives, and our liberties are quickly eroded by fear mongering government.

    What a waste.

    • Arjuna says:

      Good comment. We’ve spent trillions, lost thousands, burned all our international goodwill and the enemy is 100 times larger than it was on 9/11/01. Talk about a losing effort! Unless we start fighting the true Islamic evil resident in Pakistan and Saudi Arabia mercilessly, we deserve the fate that befalls all over-eager Empires. I really don’t care of the gov’t has access to my email. They are so behind they need all the help they can get. Liberties? Shucks. Guns are for boys who think like boys. You won’t get to play with your Glocks and M-4s when this crowd hits US for keeps. You will be watching your neighbors croak from smallpox, plague or radiation and wondering whether you should eat your bullets or just use one on yourself.

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