Afghan and Coalition troops captured six insurgents during a raid two days ago that targeted a leader from the al Qaeda-linked Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU). The security forces launched the raid in northern Afghanistan, in the Kunduz district of Kunduz province. This is the seventh operation targeting the group in Afghanistan so far this year, according to ISAF press releases compiled by The Long War Journal.
ISAF did not provide many details regarding the operation or the target, but did state that the targeted leader “is allegedly instrumental in manufacturing, procuring and distributing improvised explosive devices for use in attacks against Afghan and coalition forces in the province.” ISAF did reveal to The Long War Journal that the fighters arrested were Afghan and affiliated with the IMU.
However, ISAF said that “there are no indications of foreign involvement,” which contradicts the assertion that the captured insurgents are affiliated with the IMU, whose leadership is based in Pakistan’s tribal agency of North Waziristan. When questioned by The Long War Journal on the IMU’s foreign ties, specifically with its leadership in Pakistan, a spokesman for US Forces-Afghanistan (USFOR-A) responded as follows:
Speaking from my USFOR-A perspective, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) was designated a Foreign Terrorist Organization by the US Department of State in 2000. This FTO designation plays a critical role in our fight against terrorism and helps us curtail support for terrorist activities.
While this response shows that ISAF believes Afghanistan remains a central front in the fight against foreign terrorist networks, it lacks clarity as to how al Qaeda and its affiliates, such as the IMU, are operating in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region.
ISAF has indicated numerous times in the past, in its own press releases, that the IMU’s leadership cadre is based in Pakistan, and that the Afghan IMU network takes direction from those Pakistan-based leaders. For instance, when the IMU’s top leader for Afghanistan was captured in 2011, ISAF said he was “a key conduit between the senior IMU leadership in Pakistan and senior Taliban leadership in Afghanistan.”
“He assisted both groups by directing insurgent movement for training and operations between the two countries, coordinating suicide, explosive device, and mortar attacks against Afghan and coalition forces throughout northern Afghanistan,” ISAF stated in the press release announcing his capture.
Based on The Long War Journal’s study of the IMU, the group continues to exercise control of the network in Afghanistan. Abu Usman Udil, the previous leader of the IMU, who was killed in a US drone strike in North Waziristan in April 2012, was instrumental in ramping up the IMU’s operations in Afghanistan. His successor, Usman Ghazi, is said to be equally committed to the fight in Afghanistan.
It may be the case that the six IMU fighters captured two days ago were Afghan, but it is highly unlikely that the network they are involved with is not receiving support and guidance from across the border in Pakistan.