Abu Nasir al-Qahtani, an escape from Bagram prison, was captured in Khost last week. Qahtani operated from North Waziristan.
Abu Nasir al-Qahtani in an As-Sahab propaganda videotape released in May of 2006. Click image to view.
Last week, Afghan and Coalition forces announced the capture of “a known al Qaeda terrorist and five other extremists during an operation” in the eastern Afghan province of Khost, which borders Pakistan’s North Waziristan tribal agency. Pakistan’s The News reports the al Qaeda figure who was captured is none other than Abu Nasir al-Qahtani (a.k.a. Mohammad Jafar Jamal al-Kahtani), a Saudi national and one of the four terrorists who escaped from Bagram prison during the summer of 2005.
After his escape from Bagram, Qahtani fled to North Waziristan to continue attacks against NATO and Afghan forces fighting against the Taliban. Qahtani joined forces with Abu Wafa, ” an expert in militant activities,” and was active in the Afghan provinces of Khost, and Paktia, Paktika. “A recently released CD shows Al-Qahtani imparting military training, guiding the fighters through the help of computerised map to attack enemy bases and delivering a lengthy speech to wage jihad against ‘infidels’ in Afghanistan and Iraq,” reports The News, prior to Qahtani’s capture.
Qahtani escaped from Bagram with two other al Qaeda notables: Abu Yahya al-Libi and Omar Farouq. British special forces killed Omar Farouq in Basra, Iraq. Farouq was reassigned to Iraq after his escape to facilitate the flow of money, weapons and fighters for al Qaeda, some of it funneled from Iran. Al-Libi is currently free and said to be operating from “in the tribal areas of northern Pakistan” according to an American military intelligence source. He has released several al Qaeda propaganda tapes since his escape.
Qahtani’s capture highlights the inherent danger of leaving al Qaeda and Taliban sanctuaries in Pakistan’s tribal areas. Pakistan’s negotiated agreement in North Waziristan has allowed the Taliban to consolidate its control over the region. Pakistan still wishes to make a similar deal with the Taliban in Bajaur, despite the recent suicide strike that killed over 40 Pakistani troops in Dargai. All the while, attacks in eastern Afghanistan, many of which can be traced back to Pakistan, have risen by over 400 percent since the signing of the Waziristan Accord.
NATO and Afghan forces have been active against the Taliban over the past few days in eastern Afghanistan. Ten al Qaeda were killed in an airstrike in Kunar province (which borders Pakistan’s Bajaur agency). Over 60 Taliban were killed in fighting in Paktia province (which borders North Waziristan), “including eight foreign fighters whose bodies were sent back to Pakistan.”
Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD’s Long War Journal.