Map of attacks in Afghanistan. Ghazni province is the most violent in Afghanistan. Map from ANSO.
A US military commander operating in the southeastern Afghan province of Ghazni said that “foreign trainers” are working with the Taliban in the district of Andar, while Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence directorate is seen as sabotaging efforts in the province.
“We also have seen some indications that there have been foreign trainers that have come to train the local Taliban who are fighting here in Andar,” Lieutenant Colonel David Fivecoat, commander of 3rd Battalion, 187th Infantry Regiment, recently told TOLOnews. The report stated that “foreign trainers” are “Arabs, Chechens, and Pakistanis.” US military officials often describe members of al Qaeda and allied terror groups as foreign fighters.
Throughout Afghanistan, Al Qaeda operates in conjunction with the Taliban, the Haqqani Network, and the Hizb-i-Islami Gulbuddin network. Al Qaeda operatives often serve as embedded military trainers for Taliban field units and impart tactics and bomb-making skills to these forces. In addition, Al Qaeda frequently supports the Taliban by funding operations and providing weapons and other aid. [See LWJ report, Al Qaeda’s paramilitary ‘Shadow Army’ for more information on al Qaeda’s role in Afghanistan.]
Andar is the second district in Ghazni to have been identified by the US military as a location where Pakistani, Chechen, and Arab fighters are operating. In July 2010, the International Security Assistance Force targeted a Taliban commander “who is responsible for smuggling Pakistani, Chechen and Arab fighters and improvised explosive device materials into Shah Joy District from Pakistan.”
The Andar district in Ghazni is a known Taliban and al Qaeda hub in the southeast. Since October 2008, the US military has conducted seven raids against al Qaeda cells in Andar, according to press reports compiled by The Long War Journal. Senior Taliban and al Qaeda foreign fighter facilitators are known to operate in the district.
Ghazni is the most violent province in Afghanistan, according to data released by the Afghanistan NGO Safety Office. In 2010, there were 1,540 recorded attacks in Ghazni, compared to 1,387 attacks in Helmand, the second-most violent province in Afghanistan.
Al Qaeda and allied terror groups maintain a strong presence in Ghazni province. The presence of al Qaeda cells has been detected in the districts of Andar, Gelan, Ghazni, Shah Joy, and Waghaz, or four of the province’s 16 districts, according to an investigation by The Long War Journal.
Al Qaeda’s extensive reach in Afghanistan is documented in the body of press releases issued in recent years by the International Security Assistance Force. Looking at press releases dating back to March 2007, The Long War Journal has been able to detect the presence of al Qaeda and affiliated groups such as the Islamic Jihad Union in 70 different districts in 21 of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces.
Meanwhile, US soldiers claim that Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence directorate, or ISI, is attempting to sabotage security in Ghazni.
“The ISI, some people from Pakistan to tell the civilians don’t go to Shura with the Americans, don’t talk with us, don’t have local police program, don’t work with them, and it’s because they want to destroy our plans for security in this area,” Sergeant First Class Paul Meacham said to TOLOnews. “They want to destroy the plans for the government to become stronger. They don’t want these people to have government.”
Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD’s Long War Journal.