The Taliban has released video of its “commandos” training at a camp purportedly located in Afghanistan. The video is the latest in a string of Taliban propaganda that shows its fighters in training exercises.
The video was produced by Manba’ Al-Jihad Media and a short clip of it (above) was published on Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid’s Twitter feed. The video bears the logo of Manba’ Al-Jihad Media, the main propaganda outlet for the Haqqani Network, an integral faction of the Taliban that is closely allied with al Qaeda and other foreign terrorist groups. Manba’ Al-Jihad Media was integrated into the Taliban’s propaganda apparatus years ago. Sirajuddin Haqqani, the head of the Haqqani Network, is the Taliban’s deputy emir. His father, Jalaluddin, who recently died, is featured in the video.
At least 70 “commandos” were shown during various stages of training, including marching and calisthenics. At one point, in a scene reminiscent of al Qaeda training videos from decades ago, the trainees jumped through a flaming hoop. The fighters were dressed in new uniforms and their faces were covered in white balaclavas.
The location of the camp was not disclosed, but the tweet indicates it is located in Afghanistan. The camp does appear to be transitory; no fixed buildings were shown and the Taliban fighters trained in a well-used opening surrounded by trees.
While the Taliban claimed the camp is in Afghanistan, it is possible it is located in Pakistan, where the Taliban operates 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.
Wherever the camp is located, it is clear that the Taliban are not concerned about coming under attack. Taliban flags were prominently displayed throughout the training area, including on seven vehicles that are parked in an orderly fashion.
Background on 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.
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