Taliban leader linked to Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Islam captured in Afghan east

Mangal Bagh.

During a recent raid in eastern Afghanistan, Coalition and Afghan special operations forces captured a Taliban commander who commanded members of the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Islam. The Taliban commander was captured the same day that the CIA carried out three unmanned Predator strikes in known Lashkar-e-Islam strongholds across the border in Pakistan’s Khyber tribal agency.

The Taliban commander, who was not named, was captured yesterday in the Behsud district of Nangarhar province. ISAF does not release the names of captured Taliban commanders or fighters. Two Taliban fighters were also killed during the raid.

The Taliban commander led forces in the district of Khogyani, a known terrorist haven. He “led Taliban attacks on district centers, Afghan national security forces check points and coalition force bases” and commanded “a joint Taliban and Lashkar-e Islam group to assassinate or kidnap the Shinwari Rhimdad Khel sub-tribe leader in Achin district in the province,” the International Security Assistance Force stated in a press release. In January 2010, the Shinwari tribe vowed to battle the Taliban and provide recruits to the Army and police forces if attacked.

The Lashkar-e-Islam is a Taliban-like group run by Mangal Bagh [for more information, see LWJ report, A profile of Mangal Bagh]. Based in Khyber, the Lashkar-e-Islam has established its own Taliban-like government in large areas of the tribal agency, including in Bara, Jamrud, and the Tirah Valley. The group provides recruits to battle US and Afghan forces across the border, and attacks NATO’s vital supply line moving through Khyber. The Pakistani military has targeted the Lashkar-e-Islam during five operations over the past two years, but has failed to dislodge the group from power.

ISAF confirmed that the Lashkar-e-Islam mentioned in the release is the same group that operates from Khyber.

“The Lashkar-e-Islam is the same group that is based in Pakistan’s Khyber tribal agency and is led by Mangal Bagh,” ISAF public affairs desk told The Long War Journal. “Lashkar-e-Islam fights for control in their areas of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and Northwest Frontier Province (NWFP), and assist the Afghan insurgency by providing facilitation support and a limited number of fighters.”

ISAF’s mention of the Lashkar-e-Islam today is the first recorded instance in the military’s press releases.

The announcement that ISAF captured the Lashkar-e-Islam-linked Taliban commander took place the day after CIA-run Predator and Reaper strike aircraft pounded Taliban and Lashkar-e-Islam safe houses in Khyber.

The US carried out three strikes yesterday in Khyber, and a previous strike on Dec. 16. In the course of the four strikes, 61 Lashkar-e-Islam and Taliban fighters were killed, including a Lashkar-e-Islam commander known as Ali Marjan.

On May 15, 2010, the US carried out its first recorded airstrike in Khyber, killing 15 jihadists. Of the 210 Predator strikes carried out by the US since 2004, only five have hit targets inside the Khyber agency.

All of the strikes in Khyber have taken place in the Tirah Valley, a known haven for the Taliban, the Lashkar-e-Islam, al Qaeda, and other Pakistani terror groups. These safe havens enable these terror groups to launch attacks inside Pakistan as well across the border in Nangarhar province in Afghanistan.

ISAF has also carried out a cross-border strike in Khyber. In November 2008, the US military attacked Taliban forces in the Tirah Valley after they retreated across the border from Nangarhar in Afghanistan. US strike aircraft and artillery killed seven Taliban fighters during the hot pursuit.

The Khyber Pass is NATO’s main conduit for supplies into Afghanistan; an estimated 70 percent of NATO’s supplies move through this strategic crossing point, pass through Nangarhar, and then reach the final destination in Kabul. Between September 2007 and April 2008, the Khyber Pass was shut down seven times due to Taliban attacks.

In later September 20101, the Pakistani government also shut down the Khyber Pass for 10 days to protest US cross-border raids against Taliban and Haqqani Network forces in Kurram and North Waziristan. During that time, ISAF convoys were savaged in Taliban attacks throughout Pakistan; almost 200 fuel trucks and supply vehicles and trailers were torched.

Al Qaeda and the Lashkar-e-Taiba, another Pakistan-based terror group, maintain a strong presence in Nangarhar, according to an investigation by The Long War Journal. The presence of al Qaeda and Lashkar-e-Taiba cells has been detected in the districts of Achin, Bati Kowt, Behsud, Chaparhar, Dara Noor, Deh Bala, Jalalabad, Khogyani, Sherzad, Shinwar, or 10 of Nangarhar’s 22 districts.

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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  • kp says:

    Careful with the causation (you only have correlation between the capture and attack).

    We have a predator attack on 16th; a capture on the 17th and other attacks on the 17th.

    It could be that a another source gave info to enable the two set of attacks on different days and the capture. This seems especially likely if they did hit a meeting on the 17th. The timing of all of this could have been built around the meeting.

  • Bill Roggio says:

    No causation was implied. I stated the capture took place at the same time the US decided to hit Lashkar-e-Islam sites in Khyber. If you read more than that then I suggest re-reading.
    Now, I personally think the timing of two events is interesting, especially given that ISAF never mentioned Lashkar-e-Islam prior to today. I don’t believe in coincidences like that. But I don’t have any evidence to link the two event, nor did I state the two events were linked in the article above.

  • Jamaluddin says:

    The Khogiani tribe occupies S. Nangarhar province from about 50 miles west of the Khyber (the Shinwari area – the Shinwari control the Western end of the Khyber and the area South of the Jalalabad-Peshawar road to the summit of the Safed Koh on the Pak border) up to the end of the Safed Koh range (White Mountains aka Tora Bora). They claim to be Durrani Pashtuns (i.e. related to the tribes which have ruled Afghanistan since the destruction of the Ghilzais in Iran in 1738).
    Mangal Bagh is in fact a Khogiani. Everybody thinks of him as being Afridi (from the Karlanri branch of Pashtuns, not Durrani–they control the Khyber and especially the Eastern end of the Khyber and most of the Khyber Agency of FATA in Pakistan). He has been accepted by certain Khels of the Afridi as an Afridi but he was born in Khogiani District.
    This may be the reason why a lot of Khogianis are LI or LT or Tora Bora Front or whatever…a Thus this commander may provide a clue as to why Bin Ladin escapted Tora Bora.

  • Civy says:

    I don’t believe in coincidences like that either. The best scenario would be using this disclosure to provide a ready explaination for the intel necessary to carry out such strikes, to protect a valuable deep cover intel source by redirecting blame elsewhere. The recent outing of the CIA station chief, and presumably, other lower ranking field operatives, supports this theory. If so, kudos. Clever!
    Deception 101 is to feed the enemy the intel they expect. It makes it easy for them to believe. In any scenario, they should be looking at each other with deep suspicion right about now, and sleeping with one eye open.

  • Bungo says:

    A live capture like this can be an absolute treasure trove of actionable intel. One of these is worth 50 KBDs (killed by drone). Bravo !

  • Francois Le says:

    I think all was planned and they don’t want the commander to be harmed so they just arrested him.


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