ISAF kills IMU, al Qaeda-linked Taliban commanders in airstrikes

Coalition forces killed several al Qaeda-linked Taliban leaders and an Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan commander during airstrikes in two eastern Afghan provinces over the past two days.

In the first airstrike, on June 18, “several Taliban leaders” were killed during a meeting in Nangarhar province, the International Security Assistance Force stated in a press release. ISAF told The Long War Journal that the airstrike took place in the Khogyani district. ISAF said that the Taliban leaders were targeted “with a precision airstrike away from all civilian structures” after spotters ensured “no civilians were in the area.”

The Taliban commanders, who were not named, “were known to coordinate with al Qaeda, facilitated the movement of foreign fighters across the border from Pakistan into Afghanistan and were responsible for attacks on Coalition and Afghan forces.” ISAF often uses the term ‘foreign fighters’ to describe members of al Qaeda.

Al Qaeda and allied Pakistani terror groups such as Lashkar-e-Taiba, Lashkar-e-Islam, the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, and the al Qaeda-linked Hizb-i-Islami Khalis 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, Shinwar, and Surkh Rod, or 13 of Nangarhar’s 22 districts.

The last reported raid against an al Qaeda-linked operative in Nangarhar took place on Nov. 29, 2011, in the Surkh Rod district. ISAF captured an “al Qaeda facilitator” who “served as a courier between Afghanistan and Pakistan and delivered supplies to insurgents.”

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 in 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.]

IMU commander killed in Badakhshan

Today, ISAF aircraft killed a leader of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan during “a precision airstrike” in the Shahr-e-Buzurg district of Badakhshan province, and captured “several” IMU operatives in a separate operation in the Yaftal-e Sufla district.

The IMU commander “was directly involved in the kidnapping of four aid workers in northeastern Afghanistan last month,” ISAF stated. The four aid workers were rescued in an ISAF and Afghan special operations raid. Several Taliban fighters were killed during the rescue operation.

The once-peaceful province of Badakhshan has become increasingly unstable over the past several years, as the Taliban, the Haqqani Network, and the IMU have exerted their influence in the remote northeastern area. The province was transferred from ISAF to Afghan control at the end of January 2012.

ISAF has conducted seven raids against the IMU in Badakhshan since September 2011, and another in August 2010 that targeted a Taliban operative who aided “foreign fighters,” according to ISAF press releases compiled by The Long War Journal. The last raid took place on June 3, when an IMU weapons facilitator was targeted in an airstrike in Argo district. The IMU is known to have a presence in the districts of Argo, Faizabad, Kishim, and Surkh Rod.

The Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan is a key ally of al Qaeda and the Taliban, and supports operations in Afghanistan and Pakistan, as well as plots attacks in Europe. The IMU is known to fight alongside the Taliban in Afghanistan and has integrated into the Taliban’s shadow government in the north [for more information on the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, see LWJ report, IMU cleric urges Pakistanis to continue sheltering jihadis in Waziristan].

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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