Coalition and Afghan special operations forces captured an
al Qaeda-linked Taliban commander in Ghazni and killed another in Kunar during
raids over the past 24 hours. Both commanders were targeted in areas that have
emerged as havens for al Qaeda.
In Kunar, special operations forces killed Mutaqi, an
"al Qaeda associated Taliban leader in the province" and several
other "insurgents" in another airstrike in the Watahpur district, the
International Security Assistance Force stated in a press release.
Mutaqi, who was also known as Mullah Amir Muhammad or Malik,
"was responsible for passing critical information between the senior al
Qaeda associated Taliban leaders in Kunar province." He was also responsible
for planning suicide attacks in eastern Afghanistan.
Over the past five days, there have been three airstrikes in
the Watahpur district targeting senior al Qaeda leaders. An Aug. 18 airstrike
in Watahpur killed a Taliban commander, four Pakistanis, and two Arabs [see LWJ
report, Al Qaeda-linked Taliban commander killed in recent airstrike in Kunar].
And on Aug. 17, an "al Qaeda associated Taliban leader" named Yasir
was one of "several" insurgents killed in an airstrike in the
In Ghazni, the combined special operations forces captured
an "al Qaeda-associated Taliban insurgent" during a raid today in the
Gelan district, ISAF said. One other "insurgent" was captured during
the raid, and material to build bombs was also seized.
The al Qaeda-associated Taliban commander was described as
an "attack coordinator" who "assisted in the movement of al
Qaeda fighters throughout the region and conducted attacks against Afghan and
Coalition forces." He was "attempting to acquire explosives for future
attack" before he was captured.
Today's raid is the third targeting al Qaeda's network in
Gelan over the past three weeks. While not stated, the commander was likely the
same insurgent leader who was targeted on Aug. 12 in Gelan [see LWJ report, Al
Qaeda-linked insurgent targeted in Ghazni raid]. Additionally, an al
Qaeda-linked commander who plans attacks throughout Ghazni was targeted in the
district in late July [see LWJ report, ISAF targets al Qaeda-linked leader in
Al Qaeda presence is pervasive in Afghanistan
While ISAF and the US government have characterized al
Qaeda's presence in Afghanistan as being confined to the remote northeast
provinces of Kunar and Nuristan, ISAF's own press releases identifying raids
against al Qaeda present an even starker picture. ISAF has conducted raids
against al Qaeda leaders and associates in Balkh, Farah, Ghazni, Helmand,
Kandahar, Khost, Kunar, Kunduz, Laghman, Logar, Nangarhar, Paktia, Paktika,
Sar-i-Pul, Takhar, Wardak, and Zabul, or 17 of Afghanistan's 34 provinces. Many
of these raids have taken place over the past two years.
Al Qaeda and allied terror groups, such as the
Lashkar-e-Taiba, the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, the Islamic Movement
of Uzbekistan, and the Islamic Jihad Union, maintain an extensive reach in
Afghanistan. This is documented in the body of press releases issued in recent
years by ISAF. Looking at press releases dating back to March 2007, The Long
War Journal has been able to detect the presence of al Qaeda and affiliated
groups such as the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan in 114 different districts in
25 of Afghanistan's 34 provinces.
Kunar and Ghazni provinces are known al Qaeda havens. Since
the end of May, five al Qaeda leaders and two Lashkar-e-Taiba leaders have been
killed in airstrikes in Watahpur alone [see LWJ report, ISAF kills Taliban
district governor, 'dozens' of fighters in Kunar airstrikes, for more details].
Ghazni has also served as a traditional haven for al Qaeda as well [see LWJ report,
Al Qaeda-linked insurgent targeted in Ghazni raid, for more information on al
Qaeda activity in Ghazni province].
Osama bin Laden mentioned that both Kunar and Ghazni
provinces are ideal fallback positions for al Qaeda operatives seeking to
escape the US drone strikes in North and South Waziristan, according to one of
the documents seized from his compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan and released to
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