Special ops troops continue to hunt ‘mythical’ AQ/Taliban creatures in Afghanistan

ISAF special ops teams are hunting another al Qaeda leader in Nangarhar province. From the ISAF press release, which reported on an April 11 raid in Nangarhar:

In Nangarhar province yesterday, a combined Afghan and coalition forces detained several suspected insurgents while searching for an al-Qaida leader during a security operation in Beshud district. The leader, who operates for Al Qaeda and the Taliban, works primarily in eastern Afghanistan and Pakistan. He assists the insurgent networks with the acquisition, movement and employment of weapons and fighters in the Kunar region.

Based on multiple intelligence tips, the combined force searched a compound suspected of insurgent activity in the area. The force isolated the area, before calling all occupants to exit the compound peacefully. After ensuring the safety of the women and children, the combined force commenced their search and interviewed local residents. Several suspected insurgents were detained for further questioning. No shots were fired during the operation.

In a follow-up inquiry to ISAF by The Long War Journal, the military command said the following:

“The guy’s nationality is Uzbek.”

Note that ISAF said the individual targeted “operates for Al Qaeda and the Taliban, works primarily in eastern Afghanistan and Pakistan.”

ISAF has targeted al Qaeda and al Qaeda-linked Taliban commanders in Nangarhar and elsewhere in Afghanistan multiple times over the past several years. Here is a recent example of one such operative who was captured, from a March 8 press release:

Afghan and coalition forces captured a Haqqani network leader currently working for the Taliban and al Qaeda during security operations in Chaparhar district, Nangarhar province. The leader commanded approximately 40-50 Taliban fighters within Nangarhar province and planned regular attacks against Afghan and coalition forces. He led a group of Taliban fighters against two coalition force convoys last December and is connected to a March 7 suicide bombing in the city of Jalalabad which killed three Afghans.

Another example of a crossover Taliban and al Qaeda commander is Qari Zia Rahman, who is the regional “dual-hatted Taliban and al Qaeda leader” who operates in Kunar and Nuristan. QZR has been named by ISAF and extensively documented here at The Long War Journal.

Now, if you listen to analysts such as Alex Strick van Linschoten, you’d think that the idea of the Taliban and al Qaeda working together in Afghanistan is “a myth.” Read this piece at Current Intelligence for an example of what he thinks about this subject.

While van Linschoten takes an inordinate amount of space touting his credentials – his time in Afghanistan, his ability to speak the languages, his contacts with “Taliban” leaders, etc. – he doesn’t actually rebut the evidence put forward. He ignores or discounts the information put out by the US military, without explaining why. Special operations teams don’t conduct these raids on a whim; there is a lot of work that goes into the intelligence side leading up to the actual raid.

Van Linschoten can’t explain the close links that the Haqqani Network or the Mullah Dadullah Mahaz have with al Qaeda, or the IMU’s integration with the Taliban in the north, or cases such as the Afghan targeted in Nangarhar who works for both the Taliban and al Qaeda, or other such thorny issues that weaken his argument. Instead, he labels those who point out the linkages as “crackpots” producing works that are “steaming away like something your dog left in the park on a cold winter’s day.” Is this supposed to pass for sophisticated, scholarly analysis and commentary? We hope not.

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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8 Comments

  • Peter says:

    This looks like the future of our involvement in Afghanistan. The area is too vast and the local population too unreliable for a sustained military presence to do any good.
    I used to think otherwise, but after ten years and very little to show for it (we have done a lot of good, but we can’t stay there forever), I’m thinking we should relax our distaste for funding private armies through the CIA.
    Put bounties on the heads of people we want killed, prop up our own warlords with money and weapons, and send them hunting. Special Ops can cultivate and assist, and we can use our air superiority to provide support.
    Paying $500,000 per head (literally), and funding and weapons would be much cheaper than trying to keep tens of thousands of soldiers on the ground for decades.
    People who were 10 years old when 9-11 happened are fighting Taliban and AQ who were also 10 years old when it happened. This is turning inter-generational.

  • Soccer says:

    I remember reading an article talking about how Obama and the CIA want us to “go commando” after 2011-2014, and that seems the most viable way to take out Al Qaeda and the Taliban. Hit them hard where it hurts with spec-ops.
    With all due respect to Gen.Petraeus, Iraq is a very different place from Afghanistan. Afghans have never taken kindly to foreigners, so COIN is bound to fail in that country. What we should really focus on is simply eliminating the bases, leaders, compounds, and areas under control by the opfor (AQ, Taliban, HIG, IMU), and letting the Afghans have greater control over their own affairs. We shouldn’t be wasting our time trying to change an ancient tribal culture and society.
    Here is the article about going commando after 2014. The article mostly focuses on Afghanistan itself, and not Pakistan, which is odd since it is a known safe haven for terrorist leaders.
    //www.wired.com/dangerroom/2010/12/u-s-should-go-commando-in-afghanistan-after-2014-think-tank-urges/

  • TimSln says:

    Bill,
    Clearly, Alex Strick van Linschoten has it wrong.
    Alex may now contend the ISAF are capturing ghosts. Here is an ISAF confirming the capture of the leader referenced above.
    //www.dvidshub.net/news/68658/isaf-joint-command-morning-operational-update.
    ————
    ISAF today confirmed the capture of a Taliban leader during a security operation in Behsud district, Nangarhar province, April 11. The leader operated for al-Qaida and the Taliban, primarily in eastern Afghanistan and Pakistan. He assisted the insurgent networks with the acquisition, movement and employment of weapons and fighters in the Kunar region

  • TimSln says:

    Soccer,
    I’m willing to give Gen. Petraeus more time. A big barometer to gauage his effectiveness will be the “spring fighting season”. Will the Taliban be back in force or will it fizzle. We have taken many of their strongholds, especially in the South and the picked up tempo of Special Ops raids since Petraeus took over has had an impact, I believe. Pakistan will still be the big problem though.
    However, I found this to be encouraging.
    //uk.reuters.com/article/2011/04/12/uk-afghanistan-kandahar-idUKTRE73B3GF20110412
    ——-
    “People have told us this time last year the Taliban were already in the village, and it’s not happening this year, and its partly due to the fact that we are inside their sanctuaries that they used last year.”

  • Soccer says:

    Yeah, we also captured 2 HIG commanders and killed a senior Taliban commander who was a member of the Faryab commission.
    Just take a look at that operational update. We are SMASHING their leadership and the opfor knows it and is under tremendous stress.
    TimSln, I still think the think tank is right, and we should go commando instead of trying to change Afghan culture. They have shown us these 10 years that they, for the most part, do not wish to change. They are a conservative tribal society that is classically hostile to foreigners and outsiders, especially “invaders” as the insurgents like to tell civilians.

  • Caratacus10ad says:

    Too many willing to fill the ranks of the Jihadi’s within Pakistan, and Pakistan itself is far too big a land mass and population to filter…
    Obama has said Iraq was a dumb war and by inference that Afghanistan is not.
    I would suggest that Iraq was the intelligent war and that Afghanistan was the dumb one, which was not thought through being a ‘knee-jerk’ war…
    Albeit an understandable ‘knee-jerk’ war!
    The US forces are too far away, from where they should be and that is not in Central Asia or even the Middle East at present… South Korea/ Japan and North African engagement, would send out the best compromise in having a deployments close to the hot-spos and would be on a better supply line chain to boot!
    Afghanistan is just a nation-building mission too far, I think.

  • TimSln says:

    Soccer,
    You could be right. I’m just saying it’s still too early to tell if Petraeus’ strategy is working. More time is needed to determine that with any certainty, with the spring fighting being a big part of that determination.

  • John says:

    Agree with Caratacus. The key word at ISAF is “transition”.
    Counter insurgency strategy has failed miserably.
    ISAF and NTMA effort is to bombard the ministries with advisors throughout GIRoA. MOD and MOI currently have over 1,000 advisors in-place with more on the way.
    Withdrawal per POTUS guidance will begin in next three months.
    Predict on-going SIGAR audits to be a facade for proving the ANSF CM ratings in an effort to turn the whole thing over to a few ministerial advisors by 2014.
    Coalition support for post-conflict advisory role is strong but, dependant on US funding.
    Kabul bank is failing, ANSF forces are experiencing extreme attrition, the economy is narcotics-based, corruption at all levels of government is off the chart, majority of population is illiterate, and the US has forgotten this war due to worries about cuts in social programs. At the same time, the US funds the ANSF retirement pensions and eyes cutting the taxpayers’.
    Where do you think this is going?

Iraq

Islamic state

Syria

Aqap

Al shabaab

Boko Haram

Isis