Afghan Taliban seek ‘to establish an Islamic state on earth’

In a propaganda video that promoted its Al Farouq Training Camp, the Taliban said that the ultimate goal of its jihad is “to establish an Islamic state on earth.” The Al Farouq camp is the latest training site publicized by the Taliban.

The video, entitled Ribat 1 and released on Voice of Jihad on Jan. 20, was produced by Tora Bora Jihadi Studio and the Multimedia Branch of the Cultural Commission of the Islamic Emirate. “Ribat” is defined as a base or fortress used to defend Islam.

The location of the Al Farouq camp was not disclosed by the Taliban; it could be located in either Afghanistan or Pakistan. The makeshift camp (there are no permanent structures seen in the video) is situated on a wooded hillside. An improvised range and obstacle course are shown during the course of the video.

The first half of the video is standard fare for Taliban training camp videos: an estimated 20 recruits are shown exercising and practicing with various weapons, including handguns, assault rifles, and machine guns. A group of 12 fighters are in what appears to be the camp uniform: a red keffiyeh, woodland camouflage uniforms, and new white high top sneakers.

The Taliban fighters are operating in the open in broad daylight, without fear of reprisal from US, Afghan, or Pakistani forces.

Taliban calls for a global Islamic state

The video is clearly geared toward a Western audience. Clips of the fighters training are subtitled with English-language captions such as The Training Madresa, The Center of Understanding Jihad, The School of Developing Minds, The Training Center of Mujahid Nation, Defending the Divine Way, and The Address of Jihadic Thinking.

The second half of the video features an unknown speaker who provides religious justification for jihad, which he calls a “holy obligation,” based on readings from the Koran. His entire speech is subtitled in English. The speaker then reaches out to “other Muslim brothers,” a clear reference to non-Afghans, to take part in jihad.

“We also have a responsibility to invite other Muslim brothers to take part in waging jihad with their blood and souls,” the Taliban speaker implores.

The Ribat 1 video, like a previous video entitled Real Men that also promoted a Taliban camp, contradicts many of the group’s public statements and claims that it  only seeks to liberate Afghanistan from Western occupation. In Real Men, the Taliban’s message clearly indicated that it is a fervent defender of Islam and part of the global jihad.

In Ribat 1, the Taliban could not be more explicit about its support of the global jihad. At one point, the speaker said the Taliban’s ultimate goal is the establishment of a global Islamic state.

“Our aim of all these struggles and effort is to establish an Islamic state on earth,” the speaker said.

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.

Jihadist training camps in Afghanistan

The Taliban has publicized at least 10 of its training camps since the end of 2014 (see list below). 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. Coalition forces have also raided Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan suicide training camps in Samagan and Sar-i-Pul.

Training camps promoted by the Taliban since Dec. 2014

Dec. 2014: The Taliban announced the existence of a training camp in Faryab province.
Dec. 2014:The Khalid bin Waleed camp in Kunar province.
June 2015: The Taliban touted its “special forces” training camp; the location was not disclosed.
Aug. 2015: Training Camp Shaheed Ustaz Aasim in the Lions Den, in Paktia province.
Sept. 2015 The Salahadin Ayyubi camp; the location was not disclosed.
July 2016: The Omar bin Khattab training camp in Kunduz.
Oct. 2016: Abdullah bin Mubarak Jihad Training Camp; the location was not disclosed.
Nov. 2015: The Khalid bin Walid Camp; the location was not disclosed. According to the Taliban, it has 12 “branches.”
Nov. 2015: The Abu Dujana Camp, in Sar-i-Pul province. It is one of 12 branch camps of the Khalid bin Walid Camp.
Jan. 2017: Al Farouq Training Camp; the location was not disclosed.

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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12 Comments

  • Mudassar Baig says:

    Wasn’t this obvious? Why else would they accept the allegiance of Al Qaeda. They have been very vocal about their aim to establish an Islamic state in Afghanistan. Lately they have also been very vocal about having accepted the allegiance of Al Qaeda which should complete the picture of their long term goal.
    They call their leader as Emir ul Mumineen which means the leaders of all muslims – not just Afghan muslims. How can the leader of all muslims have only local ambitions.

    • Bill Roggio says:

      Sadly it is not obvious to everyone… People in Washington and Europe still want to negotiate with the Taliban.

      • Shane Smith says:

        Bill, in your opinion should the Afghan Taliban be acknowledged as a terrorist organisation as opposed to an insurgent group? If they were to be listed would the fight against them be any different to what it is now? (that is, in my opinion, somewhat ineffective).

        • Bill Roggio says:

          Shane, I am a believer in calling things what they are. But only a policy shift would change the situation on the ground.

        • Hebob says:

          I actually wonder, though, whether a change in recognition would make it more possible for Afghans who have fled the country (I know many) due to threats against them, murders of family members, etc. to have improved options to remain in the more peaceful nations where they landed. Some of us have wondered why on earth they are treated so poorly vis a vis, for example, Syrians (in Europe), Eritreans etc. Of course case by case analysis is necessary, but with Iran and Pakistan sending hundreds of thousands of Afghans away, to become internally displaced, starving residents again of Afghanistan, it is worth asking: would this acknowledgment (I agree to call it what it is – I an currently trying to understand why it was ever an idea to negotiate with the Taliban) give asylumseekers who are already in other countries, with cases, some hope? I consider a lack of hope to be a risk, in some cases, for radicalization.

  • 1) The picture is neither static nor straightforward. Therefore I don’t think anything was/is as obvious with regards to all terrorist, militant and insurgent groups operating worldwide nowadays. They undergo an unparalleled, unprecedented paths and their modus operandi is based on continuous adaptation to changing circumstances. They keep evolving, and the driving force of this evolution is what they find about our vulnerabilities, through continuously testing and experimenting. We are largely ignorant of their testing and thinking, and we base our assumptions mostly ex-post, once they demonstrate their intentions, through statements or actions. Such a reactive position means that we are too late, at east to anticipate and prevent. 2) Situation with Taleban was complicated from the outset, and due to miscalculated strategic approaches to address the driving forces of the conflict in Afghanistan I am afraid we have missed the opportunity to engage them in a meaningful political process. They kept fighting on their own soil but also kept evolving in a competitive regional and global environment (with other jihadist movements and groups, for funding and other resources and support). As a result, we somehow failed to recognize the Taleban as part of the global jihadism—they serve it for quite some period as one major training facility. This is their function (perhaps, as agreed with other key players like al-Qaeda). To be recognized as a global jihadist movement it is not necessary to directing terrorist attacks elsewhere and claiming responsibility—offering technical support to perpetrators of those attacks already qualifies. 3) This poses hard questions to international community. The Afghan government is desperately seeking an agreement with the Taleban. The war has turned into perpetual confrontation, with the land changing hands continuously, while claiming thousands of lives and sucking billions of dollars on military campaigns and the maintenance of government. How to proceed in such a situation? Up until now, the international community has encouraged the talks between major political forces in Afghanistan; this was reflected in the last Afghanistan donor conference communiqué as well. However, the Taleban now openly claiming their belonging to global Jihadism changes everything. It is clear that the Government of Afghanistan is ready to make significant concessions to the Taleban. Moving their headquarters to Afghanistan and becoming a legitimate political power there, the Taleban gains high chances to win democratic elections, or at the very least to participate in power sharing. And what will happen with its ties with and commitments to the global Jihad organisations? If the Taleban ends the war and becomes part of political system (and influences the policies, if not directly runs the country) and at the same time shelters the jihadists and offers them training facilities and other resources, for perpetrating the attacks globally—then, one may ask, are not we back in square one of 2001? What then? This is a very real prospect of the developments, and without analyzing and assessing the possible strategic options no further steps shall be taken.

  • Aziz Mohammed SAKHIEZADA says:

    The Taliban are piece of a big pie, it was obvious that they wanted to establish Islamic state, eventually ISIK Islamic state of Khorasan will join and unite with same ideology and make the situation worse for the coalition forces to counter such threats they should seek regional cooperation such as China and Russia to get the more involved.

  • Wunduk says:

    Maybe this I a revival of Anwar al-Haqq s/o Yunis Khalis’ media operation. He had shut down the Tora Bora Front in 2015. In 2016 someone took it online again and they allegedly also pledged loyalty to the new amir al-muminin Mawlawi Hibatullah (btw itäs NOT Haibatullah – see //alemara1.org/?p=71495), so it would make sense to use pictures made in late high summer for that video from wherever along the Spin Ghar range they have their camp now in a media release for the Taliban. Yunus Khalis faction was always very global in outlook, Khalis was one of the original sponsors of OBL in Nangarhar, and his most reliable protector. Taliban central communications command includes this and the “Real Men” stuff to bolster its stance in any negotiations, showing off how awful they can be.

  • Arjuna says:

    Love the informed commentary, but anyone that talks about the Taliban without mentioning their trainers and sponsors, the ISI, in the same sentence is wasting their breath. Just like Iran owns Hezbollah, Pakistan owns these Cyclopean freaks. That the ISI was able to keep Mullah Omar’s death a secret from the world (CIA) is Exhibit A in how Uncle Sam allows himself to be hoodwinked by these murderous gangsters (PakMil). They (ISI) perfected the use of 6-8 kg. suicide vests as a strategic weapon. The entire world is under strain because these Svengali trainers are so good at making people blow themselves up. Every TB training camp has an ISI overseer. Bring PakMil to heel and the world will be a much safer place. Talk to their terror proxies (like State wanted to do) is just rewarding the generals’ bad behavior and giving the ISI/Pakistanis a beach-head in AFG.

  • RanaSahib says:

    Arjuna, your heavy bias against Pakistan is a credit to your Indian patriotism but, ironically, can hardly be considered the kind of informed commentary that so enamours you.

  • den says:

    Other than the lame excuse that Pakistan is nuclear, I have never understood how we became cow-towed ($$) to those idiots in the isi. Their allowing Taliban and al-Qaeda fighters to rest-up on their side, giving them shelter and re-arming capabilities is as good a reason as any to expand operations by our military well into their territory. War? Why not? The only way to defeat them is to go after them. It is an atrocity to our troops to put them under those engagement terms. Pakistani people should be more pro-active in ridding their country of these vermin as well as whomever in the isi is supporting them. Why would you allow such criminals refuge?

  • Tom B says:

    Isn’t Saudi Arabia an Islamic State on Earth? ThevTaliban can go there.

Iraq

Islamic state

Syria

Aqap

Al shabaab

Boko Haram

Isis