Coalition and Afghan special operations forces killed three al Qaeda operatives in an airstrike in the same district where 38 US and Afghan troops, including Navy SEALs, were killed when their helicopter was shot down in August 2011.
The three al Qaeda operatives were killed yesterday in an airstrike in the Danoki area of Sayyidabad district in Wardak province, the district governor told Bakhtar News. The al Qaeda operatives, who were not named, were meeting with the Taliban and worked together to attack the Afghan government.
The International Security Assistance Force would neither confirm nor deny that the airstrike took place.
“At this time there is no operational reporting available that confirms the Bakhtar News story,” ISAF Joint Command Media Operations told The Long War Journal. “If more information becomes available it may be released as appropriate.”
Al Qaeda is known to embed small teams of trainers with Taliban and other terrorist groups, and in the east is known to fight on the battlefield as small units. [See LWJ reports, Al Qaeda’s paramilitary ‘Shadow Army’ and ‘Foreign trainers’ active in southeastern Afghan province, for more information on al Qaeda’s role in Afghanistan.]
Al Qaeda and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan are known to operate in Wardak province. The presence of terror cells has been detected in the districts of Maidan Shah, Sayyidabad, and Tarnek Wa Jaldak, or three of the province’s eight districts, according to ISAF press releases that have been compiled by The Long War Journal.
Special operations forces target terror groups in Wardak
Special operations forces have targeted al Qaeda, “foreign” fighters,” and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan four times in Wardak since the beginning of October 2010. ISAF often uses the term “foreign fighters” to signify al Qaeda.
On Oct. 13, 2010, ISAF searched Tarnek Wa Jaldak district for a Taliban leader who “regularly moves weapons and foreign fighters from Pakistan into the province.”
On Nov. 1, 2010, ISAF targeted a cell leader in Maidan Shah district who commanded “a cell of approximately 50 foreign fighters,” according to an ISAF press release. The cell leader served as “a suicide-attack facilitator and [led] small-arms and improvised explosive device attacks against ANSF and ISAF.”
On Nov. 18, 2011, special operations forces killed Mujib Rahman Mayar, an Afghan member of al Qaeda, during a raid in Sayyidabad. Mayar “trained insurgents and worked as a courier” for the terror group, ISAF stated after his death. “He delivered messages and transported money for the al Qaeda network.”
And on April 26, Coalition and Afghan special operations teams captured an Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan facilitator in Sayyidabad. “The facilitator, along with senior IMU leaders in the area, was planning future large-scale attacks against Afghan and coalition forces in Kabul, Wardak and Logar districts,” ISAF stated.
Sayyidabad a dangerous district
Last summer, Sayyidabad was the scene of several high-profile attacks by the Taliban and allied groups. The Taliban have been in control of the Tangi Valley, which runs through Sayyidabad, since the withdrawal of US forces from Combat Outpost Tangi in the spring of 2011. US troops turned over the base to the Afghan Army, which immediately abandoned it. The Taliban later released a videotape that showed hundreds of fighters and senior Taliban leaders massing at the abandoned base and conducting a tour.
The Taliban shot down a US Army Chinook helicopter in Sayyidabad on Aug. 6, 2011. Thirty-eight US and Afghan troops, including 17 US Navy SEALS from the Naval Special Warfare Development Group, were killed in the crash.
And on Sept. 10, 2011, the Taliban detonated a massive suicide bomb outside of Combat Outpost Sayyidabad, killing four Afghans and wounding more than 100 people, including 77 US soldiers. US commanders later blamed the attack on the Haqqani Network, a powerful Taliban subgroup closely allied with al Qaeda.
Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD’s Long War Journal.