The US military launched a series of airstrikes on Taliban training camps located in Afghanistan’s remote northeastern province of Badakhshan, which borders Tajikistan. The camps were used by the East Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM) and other terrorist groups.
“Over the past 96 hours, US forces conducted air operations to strike Taliban training facilities in Badakhshan province, preventing the planning and rehearsal of terrorist acts near the border with China and Tajikistan by such organizations as the East Turkistan Islamic Movement and others,” Resolute Support announced in a press release.
According to Resolute Support, the airstrikes also “destroyed stolen Afghan National Army vehicles that were in the process of being converted to vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices.”
The strike took place in the district of Warduj, a US military officer told The Washington Post. FDD’s Long War Journal has assessed Warduj to be under Taliban control. The district has changed hands several times over the past 4 years. The presence of camps in the district is further evidence that the Taliban controls the district.
Badakhshan, once a peaceful province, has become a Taliban hotbed since the US withdrew the bulk of its forces after the troop surge ended in 2012. Of Badakhshan’s 28 districts, LWJ assesses three to be Taliban controlled and another nine to be contested.
The East Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM), which is also known as the East Turkistan Islamic Party, is an al Qaeda-affiliated jihadist group based in Afghanistan and Pakistan and operates throughout Central Asia.
ETIM’s emir has served on al Qaeda’s shura, and it has operated a training camp that was sponsored by Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda. After the Taliban lost control of Afghanistan in 2001, the ETIM established training camps in Pakistan. [See Turkistan Islamic Party leader criticizes the Islamic State’s ‘illegitimate’ caliphate.]
ETIM fighters have fought alongside the Taliban and other jihadist groups against Coalition and Afghan forces since the US first invaded Afghanistan in 2001.
The US has previously targeted ETIM leaders inside Pakistan in its drone campaign. In Aug. 2010, the US thought it killed Abdul Haq al Turkistani, the emir of the ETIM, in a drone strike in North Waziristan, Pakistan. Turkistani later re-emerged in a video in 2015, and said he was severely wounded in the 2010 drone strike. Abdul Haq issued another in 2016 that took al Qaeda’s side in its dispute with the Islamic State.
The US was also thought to have killed Emeti Yakuf (a.k.a. Abdul Shakoor Turkistani), in a drone strike in Pakistan in Aug. 2012. Yakuf took control of the ETIM as Turkistani was recovering from his injuries, and also took control of al Qaeda’s network in Pakistan’s tribal areas in 2010.