Footage from the Taliban’s Salahadin Ayyubi training camp shows well armed militants with new Hilux trucks – Clip from “Real Men 2” video. pic.twitter.com/NXU6t7eyZQ
— Long War Journal (@LongWarJournal) September 28, 2017
Taliban fighters boasted that they would “play with the skulls” of dead American soldiers and promised that Afghanistan will remain “the land of Islam and Jihad.” The fighters made the statements in a newly released Taliban propaganda video that promotes a training camp named after one of their leaders who was captured by Afghan forces two years ago.
The video, which is titled ‘Real Men 2’ and was published on Sept. 28, was produced by Manba al Jihad Studio, “an official media wing of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan Commission for Cultural Affairs Audio and Visual Sector” according to the accompanying statement announcing the release of the video. Manba al Jihad Studio is also the media wing of the Haqqani Network, a powerful and important faction within the Taliban. The Taliban published the video in four languages: English, Pashto, Dari, and Arabic.
The video highlighted the Salahadin Ayyubi training camp. The location of the camp was not disclosed, however, it is likely in eastern Afghanistan, where the Haqqanis are known to operate, or in North Waziristan, Pakistan, where the network also maintains a headquarters. The Haqqanis are one of many Taliban factions that receive direct support and safe haven from the Pakistani government.
The Salahadin Ayyubi camp, which is named after the famous Muslim commander in the Crusades, does not appear to have any permanent structures, but is transitory. The location of the camp does appear to be well used, however. The Taliban previously promoted training at this camp in a video released in Sept. 2015.
In the video, dozens of fighters were shown undergoing various physical training exercises before partaking in weapons drills. The weapons used include AK-47 assault rifles, machine guns, rocket-propelled grenades and hand grenades. Large, white Taliban flags flew in broad daylight and vehicles were parked in the open as the fighters trained without fear of being targeted.
The Taliban fighters appeared to be well equipped, with new uniforms and sneakers, chest rigs and weapons. One fighter who was interviewed sported a baseball cap with the shahada, which is used on the Taliban’s flag, emblazoned on it. All of the Taliban fighters and their trainers covered their faces.
During the video, several fighters were interviewed. All rejected the Afghan government and called for continuing the fight against Western forces and their Afghan counterparts.
“The brave and Mujahid nation of Afghanistan rejects disbelief, apostasy, democracy, and slavery!” one fighter said. “Last half century proves that this land was and will be the land of Islam and Jihad.”
Another fighter called for President Trump to withdraw US forces and threatens to mutilate and desecrate the bodies of dead American soldiers.
“With the permission of Allah we will play with your skulls,” the fighter threatened.
Another fighter warns that “we will play with the skulls of your soldiers.”
Jihadist training camps in Afghanistan
The Taliban has publicized at least 16 training camps since the end of 2014. In late 2015, the Taliban announced that its Khalid bin Walid Camp operated 12 satellite facilities throughout Afghanistan, and had the capacity to “train up to 2000 recruits at a single time.” Additionally, it said the Khalid bin Walid Camp “trains recruits in eight provinces (Helmand, Kandahar, Ghazni, Ghor, Saripul, Faryab, Farah and Maidan Wardak) and “has around 300 military trainers and scholars.”
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.
Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD’s Long War Journal.