Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan leader targeted in Afghan north

Coalition and Afghan special operations teams detained several “insurgents” during a raid yesterday that targeted a senior leader in the al Qaeda and Taliban-linked Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan in the Afghan north.

The commander was targeted near the village of Gor Tappah north of Chahar Darah district in Kunduz province. Several “insurgents” were captured, but it is not clear if the leader was among them.

The International Security Assistance Force described the target of the raid as “a high-ranking Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan senior leader in Kunduz province.”

“The targeted individual facilitates suicide bombers from Pakistan for attacks in the province and acts as a liaison for Taliban in the area,” the ISAF press release stated.

Kunduz province is a known haven for al Qaeda, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, and allied terror groups. The presence of terror cells has been detected in the districts of Aliabad, Chahar Darah, and Kunduz; or three of Kunduz’s seven districts, according to an investigation by The Long War Journal.

Coalition and Afghan forces have targeted the Taliban’s shadow government in the north hard this past year, with several commanders, including the shadow governors, killed or captured [see LWJ report, Coalition continues pursuit of IMU commanders in the Afghan north, for more information]. But the Taliban have replaced the commanders and still maintain a firm grip on many of the districts in Kunduz, Baghlan, and Takhar.

The Taliban struck back in October, killing the governor of Kunduz province in a bombing at a mosque in Takhar. Governor Muhammad Omar was a staunch critic of the Taliban and its terrorist allies, and was active in fighting the spread of insurgent groups in the north.

The al Qaeda-linked Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan has integrated its operations with the Taliban in the Afghan north, and some of IMU’s leaders also fill top-level positions in the shadow governments. The Taliban establish shadow or parallel governments in the regions they control or where the Afghan government is weak. These shadow governments fill the void by dispensing sharia justice; mediating tribal and land disputes; collecting taxes; and recruiting, arming, and training fighters.

Throughout Afghanistan, the Taliban have established shadow governments, with provincial and militarily leaders appointed to command activities. In January 2009, the Taliban claimed to be in control of more than 70 percent of Afghanistan’s rural areas and to have established shadow governments in 31 of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces.

The Taliban in the north receive orders from the the Peshawar Shura, one of the Taliban’s four major regional commands for Afghanistan. All four of the Afghan Taliban’s regional shuras are named after and based in Pakistani cities in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa or Baluchistan.

The Peshawar Shura is based out of the Pakistani city of Peshawar, which is the provincial capital of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. The Peshawar Shura is thought to be led by Taliban commander Abdul Latif Mansur, who replaced Maulvi Abdul Kabir. Reports have claimed that Kabir is involved with negotiations with the Afghan government, but Kabir released a statement on the Taliban’s website, Voice of Jihad, denouncing the talks as “meaningless and futile.”

Background on the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan in the region

The Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan is based in Pakistan’s Taliban-controlled tribal agency of North Waziristan, and operates primarily along the Afghan-Pakistani border and in northern Afghanistan. According to one estimate, more than 3,000 Uzbeks and other Central Asian fighters are sheltering in North Waziristan.

Since Sept. 1, the US has ramped up airstrikes against the terror groups in North Waziristan, with 50 strikes Predator strikes in the area. Many of the strikes targeted cells run by the Islamic Jihad Group, an IMU offshoot, which were plotting to conduct Mumbai-styled terror assaults in Europe. A Sept. 8 strike killed an IJU commander known as Qureshi, who specialized in training Germans to conduct attacks in their home country.

The IMU’s former leader, Tahir Yuldashev, was killed in a US Predator airstrike in South Waziristan in September 2009. Yuldashev sat on al Qaeda’s top council, the Shura Majlis. He has been replaced by Abu Usman Adil.

Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan fighters often serve as bodyguards to top Pakistani Taliban and al Qaeda leaders. The IMU fights alongside the Taliban in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and has stepped up attacks in Central Asian countries as well.

Tajikistan has seen an uptick in attacks from Islamist terror groups since the summer of 2009. [See LWJ report, Al Qaeda-linked IMU claims deadly ambush on Tajik troops.] In late spring of that year, NATO opened a supply line from Tajikistan into northern Afghanistan after the Taliban and allied groups heavily targeted the main NATO route from Pakistan.

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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