Uzbek jihadist group congratulates Taliban for ‘victory’ in Afghanistan

Katibat Imam al Bukhari (KIB), an Uzbek jihadist group that operates in both Afghanistan and Syria, has sent a congratulation letter to the Taliban for its recent deal with the United States. The jihadist group declares this as a ‘victory’ for the Taliban.

The letter is dated Feb. 29 and is penned by Abu Yusuf al Muhajir, the leader of KIB’s Syrian wing.

Abu Yusuf begins by saying that “the US and NATO forces, who claim to be divinely human and claim divinity on earth…are despised, degraded, and [have] recognized the defeat of their crusade.”

Muhajir continues by saying that the “Americans considered them [the Taliban] naive and helpless, but they are powerful by the promise of God.” The jihadist leader then turns to extol the Taliban and its former leader, Mullah Muhammad Omar.

“Let us remember some of the milestones and successes of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan [the Taliban],” al Muhajir says. “Mullah Omar did not hesitate at all when he received the news that America had attacked Afghanistan.”

The jihadist commander then cites Mullah Omar’s famous quote “God has promised us victory and America has promised us defeat, so we shall see which of the two promises will be fulfilled.”

Discussing the bombing of Afghanistan and the arrests of several Taliban leaders, Muhajir chides the United States that this “did not stop the implementation of Sharia.” Indeed, he goes on to extol the Taliban for “not bending” to US forces.

Muhajir ends the letter by congratulating the Ummah [worldwide Islamic community] for the Taliban’s ‘victory’ before signing the letter as “Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan – Katibat Imam al Bukhari.”

The group, which publicly swore allegiance to the Taliban in 2014, has openly identified itself as part of the Taliban’s claimed state since 2018.

Background on Katibat Imam al Bukhari

Prior to Muhajir, KIB in Syria was led by Salahadin al Uzbeki until his death in early 2017.

According to RFE/RL, Uzbeki was a veteran of the jihad in Afghanistan who was sent to Syria by the Taliban and Sirajuddin Haqqani, one of the Taliban’s top deputies and leader of the powerful al Qaeda-linked Haqqani Network.

Inside Syria, KIB has operated alongside several al Qaeda-affiliated groups in several major battles. This includes the spring 2015 offensive that captured large swaths of Idlib province and summer offensives in Aleppo and Latakia in 2016.

It is also currently taking part in the battles in Idlib alongside jihadists in Hay’at Tahrir al Sham, the Turkistan Islamic Party, and the Incite the Believers operations room. Just last week, it claimed its men recaptured a small village near Saraqeb from regime forces.

Since 2016, KIB has sporadically detailed its Afghanistan branch. These videos have shown both training camps and combat footage against Afghan forces.

KIB mainly operates in northern Afghanistan, specifically Faryab, and other Uzbek-dominated areas. It has not documented its activities in Afghanistan since October 2019.

Both the United States and the United Nations have designated the group as a terrorist organization affiliated with al Qaeda. In the UN’s designation, it noted that “KIB leaders view Afghanistan as a new staging ground to project attacks against neighboring Central Asia countries.”

The UN’s designation additionally finds that KIB started moving fighters from Syria to Afghanistan in 2016, which correlates to when the group began publicly advertising its presence in the country.

KIB is close to other al Qaeda-affiliated Central Asian outfits in Afghanistan, such as the Islamic Jihad Union, the Turkistan Islamic Party, and Jamaat Ansarullah. All three are heavily integrated into the Taliban’s forces.

Caleb Weiss is an editor of FDD's Long War Journal and a senior analyst at the Bridgeway Foundation, where he focuses on the spread of the Islamic State in Central Africa.

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