The capture of a Hizb-i-Islami Gulbuddin media emir almost two weeks ago in eastern Afghanistan has led to the arrest of five other HIG commanders.
The HIG media emir is associated with the top levels of the Taliban’s propaganda network. While ISAF would not release the name of the HIG emir, senior US intelligence officials told The Long War Journal that his name is Farid.
Farid, a dentist by training, was described by US officials as a “major player” who is directly linked to Zabihullah Muhajid, the Taliban’s top spokesman for the Afghan north and east. Farid is thought to report directly to Muhajid. One intelligence official said that Farid “is as much Taliban as he is HIG” given how closely he works with both groups.
As a HIG media emir, Farid is known to have posted jihadist videos to a YouTube site associated with the terror group. He was also in direct contact with the media.
One day after capturing Farid, the International Security Assistance Force released a statement linking him to two recent suicide attacks in Kabul, and said he had close ties to the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, an al Qaeda affiliate that operates in both Afghanistan and Pakistan. Farid was also plugged into “Taliban media insurgents and improvised explosive device networks in the country.” [See LWJ report, HIG media emir, military commander detained in Afghan raids, for more information.]
Farid’s capture has led to the capture of five other senior HIG military commanders and facilitators.
Immediately after Farid was captured during a Feb. 16 raid in the Charikar district in Parwan province, ISAF and Afghan special operations forces detained a HIG facilitator in Charikar and a military commander who led more than 50 fighters in the district of Sabari in Khost province. ISAF said that information obtained during Farid’s capture led to the detention of the two HIG commanders.
One day later, a combined special operations forces team captured HIG’s leader for the Khugyani district in Nangarhar province. The HIG commander “led a group of HIG and Taliban insurgents involved in planning and conducting various types of attacks to include improvised explosive device attacks against Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and Coalition forces in the province,” ISAF stated in a press release. “He also provided food and shelter to five insurgent fighters who were traveling from Pakistan according to recent reporting.”
On Feb. 20, a combined Afghan and Coalition force captured a HIG facilitator who supplied Taliban and other forces with IEDs during a raid in the Sabari district in Khost. ISAF said the facilitator “made arrangements to record a video of HIG insurgents preparing for upcoming attacks.”
And on Feb. 22, combined special operations teams captured a HIG IED leader during another raid in Sabari in Khost. “The HIG leader operated in Sabari district where he was responsible for emplacing IED’s and coordinating the movement of weapons and other material for attacks against Afghan and coalition forces,” ISAF said.
The capture of six HIG commanders and facilitators in such a short period of time is unusual. In the year prior to the February 2010 raids, only three other other HIG commanders are reported to have been captured by ISAF troops.
Background on the Hezb-i-Islami Gulbuddin
The Hezb-i-Islami Gulbuddin group (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, North Waziristan, 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 the dissolution of 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.
- High-level Hezb-e Islamic Gulbuddin leaders captured in Parwan, Khost, ISAF press release
- HIG media emir, military commander detained in Afghan raids, The Long War Journal
- Forces capture Hezb-e Islami Gulbuddin leader in Nangarhar, ISAF press release
- ISAF Joint Command morning operational update (Feb. 21, 2011), ISAF press release
- ISAF Joint Command morning operational update (Feb. 23, 2011), ISAF press release
- Wanted insurgent arrested during joint operation, ISAF press release
- Kabul Attack Network-associated attack planner captured in Kabul, ISAF press release
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