Scores of Taliban recruits train at Abu Ubaidah bin Jarrah Training Camp

The Taliban promoted its “Abu Ubaidah bin Jarrah Training Camp” in a newly released propaganda video that was promoted on its official website. In the video, scores of new recruits train in the open without fear of reprisal from Coalition or Afghan forces. The Abu Ubaidah bin Jarrah Training Camp is part of what the Taliban claims is a network of facilities used to prepare its fighters to battle the Afghan government.

The video showed the group’s fighters in various stages of training, including marching, exercising and firing weapons. At the end of the video, the recruits celebrate after listening to a speech by a Taliban leader, whose face is distorted to hide his identity.

The camp is named after Abu Ubaidah bin Jarrah, who was one of the companions of the Prophet Mohammad as well as a military commander. The location of the camp was not disclosed, but it is situated in a mountainous area. The camp does not appear to be transitory; at the entrance, there is a fixed guard post with Taliban flags and banners waving.

While the Taliban claim the camp is in Afghanistan, it is possible it is located in Pakistan, where the Taliban operated unhindered. If it is located in Afghanistan, its existence further highlights the deteriorating security situation. If it is in Pakistan, then it highlights that country’s unwavering support for the Taliban.

The training camp appears to be designed to accommodate new recruits. In much of the video, the fighters are conducting drills with what appear to be wooden cutout AK47s. All of the recruits are equipped with new uniforms, which includes t-shirts emblazoned with the Taliban’s logo, elbow and knee pads, balaclavas, headbands and sneakers.

Jihadist training camps in Afghanistan

The Taliban has publicly flaunted at least 20 of its 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 2,000 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 also 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 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 in 2011.

Additionally, the US military has targeted training centers used by the Turkistan Islamic Party and the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan over the past several months. In Feb., the US military said it struck “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.”

In March, the US military hit the Ghazi Camp in Kunar province, which was used by the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, or TTP. The son of Mullah Fazlullah, the emir of the TTP, and two commanders, including the camp’s trainer of suicide bombers, were reportedly killed.

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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