The Taliban’s military offensives in northern and southern Afghanistan, particularly in Kunduz, Baghlan, and Helmand provinces, have been backed by an unprecedented media campaign. While the Taliban regularly touts operations throughout Afghanistan, the group recently released a slickly produced video that highlights its “Abdullah ibn Mubarak Jihad Training Camp.” The video, which is produced in multiple languages, including English, is titled “Real Men,” and is geared to encourage Muslims from all countries to wage jihad.
The 19-minute long video was produced by Manba al Jihad Media for the Taliban’s “Commission for Cultural Affairs, Audio and Visual Sector.” The video was publicized on the Twitter feed of Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid.
Manba al Jihad Media is the propaganda arm of the Haqqani Network, the Taliban subgroup closely allied with al Qaeda. The Haqqani Network’s operational leader, Sirajuddin Haqqani, serves as one of two deputy emirs for the Taliban as well as head of the group’s military branch.
Manba al Jihad Studio has released other Haqqani Network productions on Voice of Jihad in the past, including a video of a Haqqani training camp in 2011, another that detailed the 2012 suicide assault on Forward Operating Base Salerno, the confirmation of the death of Badruddin Haqqani in 2013, and the “Caravan of Heroes” videos in 2015.
The Taliban’s latest “Real Men” video contradicts many of the group’s public statements and claims to only seeks to liberate Afghanistan from occupation. Instead, this production makes it clear that the Taliban views itself as a fervent defender of Islam and part of the global jihad. This should come as no surprise as the Taliban has often revealed its close relation to global jihadist groups, such as when it publicly accepted a pledge of allegiance from al Qaeda’s emir, Ayman al Zawahiri.
At the beginning of the video, the Taliban narrator attacks the US, Western countries and the Afghan government for assailing the Taliban’s values by promoting democracy, elections, women’s rights, homosexuality and immorality, through various means such as the internet, TV, radio, and cultural programs.
The narrator then states that Muslims across the world have seen through these “conspiracies” and are seeking to wage jihad. The footage of the camp is designed to “encourage Muslim youth” to wage jihad.
“Many youth among the Muslim Ummah [global community] having realized conspiracies of the enemies leaves the life of comfort and rushes towards the training camps of the mujahideen to get trained,” the narrator says.
“Thus we are presenting our honorable viewers with the training activities of some of the mujahideen from one of their training camps with the hope that this will encourage Muslim youth in defending their religion, Muslim lands, and we would have performed some of our religious duties,” he continues.
The Taliban then shows footage of dozens of its fighters training at its Abdullah ibn Mubarak Jihad Training Camp. The location of the camp is not disclosed. As the footage is shown, several Taliban luminaries and unnamed fighters give speeches.
A slain jihadist ideologue known as Ustad Ahmad Zahir justifies terrorism and notes that it is “part of Islam.”
“Terrorism means terrorizing. This is to cast horror and fear in the heart of the enemy. Terrorism is part of Islam and therefore whoever denies it is not from it,” Zahir says. “You must be prepared in order to cast horror in the heart of the enemies of Allah.”
An unnamed fighter says that the Taliban is training its recruits to “dominate Islam” and they are prepared to attack outside of Afghanistan.
“We are getting trained today in order to dominate Islam,” unnamed fighter says. “We will follow you in your homes, in your capitals and in your countries. We have made our intentions and we are clearly seeing our goal that Islam will dominate. Today we are preparing, hoping that Islam will dominate.”
Jihadist training camps in Afghanistan
The Taliban has publicized several training camps in Afghanistan in recent years. In Dec. 2014, the Taliban showcased a training camp in the Jawzjan district of Faryab Province. In Jan. 2015, it highlighted a training camp in Kunar. Last June, the jihadist group advertised a “special forces” training camp somewhere in Afghanistan. Two months later, a training camp in the Zurmat district of Paktia Province was touted online. In Sept. 2016, the Haqqani Network, a powerful subgroup of the Taliban, released a video from its Salahadin Ayyubi camp someplace in eastern Afghanistan. And in July 2016, the Taliban promoted the Omar ibn Khattab Training Camp, which is thought to be located in Kunduz province.
Other jihadist groups, including al Qaeda, are known to operate camps inside Afghanistan. In 2015, the US raided an al Qaeda camp in Bermal district in Paktika, and two others in the Shorabak district in Kandahar province. The outgoing commander of US forces in Afghanistan, General John Campbell, said that one of the camps in Shorabak was the largest in Afghanistan since the US invaded in 2001. Al Qaeda has also operated camps in Kunar and Nuristan.
Harakat-ul-Mujahideen a Pakistani jihadist group that is closely allied with al Qaeda,“operates terrorist training camps in eastern Afghanistan,” the US government stated in 2014. The Turkistan Islamic Party, the Islamic Jihad Union, and the Imam Bukhari Jamaat, an Uzbek jihadist group that operates in both Syria and Afghanistan, have all claimed to operate camps inside Afghanistan.
Screen shots from the “Real Men” video:
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