ISAF confirms airstrike in Kunar

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.

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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  • Nic says:

    “Al Qaeda is by no means defeated in Afghanistan as Obama administration and US military officials claim.” Al Qaeda has two options. The first option, a rather aggressive option, would be to wait until the U. S. presence is very small, just as the last troops to leave are still “in country” and then start a massive offensive to create the appearance that Al Qaeda expelled the U. S. The second option, the wiser of the two, would be to wait until the day after the U. S. is gone and then start a major offensive, a combined effort of the Taliban and Al Qaeda. Since the Taliban can infiltrate Kabul, a large number of “sleepers” in the Afghan Army can be activated to assist with the offensive.

  • Ghost Soldier says:

    You’re starting to reflect political bias in your reporting. No one in the Obama Administration has stated that ‘Al Qaeda is defeated in Afghanistan.’
    I get the point you’re making- that the administration is out in front of itself on making AQ out to be on the ropes. But that statement you made in the final paragraph is patently false.

  • Bill Roggio says:

    Ghost Soldier,
    I don’t do politics. I think you can see here, that I think the Bush administration made the exact same error the Obama administration is making by checking names off of a list:
    I could point to numerous statements where administration officials have said things like all they need to do is kill Zawahiri and Abu Yahya al Libi, and al Qaeda is finished in Af-Pak, or that we should wind down the mission because al Qaeda presence is insignificant. I’ve documented this over the years. Lara Logan has also tilted agains this narrative as well.
    If that makes me political, then the word has no meaning.

  • Ghost Soldier says:

    I get that what you mean in referencing public statements. But you know as well as I that no one in the administration, the military, or the intelligence community truly believes that’s it’s as simple as knocking off al-Zawahiri and al-Libi.
    Anyone who has done anything related to eastern Afghanistan and western Pakistan knows that there is no ‘defeat of AQ’ imminent. My point is that beating the dead horse of ‘they said they would be AQ’ is a political comment. Let’s be intellectually honest.
    I’m not accusing you of taking either side of the political divide’s argument in this debate. Like you, I feel that AQ may have metastasized into something even more dangerous.

  • JRP says:

    The real “head in the sand” approach that’s taken hold when it comes to Al Qaeda and the Taliban is ignoring the threat of nuclear weapons acquisition by these terrorist groups. I’d love to think I’m wrong on this; that, in reality, our Government has some super-secret fool-proof plan to prevent terrorists from getting hold of nuclear weapons. Alas, my fears are probably justified. Historically, the U.S. always gets caught with its pants down. We took a heck of a beating in the beginning of WWII, Korea, and on 9-11, before we got things turned around. But nuclear weapons is a game changer. Assuming I’m around to read the history, I really don’t want to read 10 years from now how, after D.C. and NYC were nuked, the U.S. rallied and finally won the final victory against World-wide Terrorism. Pyrrhic victories are not my thing.


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