ISAF troops find French, Saudi passports during clash with al Qaeda cell in southeast

US troops killed several al Qaeda fighters and captured two more during a raid two days ago that targeted a Taliban commander in southeastern Afghanistan. Two passports, from Saudi Arabia and France, were recovered during the raid, a US military officer told The Long War Journal.

The raid took place in the district of Qalat in Zabul province on May 8. Coalition and Afghan special operations teams targeted a Taliban facilitator who “coordinates movement of weapons, improvised explosive devices, and IED materials to other insurgents in the district,” the International Security Assistance Force stated in a press release.

During the operation, the combined special operation teams were “engaged by multiple groups of insurgents,” which sparked a battle that resulted in the death of “numerous insurgents” and the capture of two more. During a search, ISAF and Afghan forces found a cache of weapons and “passports from several different countries indicating the presence of multiple foreign fighters.”

In a follow-up inquiry by The Long War Journal, an ISAF public affairs officer said that two passports from Saudi Arabia and France had been recovered.

“Two passports were found, one was a Saudi Arabian and one was French,” the ISAF public affairs officer told The Long War Journal.

“They were affiliated with al Qaeda,” another ISAF public affairs official said.

ISAF would not provide the names or the images on the passports, nor would it disclose the number of suspected al Qaeda fighters killed during the operation. A US intelligence official familiar with the operation said that 10 enemy fighters, some of whom were Arabs, were killed.

Afghan defense officials said one Frenchman and one Moroccan were captured, and five terrorists, including two Pakistanis, were killed.

Zabul province is a known haven for al Qaeda in the Afghan southeast. Al Qaeda’s presence in Zabul has been detected in the districts of Shah Joy, Shamulzai, and Qalat; or three of Zabul’s 11 districts, according to an investigation by The Long War Journal. The province is an ideal staging and transit point for al Qaeda and allied groups operating from Pakistan. Zabul shares a border with Pakistan, and also borders the Afghan provinces of Uruzgan, Kandahar, Ghazni, and Paktika.

Coalition and Afghan forces have targeted several al Qaeda cells in Zabul since October 2008. In July 2010, security forces killed Malauwi Shahbuddin, a Taliban commander and “foreign-fighter facilitator,” during a raid in Shah Joy. In October 2010, Mullah Abdullah Kakar, another Taliban commander and “foreign-fighter facilitator,” was killed in an airstrike, also in Shah Joy. ISAF uses the term “foreign fighters” to describe members of al Qaeda and allied terror groups operating in Afghanistan.

Recent clashes with al Qaeda fighters in the east contradict claims that al Qaeda has only 50 to 100 operatives in Afghanistan. These claims have been made by top US intelligence and military leaders, including most recently by General David Petraeus, the commander of ISAF.

On May 3, Afghan troops killed and wounded more than 25 al Qaeda fighters in the Barg-e-Matal district in Nuristan. On April 14, an ISAF airstrike killed several al Qaeda leaders and fighters, including Waqas, a Pakistani commander, and Abu Hafs al Najdi, a Saudi emir.

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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  • Tyler says:


  • JN says:

    Well, this is certainly a great birthday present for me. It seems like the recovered intel is really paying off for ISAF. I wonder if this has anything to do with the Islamists that France just arrested?

  • ed says:


  • AMac says:

    Assume al Qaeda started May with 100 fighters. This article recounts the demise or wounding of numerous (say 4 to 10), and 25, and several (say 3 to 5). And the capture of two.
    Thus, the maximum possible number of al Qaeda fighters on the loose in Afghanistan is now 66. Down over 34% in under two weeks!

  • Goatweed says:

    Under the Geneva Convention, what can happen to the captured Frenchman and the Moroccan?
    Did the Frenchman’s ancestor fight with Roland or against him?

  • blert says:

    I’m glad you posted….
    They were UNLAWFUL combatants.
    Which means that NONE of the Geneva Convention provisions apply to them.
    That’s the WHOLE point of the GC: you get POW status and GC ‘standing’ when — and only when — you fight ‘lawfully.’
    Dressing as civilians and raising hell all over the world makes any member of AQ an unlawful combatant.
    In specific terms it is permitted to:
    Shot them at will…
    Torture them at will…
    Starve them at will…
    Humiliate them at will…
    Block all communications to and for them at will…
    Mutilate them at will…
    Gas them at will…
    Enslave them at will…
    Sell them at will…
    Castrate them at will…
    All of the above are prohibited by the GC IF the soldier is a lawful combatant. That’s what the GC is all about.
    It is entirely crafted to END the above treatments of captured warriors — which used to occur on a grand scale in ancient warfare. ( Enslaving and selling was a near universal practice in ancient times. )
    AQ is practicing Neolithic warfare against us; so too, the Taliban.
    Neolithic warfare is skirmish war and back-stabbing deceits.
    It is the warfare of the unprovoked raid/ pillage / mass rape.
    The most famous practitioners in the West were the Vikings.
    The exact same ethos ruled the Plains Natives. Hence the Apache fighting. The word was: “Don’t be taken alive!”
    The same word is given in Afghanistan. The Taliban and AQ absolutely do NOT observe the GC. Instead, they slaughter civilians like they are goats. One can only imagine what they’d do to our soldiers and Marines!

  • Infidel4LIFE says:

    Theres been a steady rise in attacks lately. Most of them are reported to be repelled, with a good many enemy killed/captured. I wonder wat tales they will tell. AQ/Talibs have not really massed for any attacks, just these small engagements. Mostly ANP, and ANA.


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