Over at The Nation (the US version, not the Pakistani version), George Zornick asked when the last al Qaeda operative was killed in Afghanistan, because US troops are dying there and the President says we are in Afghanistan to fight al Qaeda. He received a response from the Department of Defense [see below] that is riddled with errors. The Nation reports:
Finally, ABC’s Jake Tapper asked Carney when was “the last time US troops in Afghanistan killed anybody associated with Al Qaeda.” Carney didn’t have an answer, and referred Tapper to the Defense Department and NATO’s International Security Assistance Force.
I queried those agencies Tuesday and got an answer today. According to a Defense Department spokesman, the most recent operation that killed an Al Qaeda fighter was in April 2011–ten months ago. However, there was an “Al Qaeda foreign fighter” captured near Kabul in May 2011, and an “Al Qaeda facilitator” captured in the Paktiya province on January 30 of this year.
By comparison, there have been 466 coalition fatalities since April 2011.
Given [White House Press Secretary Jay] Carney’s repeated insistence that the “number one” purpose of the American mission is to “disrupt, dismantle and ultimately defeat” Al Qaeda in Afghanistan, and given the ongoing sacrifices the country is making to achieve that goal, it’s very important to keep these benchmarks in mind. It is surprising Carney wasn’t aware of them, or didn’t disclose them–though, perhaps it’s not.
The DoD assertion that the last capture of an al Qaeda operative in Afghanistan was on Jan. 30 is correct. Here are the details from the press release (note the portion about the connection to “senior al-Qaida leaders in Pakistan”):
An Afghan and coalition security force captured an al Qaeda facilitator during an operation in Gardez district, Paktia province. The facilitator coordinated insurgent activity throughout the area and provided reports to senior al-Qaida leaders in Pakistan.
But the last al Qaeda operative killed in Afghanistan was not in killed in April 2011. In fact, it occurred much more recently, in September 2011. From the ISAF press release:
A combined Afghan and coalition security force killed a key affiliate of the al-Qaida network during a security operation in Jalalabad District, Nangarhar province, yesterday.
Sabar Lal was an insurgent leader responsible for attacks and financing insurgent operations in the Pech District, Kunar province. He was in contact with several senior al-Qaida members throughout Kunar and Pakistan. The security force located Sabar Lal at a compound in Jalalabad District after receiving information from local citizens. He emerged from the building with an AK-47 assault rifle and was killed.
Several suspected insurgents were also taken into custody during the security operation.
And if you read more of that press release, you’ll find out that over 40 al Qaeda leaders and fighters were killed in eastern Afghanistan alone in the first eight months of 2011:
Coalition security forces have captured or killed more than 40 al-Qaida insurgents in eastern Afghanistan this year.
But wait, there’s more. Sabar Lal wasn’t just any al Qaeda operative, he was a former detainee from Guantanamo Bay, as we reported at The Long War Journal. You would think the DoD and ISAF wouldn’t overlook such an important al Qaeda leader who was killed last year, in their response to Zornick. But here we are.
And in case Mr. Zornick, as well as the Department of Defense and ISAF for that matter, want to know about other al Qaeda operatives captured or targeted between the time Sabar Lal was killed and today, see the list below. The Long War Journal is always happy to assist in these matters. I compiled this list in a short time. The fact that ISAF and the DoD took so long to give an answer raises issues that I don’t want to even touch at this moment.
Keep in mind that the list below is merely what is derived from unclassified information that was released to the press by ISAF. And this list does not include raids that targeted groups like the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, which is closely allied to al Qaeda and has plotted to execute attacks in the West.
Also note that between Nov. 29, 2011 and Jan. 30, 2012, ISAF stopped reporting on raids against al Qaeda. In late January, when I inquired about this change, ISAF would not explain the reason for the gap in reports. But as I was inquiring about this gap, ISAF issued the Jan. 30 release on a captured al Qaeda leader [more about this minor controversy here, which again speaks to the problems ISAF and the DoD have in communicating what is happening in Afghanistan].
Al Qaeda operatives captured or targeted October 2011 – January 2012:
An Afghan and Coalition security force captured an al Qaeda facilitator during an operation in Gardez district, Paktia province. The facilitator coordinated insurgent activity throughout the area and provided reports to senior al Qaeda leaders in Pakistan.
A combined Afghan and Coalition security force captured an al Qaeda facilitator and killed two insurgents during an operation in Surkh Rod district, Nangarhar province, today. The facilitator served as a courier between Afghanistan and Pakistan and delivered supplies to insurgents. During the operation, two individuals were observed displaying hostile intent toward the security force. Assessing an immediate threat, the security force engaged, killing both insurgents. One additional suspected insurgent was detained.
In Behsud district, Nangarhar province, a combined Afghan and Coalition security force detained numerous suspected insurgents during an operation in search of an al Qaeda facilitator yesterday. The facilitator transports insurgent fighters and supplies from Nangarhar to Kunar province.
A combined Afghan and Coalition security force conducted an operation in search of an al Qaeda network facilitator in Sayyidabad district, Wardak province, yesterday. The facilitator trained insurgents and worked as a courier. He delivered messages and transported money for the al Qaeda network.
In Behsud district, Nangarhar province, a combined Afghan and Coalition security force detained multiple suspected insurgents during an operation in search of an al Qaeda facilitator, yesterday. The facilitator transports insurgent fighters and supplies from Nangarhar to Kunar province.
A combined Afghan and Coalition security force captured a senior Haqqani official and detained two additional suspected insurgents during in Qarghah’i district, Laghman province, yesterday. The official has ties to both the Haqqani network and al Qaeda and directly supports insurgent activity in Kabul province.
ISAF troops killed a senior Haqqani Network commander named Dilawar, who facilitated the movement of foreign fighters and was associated with both al Qaeda and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan.
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