Over the weekend, Afghan and Coalition forces targeted a “senior extremist leader” with ties to both the Taliban and the al Qaeda-linked Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU). This is the first operation targeting an insurgent in Afghanistan with ties to the IMU in nearly a month and the 29th this year, according to a Long War Journal study.
The joint Afghan-Coalition special operations team conducted a search for the senior leader on June 8 in the Sar-i-Pul district of the northern Afghanistan province of Sar-i-Pul. The International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) described the target as follows:
The senior leader is the ranking Taliban official in the Sherams region of Sar-i-Pul district and is responsible for multiple attacks targeting Afghan and coalition forces. He facilitates the movement of improvised explosive device materials and has command and control of several Taliban groups. He also plans assassinations and kidnappings and illegally taxes civilians in the area.
Two fighters were killed by the special operations team as it approached the believed location of the insurgent leader, but ISAF did not disclose if he was one of those killed. ISAF also could not identify the target’s nationality or elaborate more on the nature of his IMU ties.
This is the first operation against the IMU in Sar-i-Pul province in 2013. Sar-e Pul has been a relatively peaceful province, with ISAF conducting only two operations in the province this year. The last reported operation targeting insurgents with links to the IMU or foreign fighters occurred in April 2011. However, the Bakhtar News Agency reported on June 7 that one person was killed and 13 others injured when a restaurant was bombed in the province. The June 8 operation may have been undertaken in response to that blast.
ISAF efforts against the IMU this year were running at the highest rate since the start of the war, but recently operations against the terror group have slowed. The last reported raids against the IMU occurred on May 12, when two IMU commanders were arrested during two separate operations in the Burkah district of Baghlan province. Baghlan has been the epicenter of ISAF efforts against the group this year, with 14 operations conducted in the province so far this year.