The SITE Intelligence Group issued an interesting report on the release of a video showing an assault on a base in the Charbaran Valley in Afghanistan’s Paktika province. The summary of the report is reproduced below; the video is viewable by SITE subscribers:
A media unit of the Afghan Taliban called “Al Muhajir Jihadi Studio” released a two-part, Pashto-language video focusing on an operation against an enemy base in the Charbaran Valley of Paktika province in eastern Afghanistan. The combined 41 minute, 16 second video is the first episode in a series called “Caravan of Badr,” and it was posted on the Jamia Hafsa Urdu Form (JHUF) on September 4, 2012. The user who posted it said that he received it from a “friend” who works in Paktika. Footage shows fighters receiving instructions about the plan of attack and then praying, then shows the attack on the base and the fighters entering it and displaying the equipment and gear taken as spoils.
What is interesting about this report is the name of the Taliban media unit — Al Muhajir Jihadi Studio. “Al Muhajir” translates to “the traveler,” and the term is used by jihadists to refer to fighters from outside the region, or “foreign fighters” as they are often called.
A US intelligence official told The Long War Journal that Al Muhajir Jihadi Studio is an “unofficial Taliban propaganda channel” (one of several) that is almost certainly linked to the Haqqani Network, the Taliban subgroup that operates in eastern Afghanistan.
A number of al Qaeda-linked groups from outside Afghanistan and Pakistan also flock to the region, and are known to fight alongside the Haqqani Network. Among those groups are the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan and its offshoot, the Islamic Jihad Union; the Caucasus Mujahideen in Khorasan; Jund al Khilafah; and the Turkistan Islamic Party. Just recently, Mullah Sangeen Zadran, a top leader in the Haqqani Network, called on Turks and Kurds to wage jihad in Afghanistan.
Another reason why Al Muhajir Jihadi Studio is very likely linked to the Haqqani Network is the location of the attack shown in the video: the Charbaran Valley in Paktika province, which borders Pakistan. This New York Times report, from October 2011, describes Charbaran as a Haqqani Network transit point:
The Charbaran Valley has become one of the main routes for Haqqani fighters to enter Afghanistan. They generally come in on foot, American officers say, and then, after staying overnight in safe houses and tent camps, they work their way toward Kabul or other areas where they have been sent to fight.
Mid-level Haqqani leaders also meet in the valley’s villages, American officers said, including near an abandoned school and the ruins of a government center that the United States built earlier in the war but that local fighters had destroyed by 2008.
One additional note: The Al Muhajir Jihadi Studio video, which is undated, shows the fighters in what is identifiably a Coalition-bult base. There are Hesco barriers, guard towers, buildings, and other such features that clearly were put together by Western engineers. Although the Taliban claimed they overran the base, it appears to have been abandoned before the Taliban “assault.” If you read the entire New York Times report linked above, you’ll see that in the fall of 2011 the US conducted a brigade-sized operation to sweep the valley. If the base in the video has been abandoned since then (again, it is unclear when the video was filmed), then US and Afghan efforts to drive the Haqqani Network from the area and establish a permanent presence to interdict the enemy ratline from Pakistan have had little effect.
Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD’s Long War Journal.