In separate raids in eastern Afghanistan, Coalition and Afghan special operations forces captured a senior Hizb-i-Islami Gulbuddin media emir involved in recent suicide attacks in Kabul, and a HIG military commander.
The HIG media emir, who was not named, was detained during a raid in the Charikar district in Parwan province. The International Security Assistance Force said the media emir was based in Kabul and was “involved in at least two suicide bombings on Nov. 12, 2010 and Jan. 28 in Kabul City.” Eight Afghan civilians were killed in the Jan. 28 attack at a supermarket. An ISAF and an Afghan soldier were wounded in the Nov. 12 suicide attack.
ISAF also said that the HIG media emir has links to the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, an al Qaeda affiliate that operates in both Afghanistan and Pakistan, and to “Taliban media insurgents and improvised explosive device networks in the country.”
During two follow-up raids based on intelligence gained from the HIG media emir, ISAF and Afghan forces captured a HIG facilitator and a fighter in Charikar district. The HIG facilitator aided in IED attacks against Afghan and Coalition forces in Kabul and Parwan provinces, and also led attacks against Bagram Airfield in Parwan.
In Khost province, special operations forces captured a HIG military commander and two fighters during a raid in the district of Sabari. The HIG military commander “was responsible for leading approximately 50 fighters and facilitators for attacks against Afghan and coalition forces” and “was in direct contact with other HIG insurgents in the area,” according to ISAF. During the raid, ISAF and Afghan troops also found a large weapons cache.
HIG’s involvement in the recent Kabul suicide attacks, its relationship with the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, its presence in the Haqqani Network stronghold of Sabari, and its attacks on Bagram all underscore the group’s inter-connectedness with the Taliban and al Qaeda.
Suicide and other attacks in and around Kabul province are carried out by what ISAF describes as the Kabul Attack Network. The Kabul Attack Network is made up of fighters from the Taliban, the Haqqani Network, and Hizb-i-Islami Gulbuddin, and cooperates with terror groups such as the Lashkar-e-Taiba and al Qaeda. Top Afghan intelligence officials have linked the Kabul Attack Network to Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence directorate as well. The network’s tentacles extend outward from Kabul into the surrounding provinces of Logar, Wardak, Nangarhar, Kapisa, and Parwan.
The Taliban and HIG often conduct operations jointly in northern and eastern Afghanistan. In the north, HIG is known to fight alongside the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan in the northern provinces of Kunduz, Baghlan, and Takhar. The groups have clashed at times over local control, however.
HIG is known to have conducted a joint operation with al Qaeda and the Taliban to attack Bagram Airfield on May 19, 2010. The complex assault was launched late at night. Heavily armed fighters, including at least four men wearing suicide vests, attempted to storm a gate at the airbase but were repelled by US troops manning the security perimeter. The attack shocked NATO commanders in Afghanistan, as Parwan province and the area around Bagram Airfield were considered devoid of Taliban influence.
Bekkay Harrach, a senior al Qaeda and Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan leader also known as Abu Tahla al Almani, is thought to have been killed during the Bagram assault, based on a martyrdom statement released by the IMU.
Background on the Hezb-i-Islami Gulbuddin
HIG, along with the Haqqani Network and Mullah Omar’s Quetta Shura, make up the three strongest terror groups in Afghanistan. All three have close ties to al Qaeda and other jihadist groups based in Pakistan and Central Asia.
HIG is led by Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, a notorious opportunist who has links with al Qaeda, Iran, and Pakistan’s military and intelligence establishment.
Hekmatyar was a key player in the Soviet-Afghan war and led one of the biggest insurgent factions against Soviet and Afghan Communist forces. But Hekmatyar’s brutal battlefield tactics and wanton destruction of Kabul following the collapse of the Afghan Communist regime in the early 1990s led to the demise of his popularity. The Taliban overran his last stronghold south of Kabul in 1995 and forced him into exile in Iran from 1996-2002.
HIG forces conduct attacks in northern and northeastern Afghanistan and maintain bases in Pakistan’s Swat Valley as well as in the tribal agencies of Bajaur, Mohmand, Kurram, and North and South Waziristan.
In May 2006, Hekmatyar swore alliance to al Qaeda’s top leader, Osama bin Laden. “We thank all Arab mujahideen, particularly Sheikh Osama Bin Laden, Dr. Ayman al Zawahiri, and other leaders who helped us in our jihad against the Russians,” he said in a recording broadcast by Al Jazeera.
“They fought our enemies and made dear sacrifices,” Hekmatyar continued. “Neither we nor the future generations will forget this great favor. We beseech Almighty God to grant us success and help us fulfill our duty toward them and enable us to return their favor and reciprocate their support and sacrifices. We hope to take part with them in a battle which they will lead and raise its banner. We stand beside and support them.”
Over the past year, Hekmatyar has put forward a so-called peace plan, which calls for the removal of all ISAF troops in six months and dissolving the Afghan government.
Despite Hekmatyar’s pledge to al Qaeda, senior US generals have stated that he can be weaned from the insurgency and brought into the Afghan government. In early 2010, Major General Michael Flynn, then the top intelligence official in Afghanistan, called both Hekmatyar and Jalaluddin Haqqani “absolutely salvageable” even if they currently support and harbor al Qaeda.
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