Qari Zia Rahman and a map of northeastern Afghanistan and northwestern Pakistan. Map from the Asia Times; click to view.
Afghan and US forces continue to hunt al Qaeda and Taliban commander Qai Zia Rahman in Kunar province, and the combined forces have also killed more than 30 Taliban fighters in a contested district in Nuristan province.
Last night an undisclosed number of Taliban fighters were killed and two more were captured after US and Afghan forces targeted “a top Taliban commander with ties to senior al Qaeda leaders in both Afghanistan and Pakistan.”
The raid took place in the district of Marawara, which lies directly on the border with Pakistan, and borders the Bajaur tribal agency, a known haven for Pakistani Taliban and al Qaeda. On July 20, the International Security Assistance Force described Marawara as “a safe haven and staging base” for the Taliban and al Qaeda. An operation on June 28 in Marawara resulted in more than 150 Taliban and al Qaeda operatives killed.
ISAF would not name the commander “due to operational security restrictions,” according to a response to an inquiry by The Long War Journal. While ISAF would not directly name the commander who was the targeted in today’s raid, ISAF stated he was responsible for a suicide attack carried out by a female in June. ISAF previously identified Qari Zia Rahman as “known member of Al Qaeda operating in Kunar Province” who “claimed responsibility for the female suicide bomber that injured two Afghan children and killed two US soldiers [on] June 21.”
Qari Zia Rahman is the Taliban’s top regional commander as well as a member of al Qaeda. He operates in Kunar and neighboring Nuristan province in Afghanistan, and he also operates across the border in Pakistan’s tribal agency of Bajaur. Earlier this year, the Pakistani government claimed to have killed Qari Zia in an airstrike, but he later spoke to the media and mocked Pakistan’s interior minister for wrongly reporting his death.
Qari Zia is closely allied with Faqir Mohammed as well as with Osama bin Laden. Qari Zia’s fighters are from Chechnya, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, and various Arab nations.
Nuristan operation kills 30 Taliban
In neighboring Nuristan province, a combined Coalition and Afghan force claimed to have killed 30 Taliban fighters during clearing operations in the villages of Bachancha and Badmuk in the contested district of Barg-e-Matal. Jamaluddin Badar, the governor of Nuristan, claimed that 35 Taliban fighters were killed.
“The attacks are part of ongoing security operations that began July 25 with the Afghan Army Commandos air assault on the village of Barg-e Matal,” ISAF stated in a press release.
On July 25, Afghan commandos retook control of the Barg-e-Matal district center from the Taliban; just the day before, the Taliban had overrun the district center following a two-week-long siege. After seizing the district center, the Taliban had torched more than 150 homes and executed a pro-government tribal leader. More than 80 families fled their homes after receiving threats from the Taliban.
Control of Barge-e-Matal has shifted back and forth between the Afghan government and the Taliban four times since the end of June. Hundreds of Afghan Taliban fighters, backed by the Pakistan Taliban, Arabs, and Chechens, have launched repeated assaults against the Barge-e-Matal district center over the past month.
More than 130 Taliban fighters have been reported killed in Barg-e-Matal since the end of June; 50 of those were killed in a single operation on July 23 in a Taliban camp near the district center.
• Several Insurgents Killed, Two Detained by Afghan and Coalition Force in Kunar, ISAF press release
• US hunts wanted Taliban and al Qaeda commander in Kunar, The Long War Journal
• Afghan, US forces launch offensive in Kunar, The Long War Journal
• Combined Operation Secures Nuristan Villages, ISAF press release
• Commandos again retake northeastern Afghan district, The Long War Journal
• 80 Families Fled Homes after Taliban Threats, Tolo News
Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD’s Long War Journal.