ISAF targets al Qaeda-linked Taliban commanders in Ghazni raids

In separate raids over the past several days, Coalition and Afghan security forces targeted two Taliban leaders linked to al Qaeda in the southeastern province of Ghazni. One of the commanders, who “coordinated the movement of foreign insurgents,” was captured.

The first raid took place on Sept. 10 in the Waghaz district. Special operations forces captured a Taliban leader who “is believed to have coordinated the movement of foreign insurgents throughout eastern Ghazni and provided guidance and equipment for attacks against Afghan and Coalition forces,” the International Security Assistance Force stated in a press release on Sept. 12. Several other “suspected insurgents” were also captured.

ISAF often uses the terms ” foreign insurgents” and “foreign fighters” to describe members of al Qaeda and associated groups such as the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan and the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan.

The second raid took place yesterday in the Deh Yak district. Special operations forces captured “multiple suspected insurgents” while targeting a senior regional Taliban leader. ISAF said the Taliban leader “is believed to serve as the senior liaison between multiple insurgent groups operating in central and eastern Afghanistan, including the Taliban and al Qaeda.”

The raids on Sept. 10 and Sept. 11 are the fifth and sixth reported against an al Qaeda-linked Taliban leader or operative in Ghazni since the end of July. On Aug. 24, special operations forces targeted an “al Qaeda associated Taliban leader” in the Andar district. On Aug. 21, special operations forces captured an “al Qaeda-associated Taliban insurgent” during a raid in the Gelan district. On Aug. 12, another raid targeted an “al Qaeda associated insurgent” in Gelan. And on July 27, an “al Qaeda-associated insurgent leader” who is responsible for attacks throughout Ghazni was targeted.

Several al Qaeda leaders and operatives have been killed or captured in Ghazni over the past several years. Al Qaeda has admitted it conducts operations in the province. For more information on al Qaeda’s presence in Ghazni, see LWJ report, ISAF targets al Qaeda-linked Taliban operative in Afghan southeast.

Al Qaeda and allied terror groups such as the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan maintain a strong presence in Ghazni province. The presence of al Qaeda and Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan cells has been detected in the districts of Andar, Deh Yak, Gelan, Ghazni, Shah Joy, and Waghaz, or six of the province’s 16 districts, according to an investigation by The Long War Journal.

Osama bin Laden mentioned that Ghazni province, along with Kunar, Nuristan, and Zabul, is an ideal fallback position for al Qaeda operatives seeking to escape the US drone strikes in North and South Waziristan, according to one of the documents seized from his compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan.

Al Qaeda presence is pervasive in Afghanistan

While ISAF and the US government have characterized al Qaeda’s presence in Afghanistan as being confined to the remote northeast provinces of Kunar and Nuristan, ISAF’s own press releases identifying raids against al Qaeda present an even starker picture. ISAF has conducted raids against al Qaeda leaders and associates in Balkh, Farah, Ghazni, Helmand, Kandahar, Khost, Kunar, Kunduz, Laghman, Logar, Nangarhar, Paktia, Paktika, Sar-i-Pul, Takhar, Wardak, and Zabul, or 17 of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces. Many of these raids have taken place over the past two years.

Al Qaeda and allied terror groups, such as the Lashkar-e-Taiba, the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, and the Islamic Jihad Union, maintain an extensive reach in Afghanistan. This is documented in the body of press releases issued in recent years by ISAF. Looking at press releases dating back to March 2007, The Long War Journal has been able to detect the presence of al Qaeda and affiliated groups such as the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan in 114 different districts in 25 of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces.

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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