Coalition and Afghan special operations teams targeted a Taliban commander linked to foreign fighters and “suicide camps” in the northern Afghan province of Sar-i-Pul yesterday.
The Taliban commander, who was not named, was targeted in a combined special operations raid in the Sayyad Valley district in Sar-i-Pul. The team killed one “insurgent” and detained an undisclosed number during the operation. It is not clear if the commander was captured.
The Taliban commander was described by the International Security Assistance Force as “a key power player” in the northern provinces provinces of Jowzjan, Faryab, and Sar-i-Pul.
“He is assessed to have ties to foreign fighter facilitation and suicide training camps operating in Sar-i-Pul province,” and personally commands an estimated 60 Taliban fighters. ISAF uses the term “foreign fighters” to describe al Qaeda operatives and members of affiliated terror groups operating in Afghanistan.
Working jointly with al Qaeda affiliates such as the Eastern Turkistan Islamic Party and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, the Taliban have stepped up attacks in the north while Coalition and Afghan forces have focused on operations in the southern provinces of Helmand and Kandahar. The northwestern provinces of Badghis, Faryab, Jawzjan, and Sar-i-Pul are estimated to have thousands of Taliban fighters sheltering in the region.
Sar-i-Pul, which previously was a peaceful district, is now estimated to have 500-600 Taliban fighters present, “among them some Arab, Uzbek and Pakistani militants,” Reuters reported in November 2010. The Taliban and their allies are known to be establishing bases and stashing weapons in the district of Kohestanat.
ISAF has conducted numerous raids against the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, which has integrated its operations with the Taliban in the Afghan north. IMU leaders hold senior positions in the Taliban’s shadow government in the north. On March 10, ISAF and Afghan forces killed Bilal Konduzi and Shad Mohammad, two senior IMU leaders in Samangan, which borders Sar-i-Pul.
The Eastern Turkistan Islamic Party is also known to operate in the north. In January 2010, an ISAF airstrike killed 14 ETIP fighters, and a senior commander was killed in an airstrike in Badghis province in 2009.