Taliban video highlights recent raids in Zabul

A Taliban video highlights its operations in the southeastern Afghan province of Zabul less than six weeks ago. During these operations, the Taliban overran one district and targeted a series of bases and outposts in others.

The video, titled Al Fath Operation in Zabul, details some of its operations during late July and early August. Al Fath is the Taliban’s name for this year’s military offensive, which is designed to weaken the Afghan government as US forces prepare to withdraw.

The Taliban overran Mizan district center on July 30, while heavy fighting was reported in other districts. Afghan officials downplayed the extent of the fighting at the time, but the Taliban video tells a different story. [See LWJ report, Taliban storms district headquarters in Zabul province.]

In one scene (above), a large column of Taliban fighters mounted on motorcycles enters the Mizan district center and tours the base in broad daylight. The Taliban fighters, some who are communicating in the open on handheld radios, are not concerned about being targeted by Afghan or Coalition forces.

A large part of the district center is damaged or destroyed in the fighting, and numerous military vehicles are damaged beyond repair. Some appear to have been destroyed while fleeing the fighting.

Other videos show the Taliban fighters touring and looting smaller bases in other districts in Zabul. The Taliban claimed that the video shows its operations in “Zabul provincial capital [Qalat] along with Seyuri [Shinkai], Mizana, Shahr-e-Safa, Shomolzo and Shahjoi districts.”

In one scene, Taliban fighters loot a base that is situated along a main road; it appears to be the Ring Road, the main highway that passes through the capital of Qalat.

The Taliban has been pressing offensives in nearly all regions of Afghanistan. Over the past several months, the group has launched attacks on the northern provincial capitals of Kunduz City in Kunduz and Pul-i-Khurmi inBaghlan, and Farah City in Farah in the west.

Zabul province is a known haven for al Qaeda, which remains closely allied with the Taliban to this day. Al Qaeda is known to have operated a base in Mizan district. In Sept. 2016, the Afghan National Directorate of Security raided an al Qaeda encampment in the district. A recent report by the United Nations identified Zabul as one of three provinces “with the most significant numbers” of al Qaeda operatives present (the other two are Badakhshan and Kunar).

Al Qaeda has long viewed Zabul as friendly territory. While the US drone campaign that targeted and killed al Qaeda leaders and operatives in Pakistan heated up in 2009 and 2010, Osama bin Laden advised the group to relocate key commanders and family to the provinces of Nuristan, Kunar, Ghazni, and Zabul. [See FDD’s Long War Journal report, Bin Laden advised relocation of some leaders to Afghanistan due to drone strikes in Waziristan.]

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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