German captured while fighting with Taliban’s Red Unit

Abdul Wadood, the German citizen said to serve as military adviser to leader of Taliban’s Red Group (TOLONews)

The Afghan military said it captured a German citizen who was fighting in Helmand province and belonged to the Taliban’s Red Unit, which the terrorist group fancies as an elite unit that spearheads attacks on Afghan forces.

The German national, who goes by the name Abdul Wadood, was captured along with two other Taliban fighters during a raid in the Gereshk distirct in the southern province of Helmand on Feb. 27, Afghanistan’s Ministry of Defense told reporters. Five Taliban fighters were also killed during the raid in Gereshk, which was described by Afghan officials as “an insurgent safe haven,” TOLONews reported.

Wadood was “the military adviser of Mullah Nasir,” who was described as the commander of the Taliban’s Red Unit (also known as the Red Group or the Blood Unit) in Helmand province, according to ATN News.

The US military claimed it killed the head of the Taliban’s Red Unit during a strike in Helmand on Dec. 1, 2017. The US military identified the leader of the Red Unit in Helmand as Mullah Shah Wali, who was also known as Haji Nasir.

The presence of a German in the ranks of the Taliban should come as no surprise. The Taliban has worked closely with foreign jihadist groups, including al Qaeda, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, and the Islamic Jihad Union. German jihadists are known to have served with all three groups.

Perhaps the most prominent German to have served with al Qaeda in Afghanistan is Bekkay Harrach, who served as both a senior member of al Qaeda’s external operations branch and as a leader in the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan before his death in an assault on a US air base in Afghanistan in 2010. Harrach carried out the attack on Bagram along with the Taliban. One of the multitude of documents seized during the raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, detailed Harrach’s role and importance to al Qaeda as well as his cooperation with the Taliban’s Haqqani Network during the raid on Bagram.

Other prominent Germans known to have operated in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region include the two Mounir brothers, Yassin and Mounnir.

Background on the Red Unit

The Red Unit, which is the Taliban’s version of special forces, operates throughout Afghanistan and is often at the tip of the spear of assaults on district centers, military bases and outposts. The Red Unit operates more like shock troops rather than traditional Western special forces.

Afghan military officials confirmed the existence of a Taliban “Special Forces Unit,” also called the Red Group or Danger Group, in the summer of 2016. An Afghan Army special forces commander said the group uses “advanced weaponry, including night vision scopes, 82mm rockets, heavy machine guns and US-made assault rifles.”

The Taliban has touted the existence of “special forces,” and has promoted its training camps as well as units in the field.

While the Taliban’s Red Unit certainly isn’t trained to the same standards and proficiency as US special operations forces, it has proven to be effective on the battlefield against its Afghan adversaries.

In Helmand, where the Red Unit has been very active, the Taliban currently controls six of the province’s 14 districts (Baghran, Dishu, Khanashin, Now Zad, Musa Qala, and Sangin) and contests another six, including the provincial capital (Lashkar Gah, Nahr-i-Sarraj, Kajaki, Nad Ali, Marjah, and Garmsir), according to data compiled by FDD’s Long War Journal.

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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