On Facebook, blogger Michael Yon suggests that US forces haven’t killed or captured al Qaeda fighters and leaders recently:
I’ve asked a lot of commanders here to tell me about the last time they caught or killed an al Qaeda guy here. No commanders can remember catching or killing any al Qaeda here in recent years.
Perhaps military commanders cannot recall killing or capturing “an al Qaeda guy,” but al Qaeda certainly tells us when their operatives buy it in Afghanistan. For instance, just this month, As Sahab, al Qaeda’s propaganda arm, released a martyrdom video of an al Qaeda operative named Abi Zaid al Makki
In the video, al Makki is shown preparing for his suicide attack. Later, as his fellow fighters launched a diversionary attack, he rammed a truck packed with explosives into an outer wall of a joint US and Afghan outpost in Khost province, Afghanistan.
A short list of al Qaeda leaders and operatives killed, captured, or known to have fought in Afghanistan includes:
Sadam Hussein Al Hussami, a longtime al Qaeda fighter and trainer, who was killed in a US airstrike in Pakistan in March 2010. He led al Qaeda fighters in Afghanistan.
The 15 members of the Turkistan Islamic Party, which included 13 Uighurs and two Turks, who were killed in a US airstrike in Badghis in January. The group, which is closely allied to al Qaeda (Abdul Haq al Turkistani, the leader of the Turkistan Islamic Party, sits on al Qaeda’s top shura) issued a statement confirming their deaths.
Humam Khalil Muhammed Abu Mulal al Balawi, also known as Abu Dujanah al Khurasani, the Jordanian suicide bomber who killed seven CIA agents and security guards and a Jordanian intelligence official at a combat outpost in Khost on Dec. 30, 2009.
The three al Qaeda embedded military trainers (these are al Qaeda operatives sent to Taliban units to impart tactics and skills) who were killed in Herat in October 2009.
Abu Gharib al Makki, the al Qaeda embedded military trainer who was killed in Farah province in August 2008.
Dr. Arshad Waheed, also known as Sheikh Moaz, who was killed in a US airstrike in Pakistan in May 2008. While Waheed wasn’t killed in Afghanistan, he led al Qaeda fighters in Afghanistan.
Abu Laith al Libi, the leader of al Qaeda’s Brigade 055, who was killed in Pakistan in January 2008. Al Libi was lionized in the rank and file for leading al Qaeda forces against the Coalition in Afghanistan.
That there are few, if any al Qaeda leaders and fighters in Afghanistan is common argument, as seen here and here. What this misses is that, while al Qaeda’s leadership presence in Afghanistan has been diminished due to a marked shift to Pakistan’s tribal areas, the terror group is still quite active in Afghanistan, most notably in the form of embedded trainers and allied organizations like the Haqqani Network, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, and the Islamic Jihad Union. Thomas Joscelyn and I documented this interconnectedness between al Qaeda and the Taliban thoroughly back in October 2009.
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