US adds Taliban leader linked to ‘groups of Arab fighters’ to terrorism list

The US Treasury Department added Torek Agha, a senior Taliban leader linked to “groups of Arab fighters” and a key fundraiser, to its list of Specially Designated Global Terrorists. In today’s designation, Adam Szubin, Acting Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, described Agha as “a long-standing Taliban member [who] has been central to spearheading brutal military attacks and raising millions of dollars to support the Taliban’s ruthless acts of terrorism.”

Treasury stated that as of late 2014, Agha “served on the Taliban’s Quetta Shura, a regional leadership body that directs Taliban activities in southern and western Afghanistan.” It is unclear if Treasury is referring to the Taliban central leadership council, which is known as the Quetta Shura, or the Quetta Regional Military Shura, one of the Taliban’s four regional military councils. It appears that Treasury is referring to the Quetta Regional Military Shura, as it directs operations in southern and western Afghanistan.

Agha also is “a member of a group responsible for the Taliban leadership’s strategic planning and logistics operations, while also functioning as a key commander and member of the Taliban’s military council,” Treasury stated. “This council is responsible for both overseeing Taliban operations and approving appointments of Taliban military leadership, and it also plays a role in the allocation of funds for Taliban operations.”

The Taliban, in a biography of Mullah Omar, described the military council as the “largest” and most important organization with in the group. It “consists of nine sub-circles” and is “responsible for appointing governors or military in-charges for all 34 provinces of Afghanistan, military in-charges of all districts, setting up sub-commissions which are subsequently responsible for all military and civil affairs of their respective provinces and districts.”

Treasury also indirectly linked Agha to al Qaeda. The agency said that he was “one of the main links between the Taliban leadership and the groups of Arab fighters arriving in both Pakistan and Afghanistan to fight coalition forces.” The vast majority of Arab fighters entering Afghanistan and Pakistan operate under the aegis of al Qaeda, which in turn supports the Taliban.

Al Qaeda and the Taliban have ties that span decades. Osama bin Laden, al Qaeda’s founder and first emir, swore allegiance to Mullah Omar. And Ayman al Zawahiri, the current emir of al Qaeda, has sworn allegiance to Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansour, the new leader of the Taliban. Mansour, in return, accepted Zawahiri’s pledge of fealty.

Additionally, Treasury said that Agha “was one of four senior Taliban commanders who, as of early 2012, had authorized the use of an unidentified chemical powder to assassinate senior Afghan government officials.”

Jihadist fundraiser

In addition to his military duties, Agha has been able to tap into the network of wealthy donors in the Persian Gulf. Treasury described Agha as “a prolific fundraiser, funneling millions from the Gulf to Taliban coffers.” In the years 2009 and 2010, Agha collected $9.6 million from Gulf based donors; some of the funds he raised “were held in Pakistani banks under the control of the Taliban’s head treasurer.”

Nearly $4 million of the money collected by Agha was transferred to Gul Agha Ishakzai, a senior Taliban leader who was listed as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist in 2010. Ishakzai “is the head of the Taliban’s financial commission and is part of a recently-created Taliban council that coordinates the collection of zakat [an Islamic tax] from Baluchistan Province, Pakistan,” Treasury stated in its designation. Ishakzai was an adviser to Mullah Omar, and “facilitated the movement of people and goods to Taliban training camps in Iran.”

Agha traveled to Saudi Arabia and “other Arab countries” to collect funds for the Taliban in 2010 and 2011. Sometimes, donors gave instructions for the use of their donations. For instance, in 2012, he “received a donation from an unidentified Arab donor with instructions to pass the money to the Taliban’s shadow provincial governor of Uruzgan for assassination operations.”

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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