ISAF targets ‘al Qaeda facilitator’ in Nangarhar

Coalition and Afghan special operations forces targeted an al Qaeda facilitator who operates in an area of eastern Afghanistan known to harbor members of the terror group.

A combined special operations team “detained multiple suspected insurgents during an operation in search of an al Qaeda facilitator” during a raid yesterday in Nangarhar’s Behsud district, the International Security Assistance Force stated in a press release.

“The facilitator transports insurgent fighters and supplies from Nangarhar to Kunar province,” according to the ISAF press release. The remote province of Kunar, which borders Nangarhar to the south and Pakistan to the east, is a known stronghold for al Qaeda, the Taliban, Lashkar-e-Taiba, and other terror groups in the region.

ISAF and Afghan forces have conducted three other raids that have targeted al Qaeda operatives in Behsud since August 2010.

The last raid in Behsud took place on May 6, when special operations forces targeted a Taliban leader who was described as “an al Qaeda affiliated insurgent.” The leader is “operating in Wanat district, Kunar province and Waygal valley, Nuristan province,” and is “closely associated with a number of Taliban leaders who are currently facilitating al-Qaeda foreign fighters in the region.”

On April 11, special operations forces detained several “suspected insurgents” in Behsud while hunting for an “al Qaeda leader … who operates for Al Qaeda and the Taliban” and “works primarily in eastern Afghanistan and Pakistan,” according to ISAF.

And on in late August 2010, special operations forces captured “several insurgents” in Behsud while searching for “the Taliban shadow governor for Rodat district who is responsible for the direction and facilitation of foreign fighters and suicide bombers.” ISAF often uses the term “foreign fighters” to describe al Qaeda operatives.

The Behsud district is a known hotspot for Taliban and al Qaeda activity in Nangarhar province. The Taliban have carried out two major attacks on Forward Operating Base Fenty in Behsud since November 2010.

Al Qaeda and allied Pakistani terror groups such as Lashkar-e-Taiba, Lashkar-e-Islam, Hizb-i-Islami Khalis, and the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan all maintain a presence in Nangarhar province, according to an investigation by The Long War Journal. The presence of terror cells has been detected in the districts of Achin, Bati Kowt, Behsud, Chaparhar, Dara Noor, Deh Bala, Hisarak, Jalalabad, Khogyani, Pachir wa Agam, Sherzad, and Shinwar, or 12 of Nangarhar’s 22 districts.

Taliban leadership in the east

The Peshawar Regional Military Shura, one of the Afghan Taliban’s four major commands, directs activities in the eastern Afghan provinces of Nangarhar, Laghman, Nuristan, and Kunar. Abdul Latif Mansur is thought to currently lead the Taliban’s Peshawar shura. It was led by Maulvi Abdul Kabir before his detention in Pakistan in February 2010.

A Taliban group known as the Tora Bora Military Front operates in Nangarhar and has been behind a series of deadly attacks in the province. The Tora Bora Military Front is led by Anwarul Haq Mujahid, the son of Maulvi Mohammed Yunis Khalis. The father was leader of the Hizb-i-Islami Khalis, and was instrumental in welcoming Osama bin Laden to Afghanistan after al Qaeda was ejected from Sudan in 1996.

Pakistan detained Mujahid in Peshawar in June 2009. Prior to his detention, Muhajid served as the Taliban’s shadow governor of Nangarhar.

Mujahid has been inexplicably released from Pakistani custody. On Feb. 8, Mujahid spoke at the funeral of Awal Gul, a former Guantanamo Bay detainee who was captured by US forces in 2002 and died at the facility of natural causes on Feb. 1 of this year.

Nangarhar is a strategic province for both the Taliban and the Coalition. The province borders the Pakistani tribal agency of Khyber, where the Lashkar-e-Islam and the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan are active. The majority of NATO’s supplies pass through Khyber and Nangarhar before reaching Kabul and points beyond.

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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