ISAF captures ‘foreign fighter’ facilitator in southeastern Afghanistan

Coalition and Afghan special operation forces captured a facilitator who helped “foreign fighters” enter Afghanistan to fight alongside the Taliban.

The Taliban facilitator, who was not named, was captured during a June 14 raid in the Tarnak wa Jaldak district in Zabul province, according to an International Security Assistance Force press release.

“The facilitator assisted in the transfer of Uzbeks and Farsi speaking foreign fighters from Pakistan into Afghanistan to fight for the Taliban,” ISAF stated in the press release. ISAF uses the term “foreign fighters” to describe members of al Qaeda and allied terror groups operating in Afghanistan.

The “Uzbeks” likely belong to the al Qaeda-linked Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan or the Islamic Jihad Group, an IMU splinter. Farsi is a Persian language spoken in Afghanistan, Iran, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan.

US troops are reported to have clashed with Farsi-speaking fighters in the Deh Chopan district in Zabul in 2009, according to a report in the Army Times. The fighters “wore body armor and ‘Kevlar helmets’ and used smoke grenades” to cover their movements. US officials said the equipment and tactics indicated the fighters were well-trained and experienced, and were likely from outside of Afghanistan.

Zabul a known transit point and staging ground for al Qaeda

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, Tarnak wa Jaldak, and Qalat; or four 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.

Over the past two months, ISAF and Afghan special operations forces have been targeting the “foreign fighter” support networks run by the Taliban, al Qaeda, and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan in Zabul.

On May 8, Coalition and Afghan forces captured an unnamed “Germany-based Moroccan al Qaeda foreign fighter facilitator” during a raid in the district of Qalat. Several foreign fighters were among the 10 people killed during the raid. Security forces “found passports and identification cards from France, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia amongst ten insurgents killed during the operation.”

On May 19, ISAF attempted to capture a Taliban commander who operates in Zabul and “directs a core group of insurgent fighters augmented by al Qaeda associated foreign fighters assembled in Quetta, Pakistan.” On May 29, ISAF conducted a follow-up raid against the Taliban commander in the Shah Joy district in Zabul.

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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