Coalition and Afghan special operations teams have hit hard at the Taliban and allied groups’ leadership and rank and file during more than 7,000 raids throughout Afghanistan over the past six months.
Approximately 7,100 special operations counterterrorism missions have been conducted between May 30 and Dec. 2 of this year, the International Security Assistance Force told The Long War Journal. More than 600 insurgent leaders were killed or captured. In addition, more than 2,000 enemy fighters have been killed, and over 4,100 fighters have been captured.
The enemy commanders and fighters killed or captured are from various jihadist groups battling Coalition and Afghan forces, including the Taliban, the Haqqani Network, Hizb-i-Islami, al Qaeda, and the Islamic Jihad Group.
The numbers of insurgents killed or captured include only those targeted in special operations raids, ISAF stated. These numbers do not include Taliban and allied fighters killed or captured during conventional counterinsurgency operations, or during massed Taliban assaults on Coalition and Afghan bases.
Within the same time frame, special operations troops also completed more than 2,500 humanitarian operations, including the provision of medical and educational assistance.
The intensity of the special operations raids over the past six months reflects a shift from counterinsurgency to counterterrorism operations.
In a speech at the National Press Club on Dec. 8, General James Cartwright, the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, noted that such a shift has been taken place to adjust to the realities on the ground in Afghanistan. The Taliban’s ability to conduct raids from Pakistan’s tribal areas, then retreat across the border rest and recuperate, has forced ISAF to adjust its strategy and target the Taliban’s lines of communications into Pakistan.
“The COIN [counterinsurgency] strategy is balanced by a counterterrorism strategy,” Cartwright said. “When we started, we probably were more aligned with counterinsurgency. The emphasis is shifting.”
“We need to reduce those lines of communication and reduce that flow to the best of our abilities,” Cartwright continued. “So the balance of the force that was really weighted more toward counterinsurgency is starting to shift to have an element of counterterrorism larger than we thought we were going to need when we started.”
The US has also been conducting a covert air campaign using unmanned Predator and Reaper strike aircraft to attack al Qaeda and Taliban cells in Pakistan’s tribal areas. The Pakistani military has refused to move against the Taliban and the Haqqani Network in North Waziristan, despite the fact that these groups host al Qaeda leaders and cells and sponsor attacks in Afghanistan.
Partial list of top-level terrorist leaders killed or captured during raids over the past six months:
Mullah Aktar, a wanted Taliban commander with links to al Qaeda and to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, was killed during a raid on an al Qaeda training camp in Farah province on July 15.
Abu Baqir, who was described as “a dual-hatted Taliban sub-commander and al Qaeda group leader,” and who was also a senior leader of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan in Kunduz, was killed in an Aug. 14 raid.
Sayed Shah, a wanted commander in Jamaat ul Dawa al Quran, an al Qaeda-linked Taliban sub-group, was killed on Aug. 19.
Mohammed Amin, the deputy shadow governor for Takhar province who was also a senior Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan commander, was killed in a Sept. 2 airstrike.
Abdallah Umar al Qurayshi, a Saudi al Qaeda commander in Kunar, was killed with several al Qaeda commanders and fighters in an airstrike on Sept. 25.
Qari Ziauddin, the shadow governor for Faryab province, was killed on Oct. 5.
Mullah Ismail, the Taliban’s shadow governor of Badghis province, was killed during a raid on Oct. 6.
Gul Nabi, who was described by the US military as “a mid-level Taliban commander” and “an al Qaeda associate” in Kunar, was killed on Oct. 17.
An unnamed Haqqani Network leader who facilitated the purchase and distribution of weapons and ammunition used in attacks on Coalition and Afghan forces was captured on Nov. 9 while on a plane to Saudi Arabia.
Mullah Hafiz Janan, who served as the Taliban’s shadow governor for the Bakwah district in Farah province, was killed during a raid on Nov. 20. He helped train and arm al Qaeda fighters entering the country from Iran.
An unnamed senior financier from the Mullah Dadullah Mahaz (Front), a wing of the Taliban in south, was captured in Kandahar on Dec. 3.
Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD’s Long War Journal.