The man who served as Osama bin Laden’s security chief at the battle of Tora Bora triumphantly returned to his home in eastern Afghanistan today, less than two weeks after the country fell to the Taliban. The Al Qaeda commander was reportedly freed by Pakistan a decade ago.
Dr. Amin al Haq, the former head of bin Laden’s Black Guard, was captured on video in a large convoy as it traveled through a checkpoint in Nangarhar province. Haq was accompanied by a large convoy of heavily armed Taliban fighters in brand new SUVs. A small crowd flocked to Haq to shake his hand and take selfies with him.
The video of al Haq is evidence that Al Qaeda commanders now feel secure enough to appear publicly in a Taliban-controlled Afghanistan.
It was not immediately clear if al Haq was returning to his home in eastern Afghanistan for the first time, or if he has been in Afghanistan the entire time since being released from Pakistani custody. He may have also been traversing the porous border between Afghanistan and Pakistan. Either way, the confidence to travel and operate out in the open – in plain sight for the first time in a decade – speaks to the marked change in Afghanistan over the last month.
Al Qaeda leaders and fighters have been in Afghanistan supporting the Taliban’s insurgency for the past two decades. Pakistan’s cities and the tribal areas have served as safe havens for Al Qaeda over the past two decades.
From Tora Bora, to a Pakistani “prison,” to Nangarhar
Al Haq began his career as a jihadist as a member of the Hizb-i Islami Khalis (HIK), a faction of the Hizb-i-Islami group that was founded by Maulvi Mohammed Yunis Khalis, who was instrumental in welcoming Osama bin Laden to Afghanistan after Al Qaeda was ejected from Sudan in 1996.
As leader of the Black Guard, al Haq accompanied Osama bin Laden during the 2001 battle at Tora Bora in Nangarhar province. Al Haq helped the Al Qaeda emir and other senior Al Qaeda leaders escape the U.S. and Afghan militia assault on the cave complex and flee to Pakistan.
During renewed fighting at Tora Bora in the summer of 2007, which was led by Anwarul Haq Mujahid, the eldest son of Khalis, al Haq was reportedly wounded and fled across the border into Pakistan’s Kurram tribal agency. A large Taliban and Al Qaeda force, which is said to have included Arabs, Chechens, and Uzbeks, battled with Afghan and U.S. forces, raising speculation that bin Laden was in the area.
Al Haq was said to be detained by Pakistani security forces in the city of Lahore in 2008. Lahore is the home of Lashkar-e-Taiba, the Al Qaeda-allied, Pakistan-sponsored terror group that has significant infrastructure in the city. He was reportedly released in 2011, and he subsequently disappeared from public eye until he emerged in Nangarhar today.