On Aug. 22, The Long War Journal noted that Afghan officials claimed that an International Security Assistance Force airstrike targeted and killed Qari Zia Rahman, the dual-hatted Taliban and al Qaeda commander who operates in northeastern Afghanistan.
LWJ inquired with ISAF to see if an airstrike was launched in the Marawana district of Kunar. We have received a response, confirming that a strike was indeed launched, but ISAF cannot confirm that he has been killed. From ISAF:
At this time, we can confirm two enemies of Afghanistan were killed in a precision strike in the Marawana district of Kunar on August 21. However, we cannot confirm that one of the individuals was Qari Zia Rahman.
Qari Zia has been on ISAF’s target list for at least four years; ISAF first announced it was pursuing him in July 2010.
As ISAF draws down and Afghan forces continue to pull back from remote areas of Kunar and Nuristan and actionable intelligence dwindles, al Qaeda leaders will be even more difficult to hunt down and kill. Qari Zia has operated in Afghanistan for four years while ISAF forces were at their peak (it certainly helps that he can cross the border into Pakistan at will when the pressure is on). And Qari Zia is by no means alone. Other al Qaeda leaders, such as Farouq al Qahtani and Azzam Abdullah Zureik Al Maulid Al Subhi, are known to run camps in eastern Afghanistan. Al Qaeda is by no means defeated in Afghanistan, despite claims to the contrary by the Obama administration and US military officials.
Kunar is seen by al Qaeda as hospitable. In 2010, Osama bin Laden recommended that key personnel be relocated there due to the impact of US drone strikes on top al Qaeda leaders.
Are you a dedicated reader of FDD's Long War Journal? Has our research benefitted you or your team over the years? Support our independent reporting and analysis today by considering a one-time or monthly donation. Thanks for reading! You can make a tax-deductible donation here.