AQAM in northern Afghanistan

At least one squad of the joint Taliban-al Qaeda Shadow Army operating in Swat.

Britain’s Channel 4 will air a show called Afghanistan: Behind Enemy Lines tomorrow night which will neatly show how Al Qaeda and allied movements (or AQAM) is operating in the northern provinces of Kunduz and Baghlan. According to Najibullah Quraishi, the Channel 4 reporter who ’embedded’ with the AQAM fighters, the group is interdicting NATO’s supply line from Tajikistan and is in control of many villages in the region. Here is how Channel 4 described the group:

Quraishi spent almost two weeks with the Central Group of fighters, known to be among the most dangerous and fanatical factions involved in the war, with Chechens, Arabs and other foreign fighters in their ranks and with close links to Al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden

Quraishi appears to be describing a unit of the Lashkar al Zil, or al Qaeda’s Shadow Army, however I am not able to confirm this. Clearly this unit is composed of fighters from the Hezb-i-Islami Gulbuddin (HIG), the Turkistan Islamic Party, al Qaeda, and the Taliban. Here is an excerpt of a report on the show, from The Guardian:

The documentary, made for Channel 4’s Dispatches and to be shown tomorrow night, concentrates on a group of fighters including Taliban and al-Qaida members but largely composed of men from Gulbuddin Hekmatyar’s Hizb-e-Islami group as they attempt to ambush US and Afghan police vehicles on the main road from Tajikistan, one of the US main supply routes. It comes amid evidence that the insurgency, far from faltering under a US surge, is strengthening and expanding its operations.

The men are seen preparing roadside bombs capable of disabling armoured vehicles, planning an ambush and conducting courts and interrogations. Pashtun villagers make clear that they are happy to pay taxes to the fighters and regard them as more legitimate than the government in Kabul.

Operating in Baghlan and Kunduz provinces, the fighters claim they can call on 4,000 men at the height of the fighting season. They all declare they will continue fighting until the Americans and “other infidels” are driven out.

Even more worrying for Nato – in an area overseen by German forces – is the absolute denial by local police that the Taliban are operating near the road, despite the film’s ample proof. A crucial proposal at last week’s international conference on Afghanistan in London was that responsibility for a number of provinces should be transferred to the Afghan security forces.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.

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1 Comment

  • edgee says:

    I watched this last night and thought it was very interesting, it showed how much freedom they have to conduct operations and how much support they get from the local community. I couldnt help thinking that if the locals werent being interviewed in front of the Taliban that they might have had different opinions. It also showed how success of operations is exaggerated, after a failed roadside bombing and ambush with no kills the foot soldiers tell their commander they destroyed a vehicle and killed 5-6 police. Its well worth a watch.


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