ISAF captures Taliban/Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan commander in Afghan north


Map of Afghanistan’s provinces. Click map to view larger image.

Two raids yesterday by Coalition and Afghan special operations teams struck at Taliban and Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan commanders in the Afghan north. During one raid, a dual-hatted Taliban and Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan facilitator was captured.

In Baghlan province, the special operations teams captured a facilitator who “operates concurrently for the Taliban and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan” during a raid in the Baghlan-e Jadid district, the International Security Assistance Force stated in a press release. The Taliban/IMU facilitator “provides both group’s leaders situational updates on attacks targeting coalition forces and facilitates bed-down locations for insurgents.”

In Sar-i-Pul province, special operations teams targeted a leader described by ISAF as “the principle head of all Taliban operations in the province.” The special operations teams killed “numerous insurgents,” during the operation in the Sayad district. One terrorist detonated a suicide vest during the operation.

“He has ties to foreign fighter facilitation and suicide training camps operating in the area, and he targets former insurgents who attempt to join the Afghan government’s reintegration process,” ISAF stated. ISAF uses the term “foreign fighters” to describe members of al Qaeda and allied groups.

The Sayad district has been identified by ISAF as hosting suicide training camps. ISAF targeted a Taliban commander linked to foreign fighters and “suicide camps” during a raid on March 17.

ISAF has begun to identify the location of safe havens and training camps in the north for the Taliban and the allied Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan. Both terror groups maintain a strong presence in the northern Afghan provinces of Badakhshan, Baghlan, Balkh, Faryab, Jawzjan, Kunduz, Samangan, Sar-i-Pul, and Takhar, and have established suicide training camps in the north over the past several years.

ISAF has also identified the presence of camps in Samangan province. On March 22, the special operations team captured an IMU commander who ran camps in Samangan.

Working jointly with al Qaeda affiliates such as the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan and the Eastern Turkistan Islamic Party, 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 in an airstrike in Badghis province.

IMU integrating operations with the Haqqani Network

The IMU has also shown signs of integrating its operations with the Haqqani Network in the Afghan east. On April 12, ISAF targeted a facilitator who works for both the Haqqani Network and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan and aids “foreign fighters, including Iranians” to carry out attacks in the east. The raid took place in the Orgun district in Paktika province.

And on April 16,a combined Afghan and Coalition special operations force captured two Haqqani Network commanders during a raid in Ghazni City, the provincial capital of Ghazni. According to the International Security Assistance Force press release , one of the facilitators “worked for both Haqqani and Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan leaders” in the Orgun district in Paktika province, and he aided “Uzbek foreign fighters to support Haqqani attacks in Afghanistan and Pakistan.”

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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