Al Qaeda facilitator targeted in eastern Afghanistan

Coalition and Afghan special operations forces targeted an al Qaeda facilitator in the eastern Afghan province of Nangarhar yesterday. He is the ninth al Qaeda operative or insurgent with ties to the terror group who has been targeted so far this year, and the sixth in the last 30 days.

The joint Afghan and Coalition force executed a search for an al Qaeda facilitator who is known to relay messages for senior al Qaeda leadership, according to the International Security Assistance Force. The target is also said to deliver “weapons, military equipment, and money” to al Qaeda cells for use in attacks. ISAF told The Long War Journal that the facilitator is an Afghan national of Pashtun ethnicity who is affiliated with “Arab” foreign fighters.

Although one “enemy of Afghanistan” was arrested during the operation, it is currently unclear if he is the targeted facilitator. ISAF uses the term “enemy of Afghanistan” synonymously with “insurgent.”

The search was conducted in Nangarhar’s Behsud district, which is not far from the restive provinces of Kunar and Nuristan, areas that have seen consistent al Qaeda presence. ISAF has launched six raids against al Qaeda’s network in the Behsud district since the end of August 2010.

The Behsud district’s close proximity to the Pakistan border may be an indication that much of the support the target is providing to al Qaeda cells in Afghanistan is likely coming from across the border, outside the reach of Coalition forces. However, when asked by The Long War Journal where the weapons, equipment, and money he supplies comes from, ISAF declined to release further information.

A week ago, Afghan and Coalition forces conducted five operations targeting al Qaeda leaders in neighboring Kunar province. Five “extremists” were captured and four were killed during the searches, but the intended targets appear to remain elusive.

The last raid against al Qaeda’s network in Nangarhar took place on May 2. An “insurgent” leader who runs a training camp somewhere along the Afghan-Pakistan border and commands more than 100 fighters, including suicide bombers, was the target of the raid. The leader is linked to the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, the Haqqani Network, and “Arabs,” a term that ISAF has used recently to describe Arab members of al Qaeda [see LWJ report, ISAF kills 2 ‘Arab’-linked commanders in Nuristan].

The al Qaeda facilitator who was targeted in Nangarhar is likely a member of al Qaeda’s Shadow Army, or the Lashkar al Zil. The paramilitary force fields small units of conventional forces in both Afghanistan and Pakistan, and also embeds military trainers within Taliban units in both countries. These trainers provide instructions for battling security forces in local insurgencies as well as knowledge, expertise, funding, and resources to conduct local and international attacks.

The US government has slowly begun identifying Shadow Army commanders and operatives working in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The US Treasury Department added one such Pakistan-based trainer and commander of al Qaeda’s “paramilitary brigades” to the list of global terrorists just last week. And in August 2012, the US State Department added Azzam Abdullah Zureik Al Maulid Al Subhi, a Saudi better known as Mansur al Harbi, to the terrorism list. Al Harbi is said to work “at a training camp in Afghanistan and is tied to numerous senior al Qaeda leaders.” [For more information on this unit, see LWJ report, Al Qaeda’s paramilitary ‘Shadow Army,’ from February 2009.]

Al Qaeda in Nangarhar

Al Qaeda and allied Pakistani terror groups such as Lashkar-e-Taiba, Lashkar-e-Islam, the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, the Haqqani Network, 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, Nazyan, Pachir wa Agam, Sherzad, Shinwar, and Surkh Rod, or 14 of Nangarhar’s 22 districts.

ISAF has been reporting on the presence of al Qaeda’s network in Nangarhar province since April of 2007, when it announced the capture of five “al Qaeda associates” during a raid in the Chaparhar district. Although ISAF has conducted 32 raids against al Qaeda’s network in Nangarhar since 2007, the terror group has continued to maintain its operations there.

ISAF reports on al Qaeda’s network in Nangarhar often refer to the group’s operations on both sides of the Afghan-Pakistan border, as well as the group’s involvement in suicide operations. Additionally the reports frequently note the al Qaeda operatives’ alliances with the Haqqani Network, the Afghan and Pakistani Taliban, Lashkar-e-Taiba, and Hizb-i-Islami Khalis. The raids mentioned below are a sampling of the 32 reported raids against the al Qaeda/foreign fighter network in Nangarhar.

For instance, in November 2009, security forces killed several enemy fighters during an operation targeting an al Qaeda operative south of Jalalabad, the provincial capital. The al Qaeda operative was responsible for a “wide range of duties from Sharia interpretation to military training of militants,” according to ISAF.

In August 2010, a Taliban subcommander who facilitates the movement of “foreign fighters,” a term often used to describe members of al Qaeda, from Pakistan into Nangarhar province was targeted during an airstrike in Deh Bala district. An estimated 12 insurgents were killed during the operation, including Pakistani fighters from Waziristan, and Taliban fighters. Three months later, ISAF captured the top suicide operations facilitator for Nangarhar during an operation in Khogyani district. The suicide facilitator worked for al Qaeda, the Taliban, the Haqqani Network, and other insurgent groups, and moved suicide bombers into Afghanistan from Pakistan.

That same year, ISAF conducted two raids against Taliban commanders in Nangarhar who helped Lashkar-a-Taiba fighters enter the province to wage jihad. The Lashkar-a-Taiba is a Pakistan-based jihadist group, that, like the Haqqani Network, is backed by Pakistan’s military and its Inter-Sevices Intelligence Directorate. Lashkar-a-Taiba is closely allied to al Qaeda; in Afghanistan’s Kunar province, which borders Nangarhar, the two groups are known to conduct joint operations.

In March 2011, special operations forces targeted a Hizb-i Islami Khalis leader who is affiliated with al Qaeda and facilitates IED and suicide bomber attacks in Nangarhar’s Jalalabad district. That same month, a Haqqani Network leader working for the Taliban and al Qaeda was captured during an operation in the Chaparhar district. The leader commanded approximately 40-50 Taliban fighters within Nangarhar and was involved in the planning of assaults and suicide bombings in the province.

And in September 2011, ISAF killed Sabar Lal Melma, a key al Qaeda operative and former Guantanamo detainee, during an operation in Jalalabad district. Melma was responsible for attacks and financing insurgent activity in the Pech district in neighboring Kunar province, another al Qaeda haven. He was in contact with several senior al Qaeda members throughout Kunar and Pakistan.

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  • mike merlo says:

    why aren’t ‘we’ reading of more targeting & killing of the ‘Rank & File?’ Is the ‘targeting’ of ‘Rank & File’ taking place with the same level of enthusiasm & gusto which is being applied to ‘management & leadership?’ The targeting, capturing, wounding & killing of leadership is all well & good but to neglect the ‘Rank & File’ is both a gross miscalculation & error of judgement.

  • Nolan says:

    Nangarhar always makes me think of Dr. Amin al-Haq, who is from that particular province, and the fact that the Pakistanis released him in 2011 citing a lack of evidence and his supposed poor health. Due to the fact that he figured on the US 12 most wanted insurgents list back in 2007, I’m wondering if your sources indicate if he still plays any sort of significant role in anti-coalition actions or if he really has fallen off due to his health? Slightly off topic, but the words “al-Qaida facilitator” and “Nangarhar” made me think of him and the fact that he hasn’t been mentioned in nearly two years.
    Also, I have to think that ISAF was actively avoiding speaking the name of “Al-Qaida” over the past few months to shed light on the fact that other groups do in fact exist and operate against our forces in the region. Also, because the deadline for withdrawal is rapidly approaching, so some sort of victory must be seen in the public eye. While I can sometimes see the merits of such a method, the avoidance did seem to suggest a premature and inaccurate defeat of all things al-Qaida. I have to think that media coverage stemming from The Long War Journal helped to call them out on that particular strategy and now suddenly we are seeing multiple al-Qaida individuals being listed as targeted over the past two weeks. I think that’s an excellent reporting job on your part. Way to go keeping them honest!

  • Paul D says:

    Always our allies? Saudis and Pakistanis involved in the insurgency whether Iraq or Afghanistan.

  • Habib Malgeri says:

    Dear Bill,
    This is an important topic and had enough information from my home town (Jalalabad), one thing which I am not agree with and I noticed in the topic you have mentioned the Hizb-e Islami Khalis (HIK) responsible for the armed activities in Nangarhar along with the other groups of insurgencies. Based on my information the Hizb-e Islami Khalis is no more in war against the government, because the party has been divided into two groups after it became clear in 2006 that the founder of HIK Maulawi Mohammad Younis Khalis ( Fought Daud Khan in 1970s and the communist government in 1980s) died in Pakistan near the Afghan-Pakistan border in Kheyber agency though his prayer ceremony was kept by the party’s people in Farm-e Hada area of Bihsud district in Akhund Zada Sahib Mosque where a large explosion has disturbed the ceremony in 2006 it’s still not clear where he is buried. the HIK divided into two groups after a conflict between Khalis son and the deputy head of the Party.
    1, Hizb-e Islami Khalis (HIK): which is leading now by Haji Din Mohammad brother of Abdul Haqq and Haji Qadir. He has been the Deputy head of the party since 1980s. Responsible for all sort of activities in the party and was controlling everything. He became the governor of Nangarhar after his brother’s (Haji Qadir) assassination in 2002 in Kabul. and then the governor of the Kabul in 2004. Now he is an adviser minister for the president. so, we can say that HIK is not at the opposition of the Afghan government and as for as I know them the majority of them are now on the government side.
    2, Tora Bora Jahadi Mahaz (Front): This group which is leading now by Anwarul Haqq Mujahid is the only opposition group which has been parted from HIK and no more known as HIK. they are doing their activities under Islamic Emarat of Afghanistan (IEA). the group is active in Sherzad, Khogyani, Pachir Wa Agam, Chaparhar, Bihsud, and Bati Kot districts. The group has been linked by Haqqani Network to Pakistan ISI. Jalaludin Haqqani and Anwarul Haqq’s father (Khalis) were friends and in the beginning of 1980s Haqqani was the Military coordinator in HIK. But soon Khalis found that he was acting independently to meet Arabs and ISI he has been removed and placed by another man from the south by the name of Matiullah Khan who later killed in a fighting in Paktika province.
    I knew you know more about these people than me.
    I have few other points too to share but those need to write you on personal.

  • mike merlo says:

    thanks for the information


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