Uzbek jihadist group claims capture of Afghan militiamen

Photo released by Katibat Imam al-Bukhari’s Afghanistan branch today.
Earlier today, the Uzbek jihadist group, Katibat Imam al-Bukhari (KIB), released two photos from its Afghanistan branch. The photos detail the capture of several pro-government Afghan militiamen after a claimed joint attack with Taliban soldiers.Though claiming the operation took place yesterday, the jihadist group did not specify where the raid took place. However, KIB is known to operate in Faryab and Jowzjan, where ethnic Uzbeks constitute a large portion of the population.
The United Nations has also confirmed that KIB operates in Faryab alongside local Taliban forces.
A statement previously released by the Taliban also appears to largely confirm KIB’s statement. Yesterday, the Taliban said that “3 arbakis [pro-government tribal militiamen] surrendered in Gurziwan,” a district of Faryab. Though as shown above, KIB’s photo indicates that five militiamen were captured.
Since 2016, KIB has sporadically released propaganda from its Afghanistan wing. That year, the group released two videos from the northern part of the country depicting training camps for both general indoctrination and lessons on the manufacturing of IED’s, along with combat footage.
The promotion of its Afghanistan activities that year correlates to when fighters from its Syrian wing began redeploying to Afghanistan, as confirmed by the United Nations.
Since then, other releases have focused on combat footage or captured weapons from Afghan forces. Smaller sporadic attacks, such as sniper operations, have also been claimed.
Since 2018, KIB has openly identified itself as part of the Afghan Taliban as it refers to itself as the “Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan – Katibat Imam al Bukhari,” a link to the official name used by the Taliban.
Further showing the group’s support to the Taliban, KIB’s Syrian wing congratulated the group for its “victory” inside Afghanistan following the announcement of a deal between the Taliban and the United States.
Inside Syria, KIB’s local branch has played a prominent role fighting alongside various al-Qaeda-linked groups since 2014.
Prior to his death in 2017, RFE/RL confirmed that the Syrian wing was led by 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.
In March 2018, the US State Department added KIB to its list of specially designated global terrorist organizations. State’s designation notes KIB’s close ties to various al-Qaeda groups inside Syria. It played a prominent role in the takeover of Idlib in 2015.
Much like KIB’s Afghanistan wing, its Syrian branch also swears allegiance to Mullah Akhundzada and the Afghan Taliban.
As the Taliban routinely claims that al-Qaeda and other foreign jihadist groups do not operate inside Afghanistan, foreign jihadist groups continue to claim operations inside the country undercutting the Taliban’s lie.
Caleb Weiss is a contributor to FDD’s Long War Journal.
Are you a dedicated reader of FDD’s Long War Journal? Has our research benefitted you or your team over the years? Support our independent reporting and analysis today by considering a one-time or monthly donation. Thanks for reading! You can make a tax-deductible donation here.
Tags: Afghanistan, Imam Bukhari Jamaat, Katibat Imam al Bukhari, Katibat Imam al Bukhari (KIB), KIB, Taliban

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Taliban again denies Al Qaeda is in Afghanistan

In an effort to keep up the facade of a ‘peace’ deal with the U.S. government, the Taliban has yet again denied that Al Qaeda has a presence in Afghanistan. This time, the group refuted a Department of Defense report that Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS) cooperates with the Taliban by claiming AQIS isn’t inside the country.
The Pentagon report, Enhancing Security and Stability In Afghanistan June 2020, included canned language about Al Qaeda that mirrors previous reports. The Pentagon minimized Al Qaeda’s threat to U.S. personnel in Afghanistan, while the ties between the Taliban and Al Qaeda were downplayed. The report claimed that AQIS only “supports and works with low-level Taliban members.”

Al-Qa’ida poses a limited threat to U.S. personnel and our partners in Afghanistan. Al-Qa’ida’s regional affiliate—al-Qa’ida in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS)—poses the greatest threat to those elements. AQIS routinely supports and works with low-level Taliban members in its efforts to undermine the Afghan Government, and maintains an enduring interest in attacking U.S. forces and Western targets in the region. Additionally, AQIS assists local Taliban in some attacks, according to al-Qa’ida statements.
The few remaining al-Qa’ida Core members focus largely on survival, while delegating leadership of AQ’s regional presence to AQIS leaders. AQ, including through AQIS, continues to work toward its stated goals of freeing occupied Muslim lands, establishing an Islamic caliphate, and implementing Shar’ia law. AQIS’s interest in attacking U.S. forces and other Western targets in Afghanistan and the region persists, but continuing Coalition CT pressure has reduced AQIS’s ability to conduct operations in Afghanistan without the support of the Taliban. AQIS likely poses a low threat to Afghan and U.S. entities in Afghanistan. Despite recent progress in the peace process, AQIS maintains close ties to the Taliban in Afghanistan, likely for protection and training
Enhancing Security and Stability In Afghanistan June 2020, Page 28
The Pentagon’s claim that only low level Taliban commanders work with AQIS is false. This was proven when the U.S. military killed Asim Umar in an airstrike in the Taliban stronghold of Musa Qala in Helmand province, Afghanistan on Sept. 23, 2019. Umar was killed alongside the Taliban’s military commander for Musa Qala, as well as Umar’s courier to Al Qaeda emir Ayman al Zawahiri.
The U.S. Department of Defense suppressed a press release that would have announced the death of Asim Umar, the emir of Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent, because it “would complicate future negotiations with the Taliban,” military officials have told FDD’s Long War Journal.
Additionally, the U.S. military believes that Zawahiri is based in eastern Afghanistan. General Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr., the commander of U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) said in mid-June that Zawahiri is based there. Zawahiri could not shelter in Afghanistan without the support of the Taliban and its senior leaders.
Taliban claims AQIS is not in Afghanistan
The Taliban responded to the latest Pentagon report by denying AQIS is in the country.
“We strongly reject this report and consider it propaganda and unsubstantiated for the following reasons,” the Taliban wrote in an official statement published on its website, Voice of Jihad, on July. 2.
According to the Taliban, “it does not seek to support anyone working outside the borders of Afghanistan in India or any other country.” [emphasis added]
“How is it then possible that we support anyone outside our borders,” the Taliban added.
“[T]he Islamic Emirate does not support any foreign organization in the Indian Subcontinent or any other place,” the Taliban continued.
The Taliban’s denial of an AQIS presence in Afghanistan is merely the latest attempt by the group to deny that Al Qaeda operates in the country. After McKenzie noted that the Taliban continues to support Al Qaeda and Zawahiri was based in Afghanistan, the Taliban claimed that Al Qaeda hasn’t been in the country since the U.S. invasion in late 2001.
This of course is patently false, as the U.S. has conducted numerous operations against Al Qaeda and the United Nations notes that the Taliban-Al Qaeda relations remains strong to this day. Additionally, Al Qaeda itself has admitted that it operates inside Afghanistan.
Mullah Omar, the Taliban’s first emir, admitted to defending Osama bin Laden and refused to hand him over to the U.S. after the 9/11 attacks. The Taliban lauded Omar’s defense of bin Laden as recently as April 2020.
The Taliban is pretending that Al Qaeda is not operating in Afghanistan in order to give the appearance that it is in compliance with the ‘peace’ deal struck with the U.S. that assures the withdrawal of American troops from the country.
Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD’s Long War Journal.
Are you a dedicated reader of FDD’s Long War Journal? Has our research benefitted you or your team over the years? Support our independent reporting and analysis today by considering a one-time or monthly donation. Thanks for reading! You can make a tax-deductible donation here.
Tags: Afghanistan, Al Qaeda, Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent, Taliban

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Generation Jihad Ep. 17 – The CIA in Libya

Former CIA Officer Sarah Carlson joins the podcast to discuss her new book, In The Dark of War. Sarah discusses her career as a counterterrorism analyst, the jihadist scene in Libya and the U.S. evacuation from Tripoli in 2014.

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Take a look around the globe today and you’ll see jihadists fighting everywhere from West Africa to Southeast Asia. They aren’t the dominant force in all of those areas, or even most of them. But jihadism has mushroomed into a worldwide movement, with al-Qaeda, the Taliban, ISIS and other groups waging guerrilla warfare and launching terrorist attacks on a regular basis.
Each week Generation Jihad brings you a new story focusing on jihadism around the globe. These stories will focus not only on Sunni jihadism, but also Shiite extremist groups. We will also host guests who can provide their own unique perspectives on current events.
Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD’s Long War Journal. Thomas Joscelyn is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Senior Editor for FDD’s Long War Journal.
Are you a dedicated reader of FDD’s Long War Journal? Has our research benefitted you or your team over the years? Support our independent reporting and analysis today by considering a one-time or monthly donation. Thanks for reading! You can make a tax-deductible donation here.
Tags: cia, Libya

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Explosions damage site at Iranian missile complex and nuclear facility

Scorch marks at Khojir missile production facility in Tehran, Iran. Credit: MaxarOver the last two weeks, explosions have taken place at the Khojir missile production complex in Tehran and the Natanz nuclear complex. While Iranian officials have downplayed the events, it is likely that both blasts at the facilities were acts of sabotage.
In the morning hours of June 26, Iranian social media users reported a bright light emanating from east Tehran followed by the sound of an explosion.
Iran’s Fars News Agency blamed the explosion on an “industrial gas tank” and the event “had nothing to do with the military installations in the area.”
However, the information published by Fars News was not accurate. Analysis of commercial satellite imagery confirmed the explosion took place inside the Khojir missile production complex. The site is located near the Parchin military base which has been subjected to United Nations scrutiny for suspected weapons-grade nuclear activity.
Following the explosion, local media was allowed access to the site of the blast to film what remained of the industrial gas tanks that were destroyed in the incident.
Less than a week later, an explosion at the Natanz nuclear complex was reported in the morning hours of July 2.
“A building within the Iranian Natanz nuclear complex was damaged after a fire on Thursday morning with no casualties,” the semi-official news agency Tasnim said.
The Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, which is the main government agency responsible for operating nuclear energy in Iran, minimized the event saying the fire affected an under-construction “industrial shed.”
Adding to what may have caused the fire at Natanz, The New York Times reported the incident was a deliberate act of sabotage.
“The blast was caused by an explosive device planted inside the facility. The explosion, he [anonymous intelligence official] said, destroyed much of the aboveground parts of the facility where new centrifuges — delicate devices that spin at supersonic speeds — are balanced before they are put into operation,” The New York Times reported.
In a follow-up of the report, Israel was identified as being responsible for the incident at Natanz.
“A Middle Eastern intelligence official with knowledge of the episode said Israel was responsible for the attack on the Natanz nuclear complex on Thursday, using a powerful bomb. A member of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps who was briefed on the matter also said an explosive was used,” according to The New York Times.
Furthermore, an opposition group calling itself “Homeland Cheetahs” sent a statement to several BBC Persian journalists claiming responsibility for the fire. The group stated they were an “underground opposition within Iran’s security apparatus.”
Overhead commercial satellite imagery taken of Natanz before and after the incident revealed the extent of the damage caused by the fire.
According to a Reuters report, an Iranian official threatened Iran would retaliate if it concluded that the incident was a cyber attack, suggesting the incident may have not been caused by an explosive device planted at the facility as reported by The New York Times.
“Responding to cyber attacks is part of the country’s defense might. If it is proven that our country has been targeted by a cyber attack, we will respond,” civil defense chief Gholamreza Jalali told state TV late on Thursday.
Adding to the significance of the site in question, the Reuters report quoted a second Iranian official who stated the structure that caught fire was a centrifuge assembly building.
“One of the officials said the attack had targeted a centrifuge assembly building, referring to the delicate cylindrical machines that enrich uranium, and said Iran’s enemies had carried out similar acts in the past.”
The incidents that have occurred at two Iranian military sites involving its nuclear and missile programs — all within a week’s period — raises the chance that the events were caused by acts of sabotage.
The possible attacks are reminiscent of operation “Olympic Games” which was a joint operation of the CIA and Mossad. The operation used cyber warfare to disrupt the centrifuges that were enriching uranium for Iran’s nuclear weapons program.
Additionally, the previously unknown group “Homeland Cheetahs” is likely a front for an unknown actor that may be attempting to create plausible deniability and distance itself from the attack.
If Israel is behind the attacks, it will be another act of sabotage added to a long list of operations carried out against Iran’s nuclear weapons program. A response by Iran is anticipated, whether it’s through cyber warfare or military action remain to be seen.
Joe Truzman is a contributor to FDD’s Long War Journal.
Are you a dedicated reader of FDD’s Long War Journal? Has our research benefitted you or your team over the years? Support our independent reporting and analysis today by considering a one-time or monthly donation. Thanks for reading! You can make a tax-deductible donation here.
Tags: Cyber warfare, Iran, Israel, Natanz, Olympic Games, Stuxnet, United States

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ISCAP Ambushes UN Peacekeepers in the DRC, Exploits Coronavirus

Screengrab from an internal April 2020 video in which ADF/ISCAP ideologue Abu Qatada al Muhajir [The Emigrant] defends the Islamic State and its new emir, Abu Ibrahim al Hashimi al Quraishi.
On June 22, an Indonesian peacekeeper from the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) was killed in an ambush near the northern city of Beni. The Islamic State has claimed the attack. 
According to local media, a MONUSCO contingent was patrolling the area near Makisabo, a small town between Beni and the Ugandan border, when it fell under attack by militants of the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF). A mounting body of evidence suggests that the ADF is the force behind the Islamic State’s DRC operations.
The UN has confirmed that one peacekeeper was killed, and another was injured. Behind the peacekeeping operation in Mali, the UN’s mission in the DRC is the second most dangerous active peacekeeping operation in the world. In December of 2017, MONUSCO suffered the deadliest attacks on UN troops in almost 25 years. 
In its statement claiming the June 22 attack, the Islamic State reported that the ambush was carried out by its Central Africa Province (ISCAP), which encompasses jihadists in both the DRC and Mozambique.
“Thanks to God,” the Islamic State’s message begins, “soldiers of the caliphate targeted members of the Crusader UN forces on the road linking the Ugandan borders with Beni city yesterday.” 
The group then inflates the total number of deaths by adding that the ambush resulted “in the death of five of them [UN troops].” 
This is not the first Islamic State-claimed attack on UN forces in the DRC. The group has claimed assaults on MONUSCO on three other occasions, including the deadly November 2018 clash near Beni that left 7 peacekeepers and 12 Congolese soldiers dead.
The battle was carried out by the ADF and retroactively claimed by the Islamic State in a May 2019 issue of its weekly Al Naba newsletter. 
Since April 15, ISCAP has claimed 25 attacks inside the DRC. This represents a significant increase, as from its emergence in April 2019 through March 2020, it only claimed a total of 33 operations in the country. At this current rate, ISCAP is set to surpass its first year of claims in just over two months. 
ISCAP’s current rate of claims has already outpaced that of every IS branch in Africa save for the group’s West Africa Province in Nigeria and the Sahel. This uptick in violence tracks with the wider expansion of the ADF’s activities since November 2019.
Following the start of a Congolese military offensive on October 30, 2019, the ADF launched attacks that have left over 600 killed in villages and towns that have expanded beyond their traditional operating area in Beni territory in North Kivu province into parts of southern Ituri province.
ISCAP exploits coronavirus for recruitment
Screengrab from internal ADF/ISCAP Swahili-language video from April 2020 regarding the coronavirus.
In addition to increasing its attacks on civilians, the ADF appears to be taking advantage of panic in the region to recruit new fighters. In multiple indoctrination and recruitment videos shared in April 2020 via Whatsapp, the group encouraged people negatively affected by the global coronavirus pandemic to join the extremist group.
These videos, shared with FDD’s Long War Journal courtesy of the Bridgeway Foundation, are the latest in a series of dozens of propaganda videos that have increased in quantity and improved in quality over the past five years.
The videos were disseminated with speakers using a mix of Arabic, Luganda, and Swahili, indicating that they are likely intended for a broad audience.
In one three and a half minute video, an interviewer off camera starts by asking, “All praise is to Allah, do you have any appeal you’d make to the outside world during this corona pandemic?” The ADF member, whose face is blurred, responds as follows:

Even this virus is Allah’s army, which will kill all the infidels, Allah willing! My appeal to you all that are in countries headed by Infidels is that you should come and join us because the medicine for that virus is here with us. All you have to do is emigrate from infidel-led countries to this Islamic State here such that you can fight to save Islam.

A minute later, the interviewee continues:

…you only have one option to be safe from the coronavirus, you must emigrate to Jihad…there is no virus that is out there that is capable of invading us here in our camps. This is an assurance that there is no safer place on earth than this place where we are!

Screengrab from an ADF/ISCAP Luganda-language video from April 2020 regarding the coronavirus.
In a separate video shared in April, the interviewer asks, “Mzee [Sir], is anyone here in the camp infected with corona?” The ADF insurgent responds, “Corona! No one is infected with the coronavirus.”
He goes on to provide assurance that in the ADF camps, they have no such virus, no need to even wash their hands, and full freedom to congregate for prayers, lectures, and all other activities. His conclusion: “Allah is keeping us safe here from the corona pandemic.”
The ADF and ISCAP
Originally dedicated to overthrowing the Ugandan government, the ADF fled to eastern Congo in the mid 1990’s and began aligning itself with other groups operating in the area and forging relationships with local communities.
Over time, and notably after a shift in leadership around 2014-2015, the ADF further radicalized, dramatically escalating attacks on Congolese civilians. It soon became clear that this radicalization accompanied efforts by the group to align itself with the Islamic State.
In 2016, the ADF began releasing a series of videos in an apparent attempt to publicly declare its radical ideology. Many of the videos demonstrate clear jihadist messaging, including mantras of establishing a caliphate, calls for violence against “infidels,” and a declaration of their intention to impose a strict interpretation of Sharia in the DRC and Uganda.
Anasheed [Islamic a cappella songs] produced by both al Qaeda and the Islamic State were also used in the group’s videos.
The following year, the ADF received financing from Waleed Ahmed Zein, an East Africa-based terrorist who was later sanctioned by the US Treasury for his role within the Islamic State. Treasury noted that his network was able to move money to Islamic State fighters in “Syria, Libya, and Central Africa.”
Zein’s partner, Halima Adan Ali, was also sanctioned by the US Treasury for providing support to the Islamic State. In its press release, Treasury reiterated that Ali and Zein moved money for the Islamic State to fighters in Central Africa. 
In February 2018, Congolese troops found Islamic State material and books during a raid on an ADF camp near Beni. One of these books was published by the Islamic State’s Maktabah al Himma, an important wing of the group that once produced theological and ideological treatises.
The book in question, for example, dealt with proper ways to implement hudud [punishments under Islamic law] and how to provide social services to local populations. The book was a hardcover copy, indicating that the militants had received it through personal connections rather than printing it locally.
These links appear to have progressed such that, in April of 2019, the Islamic State claimed its first attack in the DRC under the “Central Africa Province” moniker.
Since then, the group has claimed more than 50 operations in the Congo according to data kept by this author. The majority of these can be tied to verified ADF attacks based on reporting by the Kivu Security Tracker (a project that maps violence in eastern Congo) and by local media.
Caleb Weiss is a contributor to FDD’s Long War Journal.
Are you a dedicated reader of FDD’s Long War Journal? Has our research benefitted you or your team over the years? Support our independent reporting and analysis today by considering a one-time or monthly donation. Thanks for reading! You can make a tax-deductible donation here.
Tags: ADF, Allied Democratic Forces, Democratic Republic of Congo, DRC, ISCAP, Islamic State, Islamic State Central African Province, Uganda.

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Generation Jihad Ep. 16 – Al Qaeda’s Never-ending Problems in Syria

Hosts Tom Joscelyn and Bill Roggio discuss al Qaeda’s problems in Syria, where a series of disputes have upset the group’s chain of command. They also discuss the State Department’s latest terrorism report and what it says about Pakistan’s sponsorship of the Taliban. 

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Take a look around the globe today and you’ll see jihadists fighting everywhere from West Africa to Southeast Asia. They aren’t the dominant force in all of those areas, or even most of them. But jihadism has mushroomed into a worldwide movement, with al-Qaeda, the Taliban, ISIS and other groups waging guerrilla warfare and launching terrorist attacks on a regular basis.
Each week Generation Jihad brings you a new story focusing on jihadism around the globe. These stories will focus not only on Sunni jihadism, but also Shiite extremist groups. We will also host guests who can provide their own unique perspectives on current events.
Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD’s Long War Journal. Thomas Joscelyn is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Senior Editor for FDD’s Long War Journal.
Are you a dedicated reader of FDD’s Long War Journal? Has our research benefitted you or your team over the years? Support our independent reporting and analysis today by considering a one-time or monthly donation. Thanks for reading! You can make a tax-deductible donation here.
Tags: Al Qaeda in Syria, Hay’at Tahrir al Sham, Hurras al-Din, Pakistan, Syria, Turkey

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Israel attacks pro-Iranian positions with airstrikes in Syria

Onion dehydration plant in al Salamiyah, Syria where one of the attacks took place. Credit: AuroraIntelIsrael’s Air Force reportedly acted against multiple Syrian Arab Army (SAA) and pro-Iranian military sites in Syria over two waves of airstrikes on June 24.
Syrian state news agency (SANA) confirmed the death of two soldiers and the wounding of four others at one of the locations hit by the airstrikes.
“One of our military positions was targeted near the town of Salkhad in the southern city of Sweida, resulting in the death of two martyrs and the wounding of four other soldiers,” the SANA news source stated.
Furthermore, additional positions were targeted during the overnight attack as SANA reported “several hostile missiles were fired at our military positions in Kababej.”
Approximately an hour after the initial attack, a second wave of airstrikes targeted the Hama Governorate in the area of al Salamiyah. It is believed an ammunition cache housed inside an onion dehydration plant was the intended target of the attack.
The attacks came less than a month after reported airstrikes attributed to Israel destroyed a weapons facility in Masyaf, Syria.
A month ago, former Israeli Defense Minister Naftali Bennett stated that Iran’s forces were withdrawing from Syria. However, the latest string of attacks since the statement suggest this assessment is incorrect. It is likely that Iranian proxies are being re-positioned further east than in an attempt to evade potential Israeli airstrikes.
As previously detailed in FDD’s Long War Journal, Iran has been attempting to upgrade the missile arsenal of its proxies. The program, commonly known as the Precision Guided Missile Project, aims to turn conventional weapons into GPS-guided missiles to strike targets in Israel accurately.
It is reasonable to believe Iran or its proxies will retaliate for the latest wave of airstrikes. In April, Iran was blamed for a cyber attack against several water and sewage facilities in Israel. In retaliation, Israel reportedly conducted a cyber attack against the computer systems at Iran’s busiest hub for maritime trade, Shahid Rajaee Port in Bandar Abbas, near the Strait of Hormuz.
The reported Israeli attacks in Syria over the last few months have demonstrated that the COVID-19 pandemic has not deterred either side from attempting to accomplish their military objectives. Iran will likely continue the transfer of precision guided components and other sophisticated arms to its proxies, while Israel attempts to thwart the project – just as it has done for years in Lebanon, Syria and Iraq.
Joe Truzman is a contributor to FDD’s Long War Journal.
Are you a dedicated reader of FDD’s Long War Journal? Has our research benefitted you or your team over the years? Support our independent reporting and analysis today by considering a one-time or monthly donation. Thanks for reading! You can make a tax-deductible donation here.
Tags: hezbollah, Iran, Israel, Precision Guided Munitions, Syria, Syrian Arab Army

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Tawhid al Jihad urges militant operations against Israel

Against the backdrop of possible annexation of certain areas of the West Bank and President Trump’s Deal of the Century, Tawhid al Jihad released a publication promoting jihadist operations to prevent the implementation of those plans by Israel and the United States.The video, titled “Rouse the Believers,” is the first major publication by the jihadist group this year. The group emphasized a conspiracy by “Jews and Christians” against the Palestinian cause.
The publication began by the group denouncing Trump’s Middle East peace plan and the United States’ 2017 decision that recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
“We have all heard the lying and falsehood of the Jews and American usurpers of our lands and our Aqsa by announcing Trump’s peace plan. Their talking is falsehood, and our doing is the truth,” the narrator stated.
Furthermore, behind the imagery of Tawhid al Jihad fighters training at a military camp in Gaza, the narrator urged followers to unite against Jews and Christians for the cause of jihad.
“Our nation! Our youth! Be careful! Obey your Lord! Unite your work! Sincerely intend to obey Allah! Be a strong barrier against aspirations of Jews and Christians and their followers. Be defenders of Islam! The Islamic Jihad is lasting forever in our nation,” the group stated.
Additionally, the group implied it would launch jihadist operations by showing recordings of various terrorist attacks against Israelis throughout the publication.
“May the matter of the Islamic nation rise by raising the matter of its Holy Quran, and by taking Jihad for the sake of Allah as a way to restore its stolen rights, as our predecessors were doing. We hate death, but we are ready to set fires for the sake of Allah,” the narrator stated as video of attacks were played.
It is common for Palestinian militant groups — especially Salafist-jihadi organizations — to call on Palestinians with or without ties to militant groups, to commit acts of terror against Israelis. In the “Rouse the Believers” publication, this message continued to be emphasized.
It is worth noting, the group has previously claimed success in conducting its own operations inside of Israel. In 2017, Fadi Ahmed al Qanbar – a militant belonging to the group – intentionally drove a truck into a group of IDF soldiers killing four in Jerusalem.
It’s not clear if threats from Tawhid al Jihad will materialize. Aside from a few rockets launched during recent conflict with Israel, the group has not conducted a major operation since 2017. However, it would be misguided to believe the group isn’t motivated to attempt another operation in the near future considering the group’s violent rhetoric about derailing Trump’s peace plan and West Bank annexation.
Joe Truzman is a contributor to FDD’s Long War Journal.
Are you a dedicated reader of FDD’s Long War Journal? Has our research benefitted you or your team over the years? Support our independent reporting and analysis today by considering a one-time or monthly donation. Thanks for reading! You can make a tax-deductible donation here.
Tags: Gaza, Israel, Tawhid al Jihad, West Bank

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Shabaab hits Somali, Turkish bases with suicide bombings

Since the beginning of the week, Shabaab, al Qaeda’s branch in East Africa, has launched two suicide bombings on two military bases across Somalia. One of the bases targeted was Turkey’s military base in Mogadishu.
On Sunday, Shabaab launched a suicide assault on a Somali military base in the town of Bacaadweyn in the north-central Mudug region. Local media reported that a suicide car bomb was detonated at the base’s perimeter before an assault team entered the fray.
As many as six people were killed in that assault, including two soldiers. Shabaab’s claim of responsibility, released through its Shahada News Agency, confirmed the use of a suicide car bombing while offering little additional detail compared to local news reports.
The suicide assault comes as Somali forces have launched an offensive earlier this month against Shabaab in the Galmudug region (comprised of the Somali regions of Galgaduud and Mudug). This came after Shabaab assassinated the governor of Mudug in another suicide bombing in the region last month.
Much of Somalia’s efforts have been directed around securing the areas near the cities of Galkayo and El-Buur.
Local media reported late last week that Galmudug state forces have wrestled back control over several areas of the state from Shabaab. Several commanders of the group in the area have also reportedly surrendered.
Shabaab has launched several strikes against Somali forces in retaliation. In addition to the suicide bombing in Bacaadweyn on Sunday, another suicide car bombing was reportedly thwarted in Galkayo.
Elsewhere in Somalia this week, Shabaab also claimed a suicide bombing at the Turkish military base inside Mogadishu. The base, which acts as a training facility, is Turkey’s largest overseas military installation.
At least two people were killed in that blast, which occurred after the bomber, disguised as a Somali military recruit, infiltrated a queue to enter the base.
Through Shahada News Agency, Shabaab greatly exaggerated the success of its operation by saying “7 officers of the government’s militias were killed and 14 others wounded as a result of a martyrdom operation targeting the Turkish military base in Mogadishu.
Shabaab often exaggerates the number of casualties and other details in operations that are not particularly successful.
While the attack marks the first time Shabaab has struck the base with a suicide bombing, it is not the group’s first attack against it. Indeed, Shabaab has long considered the Turkish presence inside Somalia as a legitimate target.
In May 2018, Shabaab claimed launching several rockets at the base. However, no material damage or injuries were reported.
At the time, Abdul Aziz Abdul Musab, Shabaab’s military spokesman said that “we do not distinguish between a Turkish, American, Kenyan, Ethiopian, or British soldier.” He went on to explain that “all of them are invaders fighting against the Shari’ah, and it is an obligation to expel them and kill them.”
While in Jan. 2015, Shabaab detonated a suicide car bomb on the popular SYL Hotel in Mogadishu, where a Turkish delegation was preparing for a state visit by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Shabaab continues to be one of Al Qaeda’s most effective branches. It maintains significant control over much of southern Somalia and retains the ability to strike in Mogadishu, Kenya, and against heavily fortified bases in both Somalia and Kenya.
Though its fortunes have ebbed and flowed over the past decade, it has weathered numerous offensives from an array of local, regional, and international actors, including the United States.
Caleb Weiss is a contributor to FDD’s Long War Journal.
Are you a dedicated reader of FDD’s Long War Journal? Has our research benefitted you or your team over the years? Support our independent reporting and analysis today by considering a one-time or monthly donation. Thanks for reading! You can make a tax-deductible donation here.
Tags: Galmudug, Mogadishu, Mudug, Shabaab, Somalia, Turkey

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Pakistan a ‘safe haven’ for ‘terror groups’: U.S. State Department

Pakistan remains a “safe haven” for a host of regional terror groups, including the Afghan Taliban and its integral subgroup, the Al Qaeda linked Haqqani Network, according the the State Department’s newly released Country Reports on Terrorism 2019.
“Pakistan continued to serve as a safe haven for certain regionally focused terrorist groups,” State notes in its opening paragraph on Pakistan.  “It allowed groups targeting Afghanistan, including the Afghan Taliban and affiliated HQN [Haqqani Network], as well as groups targeting India, including LeT [Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jamaat-ud-Dawa] and its affiliated front organizations, and JeM [Jaish-e-Mohammad], to operate from its territory.”
After noting that Pakistan has taken “modest steps in 2019 to counter terror financing and to restrain some India-focused militant groups,” State criticizes Pakistan for failing “to take decisive actions against Indian- and Afghanistan-focused militants who would undermine their operational capability.”
Ironically, State praises the Pakistani government for playing “a constructive role in U.S.-Taliban talks in 2019.”
In other words, State is slamming Pakistan for continuing to harbor the Taliban, which continues to attack the Afghan government and military as well as remaining allied with Al Qaeda, while praising Pakistan as a partner for peace.
“In 2019, the Taliban and the affiliated HQN [Haqqani Network] increased terrorist attacks targeting Afghan civilians, government officials, and members of the international community,” the Country Reports on Terrorism 2019 section on Afghanistan notes. This trend has continued in 2020, despite the U.S. and the Taliban signing what is wrongly characterized as a peace deal.
The deal, which was signed on Feb. 29, 2020, is in fact a withdrawal agreement that is heavily weighted to benefit the Taliban. The U.S. and the Taliban agreed to halt attacks on each other. The U.S. committed to a full withdrawal in 14 months, removing Taliban leaders from international sanctions lists, and forcing the Afghan government to conduct a lopsided prisoner exchange.
The Taliban made no concessions. It is not required to denounce and target Al Qaeda and other allied terror groups, commit to a ceasefire, negotiate with the Afghan government, or protect key social reforms such as women’s rights. Instead the Taliban said it would not allow Afghanistan to be used as a launchpad for attacks on the West. This is the same promise the Taliban made prior to 9/11, which it of course did not honor.
Pakistan supported the U.S.-Taliban talks and continues to back the withdrawal deal as it benefits its Afghan proxy, the Taliban.
“India-focused militant groups” fight in Afghanistan
While State’s Country Reports on Terrorism 2019 rightly calls out Pakistan for remaining a safe haven for terror groups, it wrongly classifies LeT and JeM as “India-focused militant groups.” Additionally, it is wrong to call these outfits “regionally focused” and “India-focused”, as they support Al Qaeda and its global jihad.
LeT, JeM, and groups such as Harakat-ul-Muhahideen, and Harakat ul-Jihad-i-Islami not only operate against India, but also fight alongside the Taliban and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan. These groups were created with the support of Pakistan’s military and the Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate and continue to base themselves inside Pakistan with the assistance of the government to this day.
State notes that Pakistan worked to “restrain some India-focused militant groups” after a suicide car bombing in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir that killed more than 40 policemen. That attack was carried out by JeM.
Pakistan has the ability to dial up and tamp down the violence in Jammu and Kashmir. It does this by using Afghanistan as a relief valve. Fighters from the Pakistan-backed terror groups redeploy from the Indian to the Afghan front when international pressure due to their attacks in India creates problems for Pakistan.
Pakistan’s dampening of the operations of terror groups in the Indian theater leads to an increase in attacks by these groups in Afghanistan. This is in direct contradiction to statements made by Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation, who praised Pakistan as a partner for peace that “committed to helping reduce violence” in Afghanistan.

Just wrapped up a visit to Islamabad. #Pakistan supports efforts to accelerate intra-Afghan dialogue and negotiations, and is committed to helping reduce violence in #Afghanistan. Everyone I saw recognizes the benefit peace will bring to the region. //t.co/f2ENCLZoxl
— U.S. Special Representative Zalmay Khalilzad (@US4AfghanPeace) April 30, 2019

Less that three years prior to making that statement, Khalilzad, Congressional testimony, called Pakistan “a State Sponsor of Terror.”
If Pakistan was indeed “committed to helping reduce violence” in Afghanistan, as Khalilzad claimed, it would dismantle the infrastructure of the Taliban, LeT, JeM, and the host of allied terror group that continue to base themselves inside Pakistan. Instead, Pakistan continues to not only provide safe haven for these groups, but directly backs them.
Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD’s Long War Journal.
Are you a dedicated reader of FDD’s Long War Journal? Has our research benefitted you or your team over the years? Support our independent reporting and analysis today by considering a one-time or monthly donation. Thanks for reading! You can make a tax-deductible donation here.
Tags: Afghanistan, Al Qaeda, Haqqani Network, Harakat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami, Harakat-ul-Mujahideen, HUJI, Jaish-e-Mohammad, Jamaat-ud-Dawa, Lashkar-e-Taiba, Pakistan, Taliban

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Generation Jihad Ep. 15 – Don’t Call It Nation-Building

Hosts Tom Joscelyn and Bill Roggio explore how President Trump’s rhetoric on Afghanistan and other post-9/11 conflicts changed from 2017 to 2020. While there is much to criticize about these wars, some of the common talking points don’t reflect reality. The guys also discuss recent counterterrorism operations against al Qaeda.

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Take a look around the globe today and you’ll see jihadists fighting everywhere from West Africa to Southeast Asia. They aren’t the dominant force in all of those areas, or even most of them. But jihadism has mushroomed into a worldwide movement, with al-Qaeda, the Taliban, ISIS and other groups waging guerrilla warfare and launching terrorist attacks on a regular basis.
Each week Generation Jihad brings you a new story focusing on jihadism around the globe. These stories will focus not only on Sunni jihadism, but also Shiite extremist groups. We will also host guests who can provide their own unique perspectives on current events.
Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD’s Long War Journal. Thomas Joscelyn is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Senior Editor for FDD’s Long War Journal.
Are you a dedicated reader of FDD’s Long War Journal? Has our research benefitted you or your team over the years? Support our independent reporting and analysis today by considering a one-time or monthly donation. Thanks for reading! You can make a tax-deductible donation here.
Tags: 9/11, Abdulmalek Droukdel, Afghanistan, Al Qaeda, Endless Wars, Trump

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Hezbollah’s Hassan Nasrallah calls for closer ties to China

Hezbollah’s Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah June 17, 2020speech
During a June 17 speech eulogizing former Palestinian Islamic Jihad Secretary-General Ramadan Shalah and Hezbollah commander Hajj Abu Ali Farhat, Hassan Nasrallah called for a realignment with China in an attempt to end Lebanon’s dependence on western aid during its economic crises.
“I have information that is absolutely definite, if I am not sure about something, I wouldn’t talk about it. Chinese companies are ready to bring in money, and without any of the complications that we talk about in Lebanon. We don’t have to give them money, they will bring money into the country,” Nasrallah stated.
Nasrallah was referring to a series of letters sent by Chinese companies, including one by China Machinery Engineering Company (CMEC), to Lebanese Prime Minister Dr. Hassan Diab.
“As the government of Lebanon will be undertaking Beirut to Bekaa Express Way, Train and Tunnel project in Lebanon, we would like by this letter to express our serious interest to participate in said project as well as any other Railway and Infrastructure Projects,” the CMEC statement read.
Lebanon has been suffering from years of fiscal mismanagement, corruption, political crisis and social unrest – which has factored into the Lebanese pound losing more than half of its value. Other factors such as the COVID-19 pandemic and the Syrian war have contributed to the current crises the country finds itself in.
It is worth noting the newly enacted U.S. Caesar Law, which targets foreign entities who deal with the Assad regime’s military, aviation, gas and oil facilities, could add more instability to Lebanon’s current crisis due to any future business deals with Syria being scuttled due to the threat of U.S. sanctions.
From listening to Nasrallah’s speech, it is evident there is concern about the crises in Lebanon and the pressure campaign the Trump administration is placing on Syria’s allies, chiefly among them, Hezbollah.
“The American administration, the U.S. Treasury, the U.S. State Department, and their representative here, the American Embassy, have banned the dollar from entering Lebanon. This is a first. And second, they are exerting pressure on the Central Bank from supplying the market with what it currently has which could alleviate the problem,” Nasrallah said.
It is uncertain if Lebanon will decide to pivot eastward to obtain needed Chinese investment – or if it will ultimately accept an International Monetary Fund bailout that could have clauses excluding Hezbollah from benefiting from the aid.
Regardless of what Lebanon’s government decides, Nasrallah emphasized to the U.S. and its allies that Hezbollah will not give up its resistance against it and Israel despite the pressure it finds itself under.
Nasrallah said: “Whoever is going to make us choose between being killed by weapons or being killed by starvation, I tell them: We will continue to carry our weapons and we won’t starve; and we will kill you. We will kill you.”
Joe Truzman is a contributor to FDD’s Long War Journal.
Are you a dedicated reader of FDD’s Long War Journal? Has our research benefitted you or your team over the years? Support our independent reporting and analysis today by considering a one-time or monthly donation. Thanks for reading! You can make a tax-deductible donation here.
Tags: china, Hassan Nasrallah, hezbollah, lebanon

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Iranian proxy in Iraq targets US bases

A recent graphic released by the League of the Revolutionaries.
In a recently published video, the Iranian-backed front League of the Revolutionaries (LoR) claimed responsibility for recent attacks including the crash of an American C-130 military cargo plane and several rocket attacks against American-led coalition bases in Iraq. 
The LoR publication begins by claiming the group was responsible for a June 8 Camp Taji crash of an American C-130 which led to the injury of 4 aboard including a Wyoming Air National Guard member. A night time recording of the incident shows two rockets being launched towards the Camp Taji runway. 
“The bombing of the runway at the Taji base at the time of the landing of a Lockheed C-130 which led to the plane crashing and causing a great loss to the enemy,” the LoR statement read. The Associated Press has quoted US officials as downplaying any link to hostile activity, but added that they were “investigating” the incident. 
Furthermore, LoR claims it was able to position a drone over Camp Taji to monitor movements of the “enemy” before the attack occurred. It’s not the first time LoR has claimed to position a drone over an American-led coalition base.
As previously detailed in FDD’s Long War Journal, LoR published several videos of its commercial drones monitoring the American Embassy in Baghdad and Ayn al Asad Airbase.
This is also not the first rocket strike on Camp Taji claimed by LoR. In March, 2 US personnel and one UK soldier were killed in a rocket barrage on the base. Not long after, LoR emerged to take credit for the strike, beginning its campaign against Coalition troops in Iraq. 
The publication goes on to claim responsibility for a June 11 attack against the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad. Similar to the previous videos of the Camp Taji attack, a night time recording of a rocket launch adjacent to a road is depicted. 
“Targeting of the United States Embassy on June 11,” read the LoR statement in the description of the attack. 
Lastly, LoR claimed responsibility for the June 16 rocket attack near the Baghdad Airport. According to local reports, two rockets struck near the Baghdad Diplomatic Support Center with no casualties being involved. 
“Targeting the place where the American occupier forces are located at the Baghdad Airport 06/16,” read the LoR statement. 
It is noteworthy to mention that of the newly emerged Iranian-backed groups, LoR has consistently published material claiming attacks on American-led coalition bases.
The steady rocket attacks against American interests and bases suggest that the group has legitimized itself as an Iranian-backed front against American-led forces in Iraq. 
As previously detailed by FDD’s Long War Journal, the League of the Revolutionaries is likely a front group for other, more established Iranian proxies in Iraq. LoR is just one of many purported groups to have emerged this year to claim attacks against US or Coalition personnel. 
This influx in supposed militias inside Iraq is likely a propaganda game being played by Iran and its allies to create political cover for anti-American activities in the country for more established groups. It also may serve to create a narrative of a far-reaching movement that is opposed to the presence of American troops.
Are you a dedicated reader of FDD’s Long War Journal? Has our research benefitted you or your team over the years? Support our independent reporting and analysis today by considering a one-time or monthly donation. Thanks for reading! You can make a tax-deductible donation here.
Tags: Iran, Iraq, IRGC, League of the Revolutionaries

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AQIM confirms leader’s death

After two weeks of silence, al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) has finally confirmed the death of its emir, Abdelmalek Droukdel.AQIM released a short audio statement from Abd al Ilah Ahmad, one of the group’s top media officials, earlier today. Ahmad confirms Droukdel’s death in northern Mali, while giving a short background on Droukdel’s long history in jihad. The video includes multiple snippets of archival footage.
Ahmad tries to encourage al Qaeda’s men across North Africa and the Sahel to continue fighting, especially against the French. And the jihadist spokesman uses Droukdel’s life and career as inspiration.
AQIM’s media team includes footage from a July 2010 speech given by Droukdel in order to bolster morale. In that speech, entitled “We Don’t Surrender, We Win or Die,” Droukdel promised a generational fight against those states waging war against AQIM.
Ahmad also warns local governments, primarily Algeria and the Sahelian states, that they will soon meet the same fates of Libya’s Moammar Qaddafi, Tunisia’s Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, and Algeria’s Abdelaziz Bouteflika.
No indication of who might be the new leader of AQIM was made by Ahmad.
Droukdel, who also went by Abu Musab Abdel Wadoud, was killed in a French operation on June 3 in northern Mali. Local reporting has placed the operation near the locality of Talhandak in Mali’s far north, near the Algerian border.
The French tracked Droukdel’s vehicle by drone. After receiving signals intelligence that confirmed his presence, French special forces then intercepted the vehicle alongside several helicopters. According to the French Ministry of Defense, the French troops and the al Qaeda men engaged in a brief gunfight before Droukdel and three of his men were killed.
One jihadist, a local Malian, was captured by the French soldiers and was later handed over to Malian authorities after being interrogated. Footage from the raid obtained by Le Monde also appear to confirm France’s version of events.
Not long after France’s statement, the United States Africa Command (AFRICOM) confirmed that it also took part in the operation, providing further drone support overhead.
“U.S. Africa Command was able to assist with intelligence and ISR (Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance) support to fix the target,” Col. Chris Karns, spokesman for U.S. Africa Command, told CNN’s Ryan Browne.
A follow up statement released by AFRICOM also stated that the United States performed its own independent assessment to confirm Droukdel’s death following the operation.
At the time, Florence Parly, France’s Minister for the Armed Forces, added that France had killed Droukdel and “several of his close collaborators.” One of these individuals is Toufik Chaib, a high-ranking member of both AQIM’s media and administrative wings.
So far it is unclear if Droukdel was already in Mali or if he had a made a special trip to the region from Algeria.  French outlets Jeune Afrique and Libération have indicated that his arrival was possibly recent.
Additionally, a local journalist who cited a source close to al Qaeda’s Group for Support of Islam and Muslims (JNIM) reported that JNIM’s emir, Iyad Ag Ghaly, had recently requested a meeting with Droukdel.
If true, it is possible that Droukdel was in the region to meet with his deputies following increased hostilities with the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara, among other concerns.
Caleb Weiss is a contributor to FDD’s Long War Journal.
Are you a dedicated reader of FDD’s Long War Journal? Has our research benefitted you or your team over the years? Support our independent reporting and analysis today by considering a one-time or monthly donation. Thanks for reading! You can make a tax-deductible donation here.
Tags: Abdulmalek Droukdel, Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, AQIM

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Jihadist group confirms arrest of Uzbek commander

Jabhat Ansar al Din (JaD), a longstanding pro-al Qaeda group in Syria, has confirmed the arrest of Abu Saloh al Uzbeki earlier this week. Uzbeki was the founder and former emir of Hay’at Tahrir al Sham’s Katibat al Tawhid wal Jihad (KTJ).
In a statement released earlier today, JaD acknowledges Abu Saloh’s arrest at a Hay’at Tahrir al Sham (HTS) checkpoint in Idlib adding that the event “surprised us.” JaD goes on to further hope that “a joint Sharia committee can be established to look into their [HTS] suit.”
A senior official in JaD, Ramiz Abu al Majd, previously stated that the that the current complaints against Abu Saloh are more than a year old. But after his recent defection, this has brought these issues back to the forefront.
It is unclear when Abu Saloh joined Jabhat Ansar al Din. However, JaD officials and local reporting have indicated it was recent. JaD operates closely alongside Hurras al Din, the current al Qaeda franchise inside Syria.
Zaman al Wasl, an independent Syrian outlet, has reported that HTS’ complaints against Abu Saloh revolve around money. According to the outlet, Abu Saloh owned money to HTS’ cadres but the debt was not payed before he joined Ansar al Din.
Step News Agency, a pro-opposition outlet in Syria, stated earlier today that HTS has also seized $60,000 of Abu Saloh’s money in one of their banks
Jihadist testimony online gives further details that officials within Ansar al Din tried to work the issue out with KTJ’s new emir prior to Abu Saloh’s arrest. It is clear that JaD is now attempting to appeal to HTS directly for Abu Saloh’s release.
Abu al Majd has implied that the debts owed by Abu Saloh are cover for a more politicized retribution over Abu Saloh’s joining a group within Hurras al Din’s orbit.
JaD was previously a member of Hurras al Din’s “Incite the Believers” operations room and is now a member of the group’s “So Be Steadfast” alliance. HTS and Hurras al Din have had issues in the past.
KTJ was originally formed in 2014 as an Uzbek battalion within the then-al Qaeda branch Al Nusrah Front. In 2015, it briefly became an independent organization before rejoining the fold. KTJ now constitutes an important ethnic brigade within HTS.
Abu Saloh stepped down from KTJ’s leadership last year, as reported by the United Nations, to “focus on recruitment and fundraising.” KTJ’s new emir, Abdul Aziz, whom the UN identified as ‘Khikmatov,’ is reportedly a 20-year veteran of the al Qaeda-linked group Islamic Jihad Union.
Abu Saloh’s role within HTS was reportedly further diminished last year when a jihadist known as Ahluddin Navqotiy took over much of Abu Saloh’s preaching responsibilities. Navqotiy has been prominently featured in KTJ’s productions since and KTJ’s website features a dedicated page to his lectures.
According to the Uzbekistan-based Center for Studying Regional Threats, Navqotiy’s appointment by Abdul Aziz has caused further rifts within the ranks of KTJ. New reporting from Step News Agency has also confirmed these rifts within the group.
Step has reported that Abu Saloh recently defected to JaD alongside 50 other members of KTJ. The Uzbek group has yet to comment on this development.
Caleb Weiss is a contributor to FDD’s Long War Journal.
Are you a dedicated reader of FDD’s Long War Journal? Has our research benefitted you or your team over the years? Support our independent reporting and analysis today by considering a one-time or monthly donation. Thanks for reading! You can make a tax-deductible donation here.
Tags: Ansar al-Din in Syria, Hay’at Tahrir al Sham, HTS, Jabhat Ansar al Din, Katibat al Tawhid wal Jihad, KTJ, Syria

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Hay’at Tahrir al Sham reportedly arrests Uzbek jihadist leader

Abu Saloh, as seen in a Katibat al Tawhid wal Jihad video from early 2015.
Jihadists on social media have reported that a well-known Uzbek commander in Syria was recently arrested by Hay’at Tahrir al Sham (HTS) in Idlib.According to accounts belonging to various jihadists in Syria, Abu Saloh al Uzbeki, the founder and former emir of the Uzbek jihadist group Katibat al Tawhid wal Jihad (KTJ), was arrested yesterday alongside two of his men by HTS’ internal security forces.
HTS has so far not commented on the purported arrest, but several Telegram channels linked to both it and al Qaeda have commented on Abu Saloh’s detention.
These same accounts have reported that Abu Saloh recently left HTS’ fold and joined Jabhat Ansar al Din, another established jihadist group in Syria that is more aligned to al Qaeda’s camp in the country. Ansar al Din operates closely alongside Hurras al Din, the current al Qaeda franchise inside Syria.
If true, this represents a major shakeup within KTJ leadership. As of the time of publishing, KTJ has not confirmed his defection. The page dedicated to Abu Saloh’s lectures is also still active on KTJ’s website.
One testimony online that has been shared widely by the jihadists has alleged that the current complaints against Abu Saloh are longstanding. But after his reported recent defection, this has brought these issues back to the forefront.
Zaman Wasl, an independent Syrian outlet, has reported that these complaints revolve around money. According to the outlet, Abu Saloh owned money to HTS’ cadres but the debt was not payed before he joined Ansar al Din.
The jihadist testimony online gives further details that officials within Ansar al Din tried to work the issue out with KTJ’s new emir prior to Abu Saloh’s arrest. But it would appear that these efforts were not successful.
Abu Saloh stepped down from KTJ’s leadership last year, as reported by the United Nations, to “focus on recruitment and fundraising.” KTJ’s new emir, Abdul Aziz, whom the UN identified as ‘Khikmatov,’ is reportedly a 20-year veteran of the al Qaeda-linked group Islamic Jihad Union.
The Islamic Jihad Union, while based in Afghanistan, also maintains a branch inside Syria as part of HTS. It is unknown if the group maintains its own sub-unit within HTS or if it is under KTJ’s hierarchy. Given Abdul Aziz’s leadership, the latter scenario seems likely.
This is also not the first time HTS has arrested a high-profile foreign jihadist leader in Idlib. The al Qaeda-linked French jihadist Omar Diaby was also held by HTS for more than six months in 2018 and 2019 following several disputes with the organization over the daughter of one of Diaby’s fighters.
Abu Saloh and Katibat al Tawhid wal Jihad
Abu Saloh, whose real name is Sirajuddin Mukhtarov, is an ethnic Uzbek from Kyrgyzstan. Following the onset of the war in Syria, Abu Saloh travelled to the country where he joined the then-al Qaeda branch, the Al Nusrah Front.
In 2014, he created KTJ as a sub-unit within the Al Nusrah Front for other Uzbek jihadists. By the end of that year, however, KTJ would split from Al Nusrah to become an independent jihadist group.
Despite being independent, it retained close ties to its parent organization. KTJ took part in the various operations to capture Idlib province in the spring of 2015, perhaps most noticeably in the battle for Jisr al Shughur. It also has taken part in other battles in Aleppo, Hama, and Latakia.
KTJ also formed close ties with Syria’s other Uzbek jihadist group, Katibat Imam al Bukhari (KIB). The group also fought alongside and forged close ties to other foreign jihadist groups such as Junud al Sham and the Turkistan Islamic Party.
By the fall of 2015, however, KTJ rejoined the Al Nusrah Front as part of Al Nusrah’s efforts to consolidate various foreign groups inside Syria.
Since rejoining the fold, it has remained part of the structure of Al Nusrah as it rebranded itself as Jabhat Fatah al Sham in 2016 and later Hay’at Tahrir al Sham in 2017. KTJ has retained some autonomy, however, especially in regards to its own media and propaganda outlets.
KTJ has also enjoyed some degree of autonomy in its operations both locally and globally. For instance, KTJ and the Turkistan Islamic Party have been linked to the Aug. 2016 suicide bombing on the Chinese embassy in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan.
Local authorities have tied both the Turkistan Islamic Party and Abu Saloh to the bombing. According to Kyrgyz investigators, the suicide bomber was a member of the Turkistan Islamic Party while the overall direction for the operation came from Abu Saloh in Syria.
Neither group has ever claimed the bombing. And as of earlier this year, the group still had recruitment networks in place in Uzbekistan.
If the information regarding Abu Saloh’s arrest is true, it is clear that KTJ also has some authority to handle its own internal matters. But it appears that HTS proper is now taking the matter into its own hands.
Caleb Weiss is a contributor to FDD’s Long War Journal.
Are you a dedicated reader of FDD’s Long War Journal? Has our research benefitted you or your team over the years? Support our independent reporting and analysis today by considering a one-time or monthly donation. Thanks for reading! You can make a tax-deductible donation here.
Tags: Abu Saloh, Hay’at Tahrir al Sham, HTS, idlib, Katibat al Tawhid wal Jihad, Katibat al Tawhid wal Jihad (KTJ), KTJ, kyrgyzstan, Syria, Uzbek, uzbekistan

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Analysis: Taliban is caught in a lie by denying Al Qaeda’s presence in Afghanistan

Screen shot from a Taliban video that celebrated the relationship with Al Qaeda. For more information, see FDD’s Long War Journal report, Taliban rejects peace talks, emphasizes alliance with al Qaeda in new video.After General Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr. asserted that Al Qaeda and its emir, Ayman al Zawahiri, are operating in Afghanistan, the Taliban denied that Al Qaeda is in the country and said the terror group hasn’t been there since the days when the Taliban openly ruled Afghanistan.
By making such a claim, either the Taliban is lying or it is calling Al Qaeda’s leaders and operatives – who have fought and died in Afghanistan – a pack of liars. Because Al Qaeda has documented its operations in Afghanistan for years.
McKenzie, the head of U.S. Central Command, questioned the Taliban’s willingness to fight Al Qaeda during an online forum hosted by the Middle East Institute last week. The Taliban issued its denial of McKenzie’s statement over the weekend. Just days prior, the Taliban denied the presence of any foreign fighters. [See FDD’s Long War Journal reports, Taliban falsely claims al Qaeda doesn’t exist in Afghanistan and Taliban again denies presence of foreign fighters in Afghanistan.]
While it may seem absurd to have to provide evidence of Al Qaeda’s existence in Afghanistan, it is necessary. U.S. officials who have inked the withdrawal deal with the Taliban, including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad, somehow maintain that the Taliban will “destroy” Al Qaeda and the group will be an effective counterterrorism partner.
But how any of this can this be true if the Taliban denies the presence of Al Qaeda and all foreign fighters?
The evidence of Al Qaeda’s residence in Afghanistan after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the U.S. is undeniable. Al Qaeda itself has admitted to being in Afghanistan. This is seen in its statements claiming attacks and the martyrdom of its leaders and fighters killed in country, documents seized from Osama bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, as well as Al Qaeda leaders’ oaths of allegiance to the Taliban’s emir. The information provided below is merely a small sample the evidence that proves Al Qaeda has been in Afghanistan.
Osama bin Laden’s files discuss Al Qaeda’s operations in Afghanistan
Osama bin Laden, the cofounder of Al Qaeda and its first emir, and his deputies often discussed the group’s operations inside Afghanistan. In one document, written in June 2010 by Atiyah Abd al Rahman, who at the time was Al Qaeda’s general manager, to Osama bin Laden, Rahman said that the group had a very strong military presence in Afghanistan. [See See FDD’s Long War Journal report, Osama Bin Laden’s Files: ‘Very strong military activity in Afghanistan’.]
“Our groups inside Afghanistan are the same for every season for many years now,” Rahman wrote. “We have groups in Bactria [likely Paktia], Bactica [Paktika], Khost, Zabul, Ghazni and [Wardak] in addition to the battalion in Nuristan and Kunz [Kunduz].”
“We have very strong military activity in Afghanistan, many special operations, and the Americans and NATO are being hit hard,” Rahman wrote.
Rahman discussed one of the “special operations:” the May 19, 2010 suicide assault at Bagram Air Base in the central province of Parwan. That attack was a joint operation with the Haqqani Network, the powerful Taliban subgroup whose leader, Sirajuddin Haqqani, is also one of the Taliban’s two deputy emirs. Abu Talha al Almani, the German-Moroccan al Qaeda leader also known as Bekkay Harrach, was assigned to lead the suicide assault on Bagram. He was killed in the operation.
In another letter written by bin Laden to Rahman in Oct. 2020, the Al Qaeda emir suggested that Rahman should relocate as many “brothers” as possible to the eastern Afghan provinces of Ghazni, Kunar, Ghazni, Nuristan, and Zabul to avoid the US drone campaign which was intensifying in North and South Waziristan. Al Qaeda is known to have a strong presence in all four provinces.
Ayman al Zawahiri, Al Qaeda’s current emir, openly bragged about Al Qaeda operations in Dec. 2011. In one statement, Zawahiri took credit for attack on an “American base in [the central Afghan province of Wardak]” as well as shooting down a U.S. Chinook helicopter the Tangi Valley in the Saydabad district, a known haven for the Taliban in Wardak province. Thirty US troops, including 22 Navy SEALs, an interpreter, and seven Afghan special operations soldiers were killed.

And the sheikh [Osama bin Laden] has sent me a letter which he wrote before he was martyred by a few days, passing on to me good tidings on numerous [al-Qaeda] victories in Afghanistan, from it the attack of the American base in Wardek, where he told me that no less that 80 [A]mericans have been killed, and that Petrous [sic] was forced to come to Afghanistan to check upon the tragedy himself, also the destruction of the Chinook helicopter which left dead 30 [A]merican soldiers known to have participated in the assassination of sheikh Osama bin laden may Allah have mercy upon him, and other numerous operations that took place in Kabil [sic] and other territories around Afghanistan …
Ayman al Zawahiri, Message of Hope and Glad Tidings to our People in Egypt: Part 8, Dec. 1, 2011.
Additionally, in the past, Al Qaeda announced its strategy for victory in Afghanistan. In 2009, Abdullah Sa’id al Libi, who served as Al Qaeda’s military commander as well as a strategist, saw the Taliban as the key to defeating the Afghan governmAnt and the U.S. He noted that the Taliban has key allies in regional terror groups, as well as Al Qaeda:
“[I]t possesses significant regional cards, chiefly the Taliban Pakistan [Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan] and the Al-Qaeda Organization, and probably more important cards in Central Asia, Chinese Eastern Turkistan, and other regions in Iran,” he said.
Sa’id noted that Al Qaeda “employed its military expertise in Iraq in to serve Taliban’s project in Afghanistan and Pakistan, such roadside bombs which target the military convoys, and the suicide attacks which have never existed in Afghanistan before 11 September attack.” He also said that Al Qaeda has training camps in Northeastern Afghanistan, in Helmand province, and in Pakistan’s tribal areas.
Bin Laden files identify up and coming Al Qaeda commanders who fought in Afghanistan
In one file recovered from bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, there was an evaluation of 19 up and coming Al Qaeda commanders. Many of them were identified as training and operating in Afghanistan.
This report was issued sometime after Dec. 2005 when Abu Hamza Rabia was killed (the report explicitly says “Hamza Rabi’, God rest his soul” when mentioning Yasin al Suri; Hamza was killed in Dec. 2005) and before October or November 2006, when Abu Nasser Al Qahtani was captured.
Abu Nasser Al Qahtani was identified as a “field commander inside Khost,” the eastern Afghan province. He was arrested “by the apostates around Khost Airport” and imprisioned at Bagram.
Abu Basir Al Urduni was identified as “the official responsible for Jalalabad Sector.” Jalalabad is the provincial capital of Nangarhar province in eastern Afghanistan, where Al Qaeda is known to have a strng presence. He “came to Afghanistan seven years ago and was trained and he loves military science.”
Abu Mohsen Al Masri was listed as “the administrative official of Janikhel and of the Pioneers of Khorasan Magazine.” Janikhel is the name if a district in both Paktia and Paktika provinces.
Mansour Al Shami was identified as a “member of the Area’s Shura Council and head of the Sharia Committee,” and he “came to Afghanistan seven years ago and trained and participated in writing.”
Abdul Jalil Al Hijazi was named as the “assistant of Jaafar Al Tayyar in Paktika.” Jaafar Al Tayyar is Adnan G. El Shukrijumah, who was a member of Al Qaeda’s external operations council before he was killed by the U.S. in a drone strike in Pakistan. Hijazi “was jailed in Kabul at Sayyaf’s with Abdullah Azzam and Saif Omar Abdul Rahman for three and half years starting at the events of the downfall [U.S. invasion of Afghanistan].” Rahman, who was killed in a U.S. airstrike in Afghanistan in 2011, is a son Sheikh Omar Abdul Rahman, or the Blind Sheikh, died in 2017 while serving a life sentence in a US federal prison for his role in the first attack on the World Trade Center in 1993 that killed six Americans. 
Ghazwan was “in the staff of the Sheikh Al Muhajir” and was “injured in his knee six months ago during an ambush on the Americans in Paktika” province in eastern Afghanistan.
Omar Saif was named as a “member of the media staff (As-Sahab) and a program presenter and commentator.” According to the report, “He killed an American and took a picture of himself during an operation in Paktika.”
Akrama Al-Ghamdi was identified as being “in the staff of Abdullah Khan.” ABC News identified Abdullah Khan as an al Qaeda leader in Afghanistan. Abu Musab al Zarqawi, the founder of Al Qaeda in Iraq, wrote a letter to Khan; that letter was later intercepted and published. Al Qaeda thought highly of Ghamdi and was considering “promoting him as general official for Paktika and Bactia [Paktia].
Martyrdom statements for Al Qaeda members killed in Afghanistan
Banner for “Winds of Paradise Part 5, Eulogizing 5 ‘Martyrs”
In the past, Al Qaeda has issued martyrdom statements for its fighters killed in Afghanistan. One such tape, “Winds of Paradise – Part 5, Eulogizing 5 ‘Martyrs,’” was released by As Sahab, Al Qaeda’s propaganda arm, in late 2010.
Five commanders – Abu abd al Rahman al Madani, Abd al Wakil al Pakistani, Abu Salamah al Najdi, Luqman al Makki, and Abu al Walid al Jaza’iri – were eulogized by al Qaeda for dying while fighting in Afghanistan. 
Al Qaeda has also announced the death of key leaders, such as Faruq al Qahtani, who was killed in a U.S. airstrike in 2015. In its martyrdom statement that eulogized Qahtani, Al Qaeda said he “was a leader of a military brigade spread out in the Nuristan and Kunar provinces, and who had set an example with his mujahidin brothers for fighting and patience and steadfastness.”
According to a file recovered from bin Laden’s compound, Qahtani (called Farug al Qatari in the document) was tasked with relocating Al Qaeda leaders and their families to Afghanistan.
“As I have reported before, we have a good battalion over there led by brother Faruq al-Qatari. He is the best of a good crew. He recently sent us a message telling us that he has arranged everything to receive us; he said the locations are good, there are supporters and everything,” Atiyah Abd al Rahman wrote to Osama bin Laden.
Al Qaeda emirs give oath of allegiance to the Taliban’s emirs
Both Osama bin Laden and Ayman al Zawahiri have sworn oaths of allegiance to the Taliban’s emir. In the most public display of fealty by Al Qaeda and acceptance by the Taliban, Zawahiri swore allegiance to Mullah Mansour after the death of Mullah Omar, the Taliban’s first leader, was announced in 2015. Mansour publicly and enthusiastically accepted Zawahiri’s pledge.
“Among these respected brothers, I first and foremost accept the pledge of allegiance of the esteemed Dr. Ayman ad-Dhawahiri [al Zawahiri], the leader of international Jihadi organization (Qaedatul Jihad) and thank him for sending a message of condolence along with his pledge and pledge of all Mujahideen under him,” Mansour said.
Taliban denial amounts to calling Al Qaeda a liar
Again, the evidence presented above is a mere subset of what is publicly available to confirm Al Qaeda’s presence in Afghanistan post-9/11. This does not even include information beyond what Al Qaeda has stated, such as U.S. military raids against Al Qaeda in Afghanistan, which by the way, neatly match with Al Qaeda’s details of its operations in the country.
All of this leaves a series of important questions.
Why would the Taliban accept Al Qaeda’s pledge of allegiance if Al Qaeda was not operating there and supporting the Taliban? Jihadists take oaths seriously; false oaths would discredit all involved.
Why would Al Qaeda claim attacks and issue statements for its martyrs if it wasn’t in Afghanistan? These statements are not issued lightly; false martyrdom reports and claiming credit for operations that did not occur would discredit the group amongst jihadists.
Why would Al Qaeda take the time to write fitness reports on up and coming leaders in Afghanistan if they weren’t in Afghanistan.
The Taliban’s denial of Al Qaeda’s presence in Afghanistan means that one of the two groups are not telling the truth. Either, Al Qaeda has crafted an elaborate scheme to pretend it fights in Afghanistan alongside the Taliban, or the Taliban is lying – and Al Qaeda has fought there for decades and remains to this day.
Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD’s Long War Journal.
Are you a dedicated reader of FDD’s Long War Journal? Has our research benefitted you or your team over the years? Support our independent reporting and analysis today by considering a one-time or monthly donation. Thanks for reading! You can make a tax-deductible donation here.
Tags: Afghanistan, Al Qaeda, Taliban, Taliban-Al Qaeda axis

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Taliban ramps up attacks after ending unilateral ceasefire

The Taliban has resumed its offensive against Afghan security forces throughout the country after a lull in fighting following a three-day unilateral ceasefire for the Eid-ul-Fitr holiday in late May.
Over the past week, the Taliban has killed or wounded more than 420 Afghan security personnel during attacks across Afghanistan.
At least 171 Afghan security personnel were killed in and 250 more were wounded during 222 Taliban attacks in 29 of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces during the past week, a spokesman for the Interior Affairs Ministry told TOLONews.
The Taliban’s resumption of its nationwide offensive against the Afghan government is in stark contrast to the picture that was painted by Afghan officials a little over two weeks ago.
The Taliban announced its Eid ceasefire on May 23 and said it would end on May 26. It never coordinated its ceasefire with the Afghan government. Instead, the Afghan government seized the opportunity to reciprocate and declared its own ceasefire.
On May 29, after the Taliban attacked and killed 14 border guards in Paktia province, both the Afghan Ministry of Defense and National Security Council somehow claimed that the Taliban extended its ceasefire. The Taliban denied that and its spokesmen began tweeting about significant attacks.
After the ceasefire ended on May 26, the number of Taliban attacks was indeed low for the first week. Very few Taliban attacks were reported on Voice of Jihad, by the group’s spokesmen, or in the Afghan press. Afghan officials tried to portray this lull in violence as a result of an agreement with the Taliban to maintain a ceasefire.
However, Taliban attacks as well as its propaganda efforts during and after Eid-ul-Fitr are historically low.
Within a week after the end of its ceasefire, the Taliban began stepping up its assaults on Afghan security forces and government officials – again making it clear to all involved that they will dictate the pace and fury of destruction.
Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD’s Long War Journal.
Are you a dedicated reader of FDD’s Long War Journal? Has our research benefitted you or your team over the years? Support our independent reporting and analysis today by considering a one-time or monthly donation. Thanks for reading! You can make a tax-deductible donation here.
Tags: Afghanistan, Taliban, Withdrawal Deal

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Generation Jihad Ep. 14 – The Demise of an Al Qaeda Emir in Mali

Hosts Tom Joscelyn and Bill Roggio discuss the life and reported death of Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb’s emir, Abdulmalek Droukdel. They also review some of Osama bin Laden’s files to piece together AQIM’s history. 

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Take a look around the globe today and you’ll see jihadists fighting everywhere from West Africa to Southeast Asia. They aren’t the dominant force in all of those areas, or even most of them. But jihadism has mushroomed into a worldwide movement, with al-Qaeda, the Taliban, ISIS and other groups waging guerrilla warfare and launching terrorist attacks on a regular basis.
Each week Generation Jihad brings you a new story focusing on jihadism around the globe. These stories will focus not only on Sunni jihadism, but also Shiite extremist groups. We will also host guests who can provide their own unique perspectives on current events.
Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD’s Long War Journal. Thomas Joscelyn is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Senior Editor for FDD’s Long War Journal.
Are you a dedicated reader of FDD’s Long War Journal? Has our research benefitted you or your team over the years? Support our independent reporting and analysis today by considering a one-time or monthly donation. Thanks for reading! You can make a tax-deductible donation here.
Tags: Abdulmalek Droukdel, Al Qaeda, Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, Bin Laden’s Files, Mali

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Taliban falsely claims al Qaeda doesn’t exist in Afghanistan

General McKenzie recently claimed that Ayman al Zawahiri is thought to be in eastern Afghanistan.
General Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr., the commander of U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM), questioned the Taliban’s willingness to take action against al Qaeda during an online conference held last week. The U.S. is prepared “to go to zero” troops in Afghanistan, McKenzie told an online forum hosted by the Middle East Institute. But he added: “Can we be assured that attacks against us will not be generated there?” Only on that condition, the CENTCOM commander claimed, would the U.S. leave no forces behind.McKenzie went on to question the Taliban’s commitment to its Feb. 29 withdrawal accord with the U.S. “And as of right now…frankly, if you were to ask me my opinion, those conditions have not been fully met,” McKenzie said.
The Taliban is openly opposed to the Islamic State’s Khorasan arm, which rejects the legitimacy of the Taliban’s Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. The two sides have fought each other on multiple occasions. The same is not true of al Qaeda, McKenzie noted.
“It is less clear to me that they [Taliban] will take the same action against Al Qaeda and only time will tell,” McKenzie explained. He pointed to al Qaeda’s presence in eastern Afghanistan and claimed that Ayman al Zawahiri, the group’s global emir, was based there.
The Taliban’s reaction to McKenzie’s comments doesn’t inspire confidence that it “will take” some “action” against al Qaeda.
The Taliban issued a statement in Pashto responding to Gen. McKenzie’s remarks.
In a statement posted in Pashto on the Taliban’s Voice of Jihad website, the organization went so far as to claim that al Qaeda doesn’t even have a presence inside Afghanistan. This is obviously false.
“Any Arab or other militant groups under the name of al Qaeda, who were in Afghanistan during the rule of the Islamic Emirate do not exist [here] now,” the Taliban’s Pashto statement reads. “The Islamic Emirate is committed to seeing that the soil of Afghanistan will not be used by anyone, against anyone.  Nor will anyone face any threat from Afghanistan.”
In a statement published on the English version of Voice of Jihad, the Taliban didn’t specifically mention al Qaeda. Instead, the group claimed that McKenzie had made the “same baseless accusations” as a recent U.N. expert monitoring team. These allegations “serve no purpose other than to discredit the ongoing [peace] process,” the Taliban’s media men wrote.
Before the Feb. 29 withdrawal was signed, various reports claimed that the Taliban would “renounce” al Qaeda. That still hasn’t happened. Nor is that what the text of the actual agreement says — at least not the terse paper released to the public.
Instead, the Taliban agreed to supposedly prevent al Qaeda or other terrorist groups from launching attacks against the U.S. and its allies from its territory inside Afghanistan. As FDD’s Long War Journal has previously assessed, that is a version of the same assurance the Taliban has issued since the 1990s, when the group first lied about the threat posed by Osama bin Laden and his men. There is nothing in the publicly available text of the agreement about verification or enforcement mechanisms to ensure the Taliban isn’t lying now.
There are other passages in the agreement that don’t specifically name al Qaeda, but which are supposedly intended to ensure that the Taliban will prevent terrorists who threaten the U.S. and its allies “from recruiting, training, and fundraising.” The Taliban “will not host them in accordance with the commitments in this agreement.” Moreover, the Taliban is supposed to “send a clear message that those who pose a threat to the security of the United States and its allies have no place in Afghanistan, and will instruct [its] members…not to cooperate with groups or individuals threatening the security of the United States and its allies.”
To date, FDD’s Long War Journal is not aware of any actions taken by the Taliban against al Qaeda in Afghanistan. Instead, the Taliban has denied that al Qaeda or any foreign fighters even operate inside the country. The implication of the Taliban’s response to McKenzie is that al Qaeda hasn’t even had a presence inside Afghanistan since the fall of its Islamic Emirate.
The Taliban’s claims are obviously false.
FDD’s Long War Journal has tracked al Qaeda’s presence in Afghanistan for well more than a decade. Al Qaeda has maintained an active foothold in Afghanistan despite nearly 19 years of war. Al Qaeda advertises its role in the fighting only occasionally, preferring to fight under the Taliban’s banner and avoid unwanted scrutiny. But there is plenty of evidence concerning al Qaeda’s footprint.
In September 2019, for example, American and Afghan forces killed Asim Umar and some of his top men in a Taliban stronghold in Musa Qala, Helmand. Asim Umar was the first emir of Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS), which was formed in 2014 to buttress the Taliban’s ranks, among other roles. According to U.S. and Afghan officials, Umar’s courier was also present in Musa Qala and had been running messages back and forth to Zawahiri.
Umar was only the latest senior al Qaeda figure to perish inside Afghanistan during the past several years. So while FDD’s Long War Journal cannot confirm Zawahiri’s presence on the Afghan side of the border, his lieutenants .
Although the U.S. military has consistently underestimated al Qaeda’s network inside Afghanistan, it has found the group’s presence across the country — not just in eastern Afghanistan, as mentioned by McKenzie.
The Taliban has bristled at reporting by the aforementioned U.N. monitoring team, which has also alleged that al Qaeda and AQIS maintain a presence throughout much of Afghanistan. [See FDD’s Long War Journal report, U.N.: Taliban “regularly consulted” with Al Qaeda throughout negotiations with U.S.]
Special Representative Zalmay Khalilzad and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo have vouched for the Taliban’s supposed counterterrorism assurances. Pompeo has gone so far as to claim that the Taliban’s men said they would help the U.S. “destroy” al Qaeda in Afghanistan, even though that isn’t in the deal released to the public on Feb. 29.
It’s not clear why U.S. officials think the Taliban will betray al Qaeda now. The claim is especially curious given that the Taliban won’t even admit al Qaeda is fighting inside Afghanistan.

Thomas Joscelyn is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Senior Editor for FDD’s Long War Journal.
Are you a dedicated reader of FDD’s Long War Journal? Has our research benefitted you or your team over the years? Support our independent reporting and analysis today by considering a one-time or monthly donation. Thanks for reading! You can make a tax-deductible donation here.
Tags: Al Qaeda in Afghanistan, Taliban lies about al Qaeda, Taliban-Al Qaeda, Taliban-Al Qaeda axis, Taliban-Al Qaeda nexus

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U.S. reportedly targets 2 senior al Qaeda figures in airstrike in Syria

Jihadists shared this picture on social media. It reportedly depicts the car that was carrying two al Qaeda operatives struck by a missile in Syria.
Two al Qaeda leaders were reportedly killed in a drone strike in Syria’s Idlib province earlier today, according to jihadists on social media. Pictures of the car carrying them were posted on Telegram and other messaging applications.It appears the vehicle was struck with a R9X, a version of the Hellfire missile that has been used in previous targeted killings, or a similar weapon. The Wall Street Journal reported last year that the R9X doesn’t explode upon impact, but instead deploys a “halo of six long blades” that slice through their target. The missile was intended to further limit civilian casualties.
Jihadists identified the two men killed as Abu al Qassam al Urduni and Bilal al Sanaani. If confirmed, their deaths would be significant. The U.S. government hasn’t officially commented on the report.
Abu al Qassam (also known as Khaled al Aruri and Abu Ashraf) is an al Qaeda veteran whose jihadist career dates back to the 1990s. He was one Abu Musab al Zarqawi’s closest companions, as the two grew up in Jordan and then worked together from the early 1990s until Zarqawi’s demise in 2006. He was also Zarqawi’s brother-in-law.
In 2015, Abu al Qassam was one of five senior al Qaeda figures who were freed in exchange for an Iranian diplomat.
Since then, Abu al Qassam became one of al Qaeda’s top operatives in Syria. According to an expert monitoring team report submitted to the UN Security Council last year, he was the leader of Hurras al-Din (HAD), or the “Guardians of Religion” organization.
HAD grew out of the jihadist infighting that followed the formation of Hay’at Tahrir al Sham (HTS) in early 2017. It was initially led by Abu Hammam al-Shami, another al Qaeda veteran, but the UN’s analysts say Abu al Qassam took the helm at some point.
One of Zarqawi’s closest companions
Abu al Qassam’s early career is discussed at length in Jean-Charles Brisard’s book, Zarqawi: The New Face of Al-Qaeda. Brisard describes him as “one of Zarqawi’s closest lieutenants in Afghanistan and later in Iraq.”
According to Brisard, Zarqawi confessed to Jordanian officials that he established a terrorist outfit, dubbed “Bayat al Imam,” in the early 1990s with help from Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi, an influential cleric who is still regularly cited in al Qaeda circles today. Though there is some ambiguity concerning events during this period, there is little doubt that Zarqawi and Abu al Qassam were already comrades. Zarqawi introduced Abu al Qassam and other members of his “inner circle” to Maqdisi during this time, according to Brisard. Abu al Qassam also helped Zarqawi woo new recruits in Jordan.
The two friends didn’t always see eye-to-eye, according to Brisard’s account. Abu al Qassam objected to some early plots targeting Jordan’s powerful General Intelligence Directorate (GID). Regardless, Abu al Qassam “retained Zarqawi’s trust throughout his career as a terrorist.”
Abu al Qassam and Zarqawi were imprisoned in Jordan for a period during the 1990s, but the two men were granted freedom as part of a general amnesty in March 1999. Abu al Qassam followed Zarqawi back to Afghanistan, where he worked in his friend’s camp in the western province of Herat. And after the 9/11 attacks, he fled with Zarqawi to Iraq, living for a time along the Iranian border before entering the Kurdish region. Brisard reports that Zarqawi and other members of their crew, including Abu al Qassam, met in Tehran in August 2001. They allegedly agreed to set up camps in Kurdistan at that time, working with Ansar al-Islam in the months that followed.
As Zarqawi’s own organization grew in power, so did Abu al Qassam’s role. Brisard describes him as Zarqawi’s “man for special missions in Iraq and abroad.” Authorities reportedly found that he had ties to the May 2003 suicide bombings in Casablanca, which left dozens dead and many more wounded. He sent $70,000 to Aziz Hummani, who used the money to finance the bombings, according to Brisard. The Washington Post reported later that same year that those same bombings were tied back to al Qaeda personnel then living in Iran, namely Osama bin Laden’s son, Saad.
Involved in controversies in Syria
At some point, Abu al Qassam was detained by the Iranian regime. After his release from Iranian custody in 2015, he became involved in the jihadists’ infighting in northwestern Syria. In mid-2016, Abu Muhammad al Julani announced that his group, Al Nusrah Front, was being rebranded as Jabhat Fath al Sham (JFS). Months later, JFS merged with several other groups to form Hay’at Tahrir al Sham (HTS), though some of those parties have since left the formation.
Sometime between Al Nusrah’s “disassociation” from al Qaeda in mid-2016 and its relaunch as HTS in early 2017, two senior al Qaeda leaders — Saif al Adel and Abdullah (a.k.a. Abu Muhammad al Masri) — were consulted on the issue. Although the pair had been released from Iranian custody alongside Abu al Qassam, they decided to stay inside Iran. From their perch inside the country, they rejected Julani’s moves.
One of Julani’s advocates, an HTS official known as Abu Abdullah al-Shami, argued that Adel and Abdullah didn’t have the authority to overrule Julani and his comrades because the two were “in an enemy state (Iran),” where “they are being held there against their will.” In other words, the two al Qaeda leaders were supposedly detained inside Iran and, therefore, not able to freely consider the matter.
But Abu al-Qassam quickly rejected Abu Abdullah al-Shami’s argument in a post online, explaining that Saif al Adel and Abdullah “left prison and they are not imprisoned.” The two al Qaeda managers “are forbidden from traveling until Allah makes for them an exit,” he wrote, but “they move around and live their natural lives except for being allowed to travel.”
U.S. infrequently hunts al Qaeda officials and operatives in Syria
America’s drones do not target senior al Qaeda personnel in Iran, but they have been deployed across Syria on multiple occasions.
In December 2019, another HAD official, Bilal Khuraysat, was killed in an airstrike. Khuraysat (a.k.a. Abu Khadija al-Urduni) was also a native of Jordan. He was a significant ideological figure, as he penned tracts defending al Qaeda and criticizing the Islamic State, among other topics.
Another Jordanian al Qaeda leader, Iyad Nazmi Salih Khalil (a.k.a. Abu Julaybib al-Urduni), was killed in a drone strike in late 2018. Like Abu al Qassam, Abu Julaybib was close to Zarqawi.
The U.S. has also carried out airstrikes against al Qaeda targets deemed a threat to the West, including in June and August of 2019.
In Feb. 2017, the U.S. killed one of Ayman al Zawahiri’s top deputies, Abu al Khayr al Masri, in a drone strike. Abu al Khayr was killed with a R9X missile, according to the Wall Street Journal.
If the reports of the demise of Abu al Qassam and Bilal al Sanaani are accurate, then it appears that they died in an airstrike with a R9X, or a similar missile, as well.
Thomas Joscelyn is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Senior Editor for FDD’s Long War Journal.
Are you a dedicated reader of FDD’s Long War Journal? Has our research benefitted you or your team over the years? Support our independent reporting and analysis today by considering a one-time or monthly donation. Thanks for reading! You can make a tax-deductible donation here.
Tags: Abu al Qassam al Urduni, Abu Ashraf, Al Qaeda in Syria, Bilal al Sanaani, Drone strikes in Syria, HAD, Hurras al-Din, Khaled al Aruri, Tanzim Hurras al-Din

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Axis of Resistance mourns the death of Palestinian Islamic Jihad leader Ramadan Shalah

Poster of Ramadan Shalah: “Saraya al Quds the military wing of Islamic Jihad in Palestine.”
Ramadan Shalah, the former Secretary-General of Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) died June 6 at the age of 62. Shalah reportedly died in Lebanon of complications from a stroke he suffered in 2018.
Shalah was appointed Secretary-General of Palestinian Islamic Jihad in 1995 shortly after the killing of his predecessor Fathi Shaqaqi in Malta. During his tenure, Shalah was indicted by the U.S. Department of Justice for racketeering and a host of other charges. He was also on the FBI’s Most Wanted Terrorists list for his illegal activities involving PIJ.
“Ramadan Abdullah Mohammad Shalah is wanted for conspiracy to conduct the affairs of the designated international terrorist organization known as the “Palestinian Islamic Jihad” (PIJ) through a pattern of racketeering activities such as bombings, murders, extortions, and money laundering,” the FBI statement read.
Shalah managed PIJ through several major conflicts against Israel, most notably; Operations Cast Lead, Pillar of Defense and Protective Edge. However, within some Palestinian militant circles, Shalah is most recognized for his efforts in building the group’s military capability.
According to “Abu Hadi,” a senior al Quds Brigades leader, because of Shalah’s efforts, the group acquired the military capability to strike Tel-Aviv, which first occurred during Operation Cast Lead in 2012.
“We do not forget when he [Shalah] was searching for an answer. How would we strike Tel-Aviv before the year 2012? The resistance killed and inflicted pain against the occupier who harmed the Arab and Islamic nation. Days went by and in 2012 during the press conference in Cairo he answered the question, when he said – at that time: The Mujahideen in Palestine answered the difficult question which is how to strike Tel-Aviv? After the Arab capitals were unable to beat it, we say to you after trusting in God, we have struck Tel-Aviv and its environs in the name of the Arab and Islamic nations and revolutionary peoples.”
In an example of Palestinian Islamic Jihad’s close relationship with Iran, Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, eulogized Shalah after his passing.
“I express my condolences on the passing away of Dr. Ramadan Abd Allah Shalah to the beloved Palestinian nation and all mujahids who care for the question of Palestine, particularly the organization of Palestinian Islamic Jihad Movement as well as the family of this noble man,” Khamenei’s statement said.
Indeed, Shalah had some success leading PIJ which included uniting many of the Palestinian factions under the Joint Operations Room in 2017. He also ensured continued military and financial support from the group’s chief benefactor, Iran.
Since Shalah’s stroke in 2018, Ziad Nakhalah was appointed as his replacement and has attempted to steer the group through various military confrontations against Israel. The most recent, being an unimpressive response of the targeted killing of an al Quds Brigades commander, Baha Abu al Ata, in November 2019 by Israel.
The three day clash resulted in the death of 15 PIJ militants, a loss not experienced by the group since the 2014 Gaza war.
It is too early to say if Nakhalah will achieve or surpass his predecessor’s accomplishments. Nakhalah will attempt to build on Shalah’s success of strengthening PIJ’s military capability and continued relationship with Iran. Additionally, the strengthening of ties with the Axis of Resistance has become an emerging priority as the conglomerate of pro-Iranian factions attempt to unite militarily against Israel and the United States.
Although PIJ remains a potent militant group, Shalah’s departure in 2018 affected the group, which is a result of the leadership mismanaging several military confrontations against Israel between 2018 and 2020. As previously stated, it’s too early to predict if PIJ will be able to replicate the success it had under Shalah considering that Nakhalah’s tenure has been marred with several failures which does not bode well for the future of one of Gaza’s largest militant groups and its leadership.
Joe Truzman is a contributor to FDD’s Long War Journal.
Are you a dedicated reader of FDD’s Long War Journal? Has our research benefitted you or your team over the years? Support our independent reporting and analysis today by considering a one-time or monthly donation. Thanks for reading! You can make a tax-deductible donation here.
Tags: Gaza, hezbollah, Iran, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Ramadan Shalah

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Jihadists target military outpost in Ivory Coast

In the first attack of its kind since 2016, suspected militants from al Qaeda’s Group for Support of Islam and Muslims (JNIM) killed at least 10 soldiers at an outpost in northern Ivory Coast.
Earlier today, a base near the town of Kafolo was targeted by “dozens of armed individuals” according to the AFP. Other details remain scarce, but Burkinabe sources have indicated that the attack occurred late last night.
Local reporting has also alleged that the attack was two-pronged in that it also targeted a nearby military checkpoint.
The Ivorian Ministry of Defense has confirmed today that 10 soldiers were killed and another six were wounded, while one attacker was killed.
But the AFP, citing another Ivorian source, has stated that at least 11 soldiers and one gendarme were killed in the assault. Another source indicated that at least two gendarmes may also be missing.
While no group has yet to claim today’s assault, local officials have placed blame on JNIM and its Katibat Macina. This comes as no surprise as the unit maintains bases in southwestern Burkina Faso that has often times crossed into Ivory Coast.
Today’s raid also comes after sustained Ivorian and Burkinabe operations against Katibat Macina in the same area of northern Ivory Coast last month. That joint operation, despite some setbacks, attempted to flush the jihadists out of northern Ivory Coast.
Both Ivorian and Burkinabe officials have also stated that the operations killed eight jihadists, while also arrested almost 40 of the militants. Additionally, Burkina Faso reported that Katibat Macina’s main base in Alidougou was destroyed.
Photos from at least one camp in the area were indeed released by Burkinabe forces. Though, the total destruction of the jihadist sanctuary in southwestern Burkina Faso has not been confirmed.
Today’s assault in Ivory Coast also casts doubt on this claim, as the jihadists most likely came from Burkinabe territory.
Inside Ivory Coast during last month’s operations, clashes between Ivorian forces and Katibat Macina were reported in the villages of Tinadalla and Diambeh as the military moved to dislodge the jihadists.
Local residents have stated that Katibat Macina’s men had been in the villages for more than a month, often moving between them and the Alidougou base in Burkina Faso.
Jeune Afrique has also reported that some of Katibat Macina’s members lived in northern Ivory Coast. While other reporting by the French outlet has alleged that Amadou Kouffa, the emir of Katibat Macina, sent figures to Ivory Coast last year to develop its networks in the country.
This is also the first suspected jihadist attack in Ivory Coast since March 2016, when al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb’s Sahara Emirate and Katibat al Murabitoon (two of JNIM’s predecessor groups) assaulted a beach resort in southern Ivory Coast. At least 16 people were killed in that raid.
As jihadist violence perpetrated by both al Qaeda and the Islamic State continues to push further south from Mali and Burkina Faso, many West African states are now beginning to feel threatened.
In addition to the Ivory Coast, Benin witnessed its first jihadist kidnapping last year. Nearby Togo has also stated its worries as this violence increasingly endangers its borders.
Caleb Weiss is a contributor to FDD’s Long War Journal.
Are you a dedicated reader of FDD’s Long War Journal? Has our research benefitted you or your team over the years? Support our independent reporting and analysis today by considering a one-time or monthly donation. Thanks for reading! You can make a tax-deductible donation here.
Tags: Al Qaeda, Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, Amadou Kouffa, benin, Burkina Faso, Group for Support of Islam and Muslims, Ivory Coast, JNIM, Katibat Macina, Macina, Macina Liberation Front, Mali, sahel, togo, West Africa

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Taliban denounces ‘deviant beliefs,’ including ‘satanic western and disbelieving ideologies’

As Western and Afghan officials cling to the hope that they can make peace with the Taliban and integrate the group into the government, the Taliban continues to display its true colors. In a recent video, the Taliban extolled the virtues of jihad and its Islamic Emirate while denouncing “deviants … who are trained in the poisonous deviant beliefs of atheism, communism, secularism, democracy, and other satanic western and disbelieving ideologies.”The video, titled “Real Men 4,” is the latest in a series of Taliban statements that makes clear the group will not compromise with the Afghan government, which it has previously described as a “puppet” of the U.S., as well as “illegitimate,” “impotent,” and most importantly, “un-Islamic.”
The Taliban has been clear that the only acceptable government is its own Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, with its emir, Mullah Haibatullah Akhundzada at the helm.
“But the Deviants are those who are trained in the poisonous deviant beliefs of atheism, communism, secularism, democracy, and other satanic western and disbelieving ideologies in order to mislead the Muslims with their deviant ideologies,” The Taliban narrator states in English.
The video segments (below) showed Afghan politicians such as President Arshaf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah, Afghan musicians, and entertainers. The faces of women in the video were blurred out as the Taliban believes it is a sin for a woman to show her face in public.
“The Deviants are the people who work for the implementation of secularism and deviant laws instead of sharia [Islamic law],” the narrator continues.

2) Taliban from Real Men 4: “But the Deviants are those who are trained in the poisonous deviant beliefs of atheism, communism, secularism, democracy, and other satanic western and disbelieving ideologies in order to mislead the Muslims with their deviant ideologies.” pic.twitter.com/tn2x7YbGFX
— Bill Roggio (@billroggio) June 10, 2020

The Taliban accused the “deviant people” of killing Muslims and imposing a non-Islamic form of government “at the behest of invaders.” This is a common Taliban narrative: that the Afghan government and military are merely “puppets” of the West who do their bidding.

In the last two video segments, the Taliban showed Afghan officials and military officers alongside American leaders, including President Donald Trump and General Scott Miller, the Commander of U.S. Forces Afghanistan and Resolute Support Mission.
The Taliban narrator decribed the American officials as “invaders” and “disbelievers.” The Taliban’s harsh language towards Miller is interesting, as Miller has been a proponent and advocate for the so-called ‘peace’ deal that was signed between the Taliban and the U.S. on Feb. 29, 2020. Miller feted numerous Taliban officials during and since the talks in Doha, Qatar.

6) “Give tidings to the hypocrites that there is for them a painful punishment those who take disbelievers as allies instead of the believers. Do the seek with them honor?”Gen. Miller is in clip. @USFOR_A the Taliban thinks your commander, who coddles Taliban, is a “hypocrite.” pic.twitter.com/KxrkQH6RpN
— Bill Roggio (@billroggio) June 10, 2020

The Taliban’s message of scorn and disdain for the Afghan and U.S. governments, and Western governance and culture is nothing new. The jihadist group has been very clear over the past two decades that the only acceptable form of government in Afghanistan is an “Islamic system” that is to be ruled by the Taliban’s government. The Taliban issued a fatwa, or religious statement, announcing that just seven days after signing the withdrawal deal with the U.S. [See FDD’s Long War Journal report, Taliban religious decree calls for its emir to rule ‘Islamic government’ in Afghanistan.]
The Taliban has also said that it would not “share” power after sacrificing so much during its jihad.
“The Islamic Emirate has not readily embraced this death and destruction for the sake of some silly ministerial posts or a share of the power,” the group said in an official state in Jan. 2016. [See FDD’s Long War Journal report, Taliban does not want ‘a share of the power’.]
Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD’s Long War Journal.
Are you a dedicated reader of FDD’s Long War Journal? Has our research benefitted you or your team over the years? Support our independent reporting and analysis today by considering a one-time or monthly donation. Thanks for reading! You can make a tax-deductible donation here.
Tags: Afghanistan, Taliban, Withdrawal Deal

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Russian air defense systems outmatched by Turkish drones in Syria and Libya

The Turkish-backed GNA is unique example of an army that uses drones as an essential tactical unit for close air support and strategy; I don’t mean that the US or Israel doesn’t use them; but the way you see here as a key major PART of the operation; not an addendum #dronewars pic.twitter.com/QxdU7xYVsu
— Seth Frantzman (@sfrantzman) June 6, 2020

Recent conflicts in northwestern Syria and western Libya have showcased the increasing importance of Turkey’s drones and Russian missile defense systems. This has significant ramifications for the wider Middle East because it reveals the unprecedented strategic role drones and air defense are playing across the region.
Both Russia and Turkey have been seeking new markets for their air defense and drone systems respectively. The outcome of these conflicts are given extra weight because they tie in with other countries, such as Iran, the UAE, Egypt, France, the U.S. and Israel.
The current conflicts in Syria and Libya illustrate a rapid change in the balance of power for drones and air defenses. Since June 2019, this field has entered a new era after an Iran shot down a U.S. Global Hawk near the Gulf of Oman, coupled with the Iranian drone and cruise missile swarm attack on Saudi Arabia’s Abqaiq facility in September. Iran evaded Western-supplied air defense that the Saudis had in place. 
While the US and Israel have been dominant in the use of drones for the last four decades, these new incidents represented a shift in the use of drones and their strategic impact.
Iran, for instance, is supplying drones to the Houthis in Yemen and the US has interdicted drone component shipments.  
In February and March, conflict in Idlib between the Russian and Iranian-backed Syrian regime and Turkish-backed Syrian opposition forces bubbled over into a brief clash between Turkish armed forces and Syrian regime elements. Turkish drones, known as Bayraktar TB-2 and Anka-S, played a key role in destroying Syrian units, including Russian-made Pantsir air defense systems. This operation using drones to fly in a Syrian airspace controlled partly by Russia has been characterized as a “drone blitz” or “new way of war.”
Russia-supplied air defense in Syria had once downed a Turkish F-4 in 2012. Not wanting to risk aircraft, Turkey sent in drones in 2020. Turkey lost drones in Idlib, estimates say around six to eight were destroyed in February 2020, or approximately ten percent of its drone fleet. However, over the short offensive from February 28 to March 4, Turkey claimed to have outwitted and destroyed several of Russia’s Pantsir and BUK air defense systems, which were being used by Syrian regime forces.
Turkish defense industry expert Bahri Mert Demirel said that the “Pantsir could not perform its duty in Syria because Turkey carried out serious electronic warfare and deployed radar electronic attack systems including KORAL to intercept and deceive radar systems in Syria.”
In all, Turkey’s Defense Ministry claimed eight air defense systems had been destroyed, essentially blinding and incapacitating the Syrians to the drone threat and forcing a ceasefire. For Russia, which maintains a base in Khmeimim near Idlib, the setback for its Syrian ally was important. Russia has supplied S-300s to Syria after an Israeli airstrike in the fall of 2018. Like Turkey, Israel has destroyed the Russian Pantsir in Idlib and it’s unclear how well Russian radars have performed for the Syrian regime trying to halt thousands of Israeli strikes on Iranian targets.
A second round of Turkish drones versus Russian air defense played out in Libya in the first weeks of May, culminating in the capture of the Watiya airbase by Government of the National Accord forces on May 17. Turkish media celebrated the defeat of the Russian system which is being used by the Libyan National Army of Khalifa Haftar, and which may have been supplied by the UAE. Haftar, whose forces are based in eastern Libya, are backed by Russia, Egypt and the UAE with support from France and others in the Middle East.
Libya is home to a complex conflict that has grown in importance as Turkey signed a deal with Tripoli in November for energy rights in the Mediterranean – which now links Turkey’s role in Libya to wider energy conflicts with Greece and regional skirmishes such as Qatar and Saudi Arabia Gulf crisis.
Turkey’s drones, with their relatively slow speed, short range and MAM laser-guided smart munitions, should have been no match for the Pantsir system, especially since operators in Libya had time to analyze what went wrong in Syria. The Pantsir has a gun and missile system and two radars with optics to aid is weapons. Its missiles had a longer range than the MAM missiles on the drones. Instead the Pantsirs, at least nine of them, were hunted down in May in Libya, destroyed in hangers with their radars not operating, or struck in the back while unable to see the incoming threat due to jamming or operator inexperience.
Russia’s response to setbacks in Syria and Libya has been to send warplanes to both countries. MiG-29s for the Syrians and Libyan LNA forces. U.S. AFRICOM has raised concerns about the Russian supply of warplanes.
The outcome of the recent battles in Syria and Libya have several ramifications. First, they illustrate how drones and air defense systems are increasingly used by non-western powers and proxy forces, part of a larger global change where Chinese and other UAV manufacturers are making inroads. Second, Russia may have suffered a setback in marketing its air defense systems if it can’t improve the Pantsir’s track record. Third, drones have been revealed as a key arm for militaries to use in coordination with ground forces or even proxy forces to provide a kind of instant, relatively inexpensive, and expendable air force. Iran, Israel and others are closely watching the outcome of these battles.
The number of drones being downed in conflict has increased in the last years. According to our estimate, the total reported downings increased from 31 in 2016 to 123 reportedly shot down in 2019, with 67 already shot down in 2020. While the ability to confirm all reports from Idlib or Libya is difficult, it is beyond clear that drones are playing a more strategic and tactical role. They are also proliferating in conflicts from Africa to Asia, with China, Russia, Iran and Turkey drawing lessons from the clashes.
Seth J. Frantzman is Executive Director of the Middle East Center for Reporting and Analysis, and author of ‘After ISIS: The US, Iran and the Struggle for the Middle East.’ A contributor to Defense News and The Jerusalem Post, he is conducting research for a forthcoming book called ‘Drone Wars.’
Seth J. Frantzman is Executive Director of the Middle East Center for Reporting and Analysis, and author of ‘After ISIS: The US, Iran and the Struggle for the Middle East.’ A contributor to Defense News and The Jerusalem Post, he is conducting research for a forthcoming book called ‘Drone Wars.’
Are you a dedicated reader of FDD’s Long War Journal? Has our research benefitted you or your team over the years? Support our independent reporting and analysis today by considering a one-time or monthly donation. Thanks for reading! You can make a tax-deductible donation here.
Tags: drones, Libya, russia, Turkey

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Generation Jihad Ep. 13 – Send in the Military?

Hosts Bill Roggio and Tom Joscelyn take a break from the jihad overseas to discuss the turmoil at home and whether it is a good idea to deploy the U.S. military in American cities. They also discuss a new report by a U.N. monitoring team alleging multiple ongoing ties between the Taliban and al Qaeda.

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Take a look around the globe today and you’ll see jihadists fighting everywhere from West Africa to Southeast Asia. They aren’t the dominant force in all of those areas, or even most of them. But jihadism has mushroomed into a worldwide movement, with al-Qaeda, the Taliban, ISIS and other groups waging guerrilla warfare and launching terrorist attacks on a regular basis.
Each week Generation Jihad brings you a new story focusing on jihadism around the globe. These stories will focus not only on Sunni jihadism, but also Shiite extremist groups. We will also host guests who can provide their own unique perspectives on current events.
Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD’s Long War Journal. Thomas Joscelyn is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Senior Editor for FDD’s Long War Journal.
Are you a dedicated reader of FDD’s Long War Journal? Has our research benefitted you or your team over the years? Support our independent reporting and analysis today by considering a one-time or monthly donation. Thanks for reading! You can make a tax-deductible donation here.
Tags: Afghanistan, Taliban-Al Qaeda, U.N.

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Analysis: Taliban again denies presence of foreign fighters in Afghanistan

Yet again, the Taliban has denied that foreign fighters, including members of Al Qaeda, are present in Afghanistan. The Taliban’s statement should raise deep concerns with U.S. officials about the group’s reliability to be an effective counterterrorism partner against Al Qaeda and other terror groups.
The Taliban issued its latest denial on June 6, just five days after the U.N.’s Analytical Support and Sanctions Monitoring Team said in a report that the Taliban and Al Qaeda remain allied, have consulted with each other during the Taliban’s negotiations with the U.S., and that there are thousands of foreign fighters on Afghan soil.
[See FDD’s Long War Journal reports, U.N.: Thousands of Pakistanis fight in Afghanistan alongside the Taliban and U.N.: Taliban “regularly consulted” with Al Qaeda throughout negotiations with U.S.]
In a statement released on Voice of Jihad, the Taliban called the U.N. report “fictitious” and says “there are no foreign fighters currently present in Afghanistan”:

It is very unfortunate however that a recent report published by this organizations related to presence of foreign fighters in Afghanistan and other issues are not grounded in facts. For example, the claim of large number of foreign fighters and their extensive presence throughout Afghanistan has left our compatriots baffled because the Afghans, the natives of this land who view everything first-hand and can discern conditions better than anyone else, are completely aware that there are no foreign fighters currently present in Afghanistan. How is it possible that thousands of foreign fighters maintain presence in Afghanistan according to the UN report yet the residents of this country remain in the dark? 
“Fictitious report in the name of a reputable organization“, Voice of Jihad, June 6, 2020
This is not the first time the Taliban has denied the presence of foreign fighters. In Dec. 2019, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said that there “are no foreign nationals present in Afghanistan.” He made the statement after FDD’s Long War Journal reported on a video released by the Turkistan Islamic Party, an Al Qaeda and Taliban ally, that showed its operatives training and and fighting in Afghanistan.
In Dec. 2018, the Taliban refuted an NBC News article that reported a Taliban leader admitting that there are upwards of 3,000 foreign fighters battling alongside the group in Afghanistan. The Taliban issued a formal denial, and claimed that “no foreigners exist in Afghanistan,” stating they left the country after the US invasion.
The Taliban’s denial of the presence of foreign fighters in Afghanistan is of course absurd. FDD’s Long War Journal has consistently documented the presence of Al Qaeda, Islamic State and a host of other foreign terrorists in the country over the past two decades. The information is based on U.S. and Afghan military raids against the groups’ leaders and fighters, U.N. reports, press reporting, and even Al Qaeda’s own martyrdom statements for its leaders and fighters killed while fighting in Afghanistan.
Just six weeks after signing the withdrawal deal with the U.S., the Taliban even lauded Mullah Omar, its founder and first emir, for defending and harboring Osama bin Laden after the 9/11 attacks on the U.S.
Yet the Taliban continues to maintain the facade that “there are no foreign fighters currently present in Afghanistan.”
The Taliban’s continuous denial of the presence of Al Qaeda and other foreign fighters should give Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad and other U.S. officials – who somehow maintain that the Taliban will be an effective counterterrorism partner – serious cause for concern.
Secretary Pompeo even boldly declared that the Taliban will work hand-in-hand with the U.S. to “destroy” Al Qaeda. Meanwhile the deal signed between the two included no such commitment.
After all, how can the Taliban destroy Al Qaeda if it isn’t even in Afghanistan?
Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD’s Long War Journal.
Are you a dedicated reader of FDD’s Long War Journal? Has our research benefitted you or your team over the years? Support our independent reporting and analysis today by considering a one-time or monthly donation. Thanks for reading! You can make a tax-deductible donation here.
Tags: Afghanistan, Al Qaeda, foreign fighters, Islamic State, Taliban, Withdrawal Deal

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Analysis: Palestinian factions warn Israel against West Bank annexation

Palestinian militant groups have said they will respond if the Israeli government goes through with a pledge to annex parts of the West Bank including the Jordan Valley.The consequence of annexation could spell trouble on several fronts for Israel. The international community has largely rebuked Prime Minister Netanyahu’s statements of annexation and have warned of possible sanctions against Israel in the event it follows through. Furthermore, militant groups in Gaza and the West Bank could resume wide-scale operations in response to the unilateral move.
On May 20, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas announced “The Palestine Liberation Organization and the State of Palestine are absolved, as of today, of all the agreements and understandings with the American and Israeli governments and of all the obligations based on these understandings and agreements, including the security ones.”
Many Palestinian militant groups lauded Abbas’ announcement including Fatah-affiliated Fursan al Fatah. Shortly after Abbas’ announcement, the group published a statement warning Israel not to proceed with the planned annexation of the West Bank.
“We affirm the option of armed struggle is a priority for us to confront this critical development in the history of our Palestinian cause. We warn the Israeli enemy not to harm our sanctities and the capabilities of our people, and if he does that, we will follow him with ravages that make him bite the fingers of remorse,” the Fursan al Fatah statement read.
Although, militant groups loyal to Fatah such as al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades and Fursan al Fatah have the potential to cause significant problems in the West Bank, the main concern of Israel’s security services are likely the armed wings of Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad.
Both groups are primarily based in Gaza but have active political and military wings in the West Bank. They also have the capability to launch terror operations such as shootings, car-ramming attacks, stabbings, and a plethora of other attacks, including the use of explosives.
In a recent statement published by Hamas, the group threatened they would not stand idly if Israel carried out its pledge of annexation.
“Hamas stresses the ‘revolutionaries of our people’ will place under their feet the project of annexation and the imposition of Zionist sovereignty over the occupied West Bank, and will not allow its passage,” the statement said.
Palestinian Islamic Jihad also published a similar statement warning of “resistance in all its forms” against Israel’s plans of annexation.
“The best approach to restoring rights and liberating the land is the choice of resistance in all its forms and facing the occupation and its plans, and this approach that our movement will not deviate from, regardless of the sacrifices,” their statement read.
It is important not to compare the annexation of the West Bank to the relocation of the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem in the context of a possible Palestinian militant response. When the Embassy was moved in 2018, militant groups were already sowing chaos at the Gaza border with the March of Return.
Militant groups view the annexation of portions of the West Bank as a greater violation to the Palestinian cause than the transfer of the American Embassy. It is also noteworthy to mention the factions already positioned themselves in a retaliatory posture with their statements prior to annexation occurring.
The Joint Operations Room (JOR) in Gaza, which acts as a quasi-army of Palestinian factions will likely run military operations in response to annexation. On May 20, al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades released a statement alluding to this possibility:
“The military spokesman for the al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades (Martyr Units of Nabil Masoud) stressed that they are with the Joint Operations Room in all of its decisions towards the violent responses that the Israeli occupation and the American administration will receive.”
Israel’s security establishment is likely aware of the threats it faces from the West Bank and Gaza if annexation occurs. In addition to the Fatah and Hamas-affiliated groups it has to monitor, the PFLP and DFLP also have a presence in the West Bank. Both have made similar statements of retaliation if annexation occurs.
Additionally, it would not be without precedence for Salafi-jihadi groups to take advantage of possible conflict to conduct operations in the West Bank or Gaza. In 2017, Fadi Ahmed al Qanbar – a militant belonging to Tawhid al Jihad, a Salafi division of Nasser Salah al Din Brigades – intentionally drove a truck into a group of IDF soldiers killing four in Jerusalem.
The response by militant groups will pose a significant obstacle for Israel as it is already confronting challenges in the northern arena against Hezbollah and its allies. Israel’s political establishment, specifically Prime Minister Netanyahu, will have to seriously consider if the outcome is worth the consequences Israel will almost certainly endure if it goes through with the annexation of parts of the West Bank and the Jordan Valley.
Joe Truzman is a contributor to FDD’s Long War Journal.
Are you a dedicated reader of FDD’s Long War Journal? Has our research benefitted you or your team over the years? Support our independent reporting and analysis today by considering a one-time or monthly donation. Thanks for reading! You can make a tax-deductible donation here.
Tags: Al Aqsa Martyrs brigades, Annexation, fatah, Fursan al Fatah, Gaza, Hamas, Israel, Mahmoud Abbas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, West Bank

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AQIM emir reportedly killed by French forces in Mali

In 2015, AQIM’s Abdulmalek Droukdel praised the gains made by the Jaysh al Fateh coalition and Al Nusrah Front.
Abdulmalek Droukdel, the longtime of emir of Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), was killed in a counterterrorism operation in Mali earlier this month, according to French and American officials. AQIM hasn’t publicly confirmed Droukdel’s death, but the Western allies think they got him.“On June 3, the French armed forces, with the support of their partners, neutralized the emir of Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), Abdelmalek Droukdel and several of his close collaborators, during an operation in northern Mali,” Florence Parly, France’s Minister for the Armed Forces, wrote on Twitter.
The U.S. military subsequently confirmed to the press that it had been involved in the operation. “U.S. Africa Command was able to assist with intelligence and ISR (Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance) support to fix the target,” Col. Chris Karns, spokesman for U.S. Africa Command, told CNN’s Ryan Browne.
Droukdel (a.k.a. Abu Musab Abdel Wadoud) had been AQIM’s emir throughout the al Qaeda branch’s entire existence. He was the leader of the Salafist Group for Call and Combat (GSPC), an offshoot of the Armed Islamic Group (GIA), which waged jihad throughout the 1990s before being dissolved. Under Droukdel’s leadership, the GSPC was groomed to become an official branch of al Qaeda. The GSPC was relaunched as AQIM in 2006.
AQIM has served as a regional branch of al Qaeda ever since. In al Qaeda’s global scheme, several groups oversee jihad within their designated geographic regions. The emirs of these groups swear bayat (or an oath of allegiance) to al Qaeda’s overall leader. Thus, Droukdel swore his own personal bayat to Osama bin Laden and then Ayman al-Zawahiri. And under his leadership, AQIM has waged jihad in North and West Africa, the designated areas of its responsibilities.
France’s Parly further identified Droukdel as a member of al Qaeda’s “management committee,” an important observation. This likely means that in addition to serving as the emir of one of al Qaeda’s regional branches, Droukdel also served as part of the organization’s senior management, which oversees matters across regions. Although al Qaeda’s so-called affiliates (really regional branches) are widely thought to be loosely affiliated with the group’s senior management, senior members of those same branches have played dual roles. This cuts against the thesis that al Qaeda’s affiliates are separate entities.
U.S. officials contacted by FDD’s Long War Journal say that al Qaeda established a cross-regional shura council years ago in order to better coordinate policy planning and warfighting. This became an especially important priority after the rise of the Islamic State in 2013 and 2014, as the self-declared caliphate challenged Al Qaeda’s authority among jihadists.
Droukdel remained loyal to Al Qaeda throughout the Islamic State’s challenge. In July 2014, AQIM released a statement rejecting Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s claim to be the new caliph and reaffirmed the group’s allegiance directly to Zawahiri. Droukdel maintained his fealty to Zawahiri in the years since then.
AQIM has worked covertly through other groups, including the Ansar al Sharia chapters in Tunisia and Libya, both of which were established in the wake of the 2011 Arab uprisings. After his death, Abu Iyadh al Tunisi, the emir of Ansar al Sharia Tunisia, was identified by AQIM as a member of its shura council. AQIM worked with still other groups as well, including Ansar Dine, which served as al Qaeda’s local front in Mali.
In 2017, AQIM stood up a new al Qaeda branch in West Africa. The group, named the “Group for the Support of Islam and Muslims” (Jama’at Nusrat al-Islam wal-Muslimin, or JNIM), brought together several pre-existing al Qaeda groups in the region. JNIM is led by Iyad Ag Ghaly, a Malian Tuareg who led Ansar Dine. Ghaly announced his own fealty to Droukdel and Zawahiri, as well as Taliban emir Haibatullah Akhundzada, when JNIM was formed. [See FDD’s Long War Journal report, Analysis: Al Qaeda groups reorganize in West Africa.]
Both French and American officials say Droukdel met his demise in Mali. This reflects how AQIM’s operational center of gravity shifted from North to West Africa over time.
AQIM hasn’t officially commented on reports of Droukdel’s demise. Several veterans could potentially take his place, including Abu Ubaidah Yusef al Annabi, the longtime chief of AQIM’s council of notables.
Thomas Joscelyn is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Senior Editor for FDD’s Long War Journal.
Are you a dedicated reader of FDD’s Long War Journal? Has our research benefitted you or your team over the years? Support our independent reporting and analysis today by considering a one-time or monthly donation. Thanks for reading! You can make a tax-deductible donation here.
Tags: Abdelmalek Droukdel, Abdulmalek Droukdel, Abu Musab Abdel Wadoud, Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, AQIM, JNIM

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U.N.: Thousands of Pakistanis fight in Afghanistan alongside the Taliban

The black-and-white banner of the Jamaat-ud-Dawa, the front group for the Lashkar-e-Taiba, is prevalent at an anti-US rally in Lahore in December 2011. AP photo.
Thousands of Pakistanis, including fighters from Pakistani proxies, continue to support the Taliban’s jihad against the Afghan government, according to a new report by a United Nations monitoring team. The report highlighted Pakistan’s double game of claiming to fight terrorism while backing terror groups that further its foreign policy goals.“One Member State reported that the total number of Pakistani nationals fighting with terrorist groups in Afghanistan may be as high as 6,000 to 6,500,” said the 11th report from the U.N.’s Analytical Support and Sanctions Monitoring Team.
The report singled out three major Pakistan-based groups for participation: the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan (Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan or TTP), Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM). All three groups operate inside Afghanistan with the permission and support of the Taliban.
“The presence of these groups is centered in the eastern provinces of Kunar, Nangarhar and Nuristan, where they operate under the umbrella of the Afghan Taliban,” the report stated.
The U.N. report devastated claims made by Zalmay Khalilzad, who has lauded Pakistan for its support of the so-called Afghan ‘peace process.’ On April 30, 2019, Khalilzad – the U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation – said that Pakistan “supports efforts to accelerate intra-Afghan dialogue and negotiations, and is committed to helping reduce violence” in Afghanistan.

Just wrapped up a visit to Islamabad. #Pakistan supports efforts to accelerate intra-Afghan dialogue and negotiations, and is committed to helping reduce violence in #Afghanistan. Everyone I saw recognizes the benefit peace will bring to the region. //t.co/f2ENCLZoxl
— U.S. Special Representative Zalmay Khalilzad (@US4AfghanPeace) April 30, 2019

Khalilzad’s April 2019 statement tweet was in direct contrast to his Congressional testimony in July 2016, when he called Pakistan “a State Sponsor of Terror.” [See Khalilzad flip flops on Pakistan, Taliban’s relationship with al Qaeda.]
FDD’s Long War Journal cannot independently corroborate the report as the information is based on on intelligence provided by members states. However, a number of Pakistani groups are known to operate inside Afghanistan and fight alongside the Taliban, and top leaders of Pakistani terror groups have been killed inside Afghanistan. Additionally, a number of Pakistanis are known to fight in the ranks of the Islamic State’s Khorasan Province (ISKP).
The TTP is an enemy of the Pakistani state, and has waged a brutal insurgency in northwestern Pakistan and conducted terror attacks throughout the country since it was founded in late 2006. Yet Pakistan supports the Afghan Taliban, which shelters and supports the TTP. [For more on Pakistan’s use of strategic depth and its support of so-called “good Taliban” groups, see FDD’s Long War Journal report, Pakistan: Friend or Foe in the Fight Against Terrorism?.]
The TPP “is thought to have approximately 500 fighters in Kunar and about 180 in Nangarhar,” according to the report.
While not noted in the U.N. report, Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed are proxies of the Pakistani state. These two groups are two of the largest Pakistan-backed terror proxies in the region. In addition to executing attacks in Afghanistan, both also conduct terror operations inside of India.
LeT and JeM “facilitate the trafficking of terrorist fighters into Afghanistan, who act as advisers, trainers and specialists in improvised explosive devices, according to the report. “Both groups are responsible for carrying out targeted assassinations against [Afghan] government officials and others.”
LeT has approximately 800 fighters in Afghanistan, while JeM has an estimated 200 in country.
The U.N. report provided some additional details on the locations of LeT, JeM, and TTP fighters inside Afghanistan.
LeT and JeM fighters are “co-located with Taliban forces in Mohmand Darah, Dur Baba and Sherzad Districts of Nangarhar Province. [TTP] also maintains a presence in Lal Pura District, near the border area of Mohmand Darah, Pakistan. In Kunar Province, [LeT] retains a further 220 fighters and has a further 30, all of whom are dispersed within Taliban forces.”
While not explicitly mentioned in the U.N.’s latest report, other Pakistani terrorist proxies are known to operate in Afghanistan. In Aug. 2014, the U.S. State Department noted that Harakat-ul-Mujahideen was running several training camps inside Afghanistan. U.S. military and intelligence officials have told FDD’s Long War Journal that these HuM camps remain active to this day. [See Harakat-ul-Mujahideen ‘operates terrorist training camps in eastern Afghanistan’.]
HuM is one of many terrorist groups backed by the Pakistani state. In Sept. 2014, the U.S. added Fazle-ur-Rahman Khalil, the longtime emir of HuM and a key ally of al Qaeda, to its list of Specially Designated Global Terrorists. Yet the Pakistani state has done nothing to arrest or even restrain Khalil. In fact, in 2018, Khalil joined Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan’s political party.
Meanwhile. Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs maintains that no terror groups operate on Pakistani soil.
Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD’s Long War Journal.
Are you a dedicated reader of FDD’s Long War Journal? Has our research benefitted you or your team over the years? Support our independent reporting and analysis today by considering a one-time or monthly donation. Thanks for reading! You can make a tax-deductible donation here.
Tags: Afghanistan, Harakat-ul-Mujahideen, hum, Jaish-e-Mohammed, jem, Lashkar-e-Taiba, let, Pakistan, Taliban, Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, ttp

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Top Taliban leaders celebrate suicide bombers

The Taliban’s two deputy emirs and the head of its political office lauded suicide bombers and other “martyrdom seekers” yesterday who are working to achieve the goal of the restoration of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.The senior Taliban leaders sang the praises of suicide bombers the same day that U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation somehow told reporters that the Taliban can be relied upon as an effective counterterrorism partner.
Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the “Political Deputy of the Islamic Emirate and head of the Political Office,” and deputy emirs Sirajuddin Haqqani and Mullah Mohammad Yaqoub, celebrated the Taliban’s suicide teams in audio messages that were delivered at a graduation ceremony at the Al Fateh Military Camp.
Voice of Jihad, the Taliban’s official website, released a video, titled Victorious Force (1), which included the audio messages and footage of the graduation ceremony. According to the Taliban, a “respected delegation from the Military Affairs Commission of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan” attended the graduation.
Haqqani and Yacoub’s statements were unremarkable; both praised the fighters, their commitment, military prowess, and their importance in the Taliban’s jihad. Yacoub, as the Taliban’s military emir, and Haqqani, who has played a key role in the organization and development of the Taliban’s military strategy, predictably extolled the group’s suicide bombers and foot soldiers.
However, Baradar was tasked with negotiating and maintaining the withdrawal deal with the U.S. – as well as maintain relations with other countries through the Taliban’s political office in Doha. His job is to maintain the fiction that the Taliban will negotiate with the Afghan government to enter into a power sharing agreement, as well as serve as an effective counterterrorism partner to battle al Qaeda.
In his brief statement that was broadcast to the Al Fateh camp graduates, Baradar said that the Taliban’s military “will be a great defender of the future Islamic system” and “is the true force of all Afghans.”

“The military power of Military force of the Islamic Emirate will be a great defender of the future Islamic system it will be defending its Islamic faith and its soil as it is doing now and will work for peace, security and stability of the Islamic system … The military force of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan is the true force of all Afghans.”
Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, Victorious Force (1), Voice of Jihad
Baradar’s statement was in line with the official Taliban position. The Taliban has repeatedly said that its Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan is the only legitimate representative of the Afghan government, that an “Islamic system” run by the Taliban is the only acceptable form of governmen. It has not waged jihad to share power with the current Afghan government, which it calls, “un-Islamic,” and “illegitimate.” In a fatwa, or religious decree, that was released on Voice of Jihad just seven days after signing the withdrawal deal with the U.S., the Taliban said that the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan is the only acceptable government for Afghanistan, and its emir, Mullah Haibatullah, the true leader.
Al Fateh Military Camp trains suicide bombers
The Victorious Force video provided interesting information on the Taliban’s organization of its suicide teams. During the graduation ceremony, a camp official identified the various Taliban martyrdom units, and explained how each are deployed. Each unit is distinct; its fighters were dressed and outfitted differently.
The camp officials listed the groups as the “waistcoat martyrdom seeking squad,” or standard suicide bomber, infantry, infiltration, special operations, suicide car bombers (which they also call artillery), and “laser martyrdom seeking units,” which appear to be shock troops.
Two of the units directly employ suicide bombers: the “waistcoat martyrdom seeking squad,” which was shown wearing their suicide vests, and the “artillery and heavy car bombs martyrdom seeking squad.” Al Qaeda imparted this tactic to the Taliban, and continues to support the Taliban to this day.
At least two of the units, the “Special Operations Martyrdom seekers” and the “laser martyrdom seeking units,” are likely part of the Taliban’s Red Unit, which is also known as the Blood Group. The two graduating squads were shown wearing the group’s distinctive red headband, and employ the tactics used by the Red Unit, which serves as both special operation forces and shock troops at the tip of the spear of the fighting.
[Note, the term “laser martyrdom seeking units,” which is provided by the Taliban, likely is a poor translation and is better described as precision attack squad.]
“Waistcoat martyrdom seeking squad destroys all enemy gathering, infantry patrols and high ranking officials.” “Infantry martyrdom seeking squad destroys enemy static and moving targets in face to face attacks and ambushes.” “Martyrdom seekers of infiltration operations destroy key enemy officials and individuals by conducting covert insider operations in enemy bases.” “Special Operations Martyrdom seekers carry out social operations that destroy key enemy military and intelligence targets.” “The artillery and heavy car bombs martyrdom seeking squad destroys the enemy’s fast moving targets, military installations, airports, oil, and weapons depots and other facilities in their large and heavy attacks.” “Laser martyrdom seeking units destroy the personnel and patrols of the enemy’s security belts with their precisionaser [sic] strikes]. and provide the Mujahideen with the opportunity to carry out successful indiscriminate attacks.”
Another Taliban camp operating in the open
Yet again, photos from the graduation prove the Taliban is operating one of its training camps openly, in broad daylight and without fear of reprisal. More than 100 graduates were assembled in the open, in formation, in front of a review stand packed with Taliban officials. The Taliban’s white banner was displayed prominently throughout the camp.
Western and Afghan intelligence officials should be able to easily determine the location of the camp. A distinctive mountain range is seen in the background of the video.
The location of the Fateh camp was not disclosed by the Taliban, but it is either located in Afghanistan or neighboring Pakistan. If it is located in Afghanistan, then the video highlighted the inability of Afghan security forces to control the country. If it is located in Pakistan, it highlighted the Pakistani government’s unwavering support for the Taliban, despite the government’s claim that it seeks to further peace in Afghanistan.
Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD’s Long War Journal.
Are you a dedicated reader of FDD’s Long War Journal? Has our research benefitted you or your team over the years? Support our independent reporting and analysis today by considering a one-time or monthly donation. Thanks for reading! You can make a tax-deductible donation here.
Tags: Afghanistan, suicide attacks, Taliban, Withdrawal Deal

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Generation Jihad Ep. 12 – The ISIS Spokesman’s Latest Rant

Hosts Bill Roggio and Tom Joscelyn discuss the latest diatribe released by Abu Hamza al-Qurashi, the Islamic State’s spokesman, who portrays the coronavirus as an act of divine retribution against the West and accuses the Taliban of working with the “Crusaders.” Bill and Tom also discuss a new report outlining the Taliban’s reluctance to “publicly break” with Al Qaeda and the Islamic State’s resiliency in Iraq and Syria.

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Take a look around the globe today and you’ll see jihadists fighting everywhere from West Africa to Southeast Asia. They aren’t the dominant force in all of those areas, or even most of them. But jihadism has mushroomed into a worldwide movement, with al-Qaeda, the Taliban, ISIS and other groups waging guerrilla warfare and launching terrorist attacks on a regular basis.
Each week Generation Jihad brings you a new story focusing on jihadism around the globe. These stories will focus not only on Sunni jihadism, but also Shiite extremist groups. We will also host guests who can provide their own unique perspectives on current events.
Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD’s Long War Journal. Thomas Joscelyn is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Senior Editor for FDD’s Long War Journal.
Are you a dedicated reader of FDD’s Long War Journal? Has our research benefitted you or your team over the years? Support our independent reporting and analysis today by considering a one-time or monthly donation. Thanks for reading! You can make a tax-deductible donation here.
Tags: Abu Hamza al-Qurayshi, Afghan Taliban, Al Qaeda, Iraq, ISIS, Syria

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Islamic State in Somalia suffers setbacks despite uptick in claimed activity

An Islamic State Somalia training camp somewhere in Puntland’s mountains, as seen in a photo release earlier this year.
During the course of May, Somalia witnessed a relative uptick in Islamic State claimed attacks compared to recent months. However, this activity was offset by significant setbacks dealt to the organization across the country.In total, the Islamic State in Somalia (ISS) claimed just four attacks in May according to data maintained by FDD’s Long War Journal. While this number is minuscule compared to other Islamic State branches around the world, this number represents a relative boost since the beginning of the year.
In February and March, the Islamic State released only four total claims from Somalia. And in April, the group stated its responsibility for three raids. The total amount of claims for May matches the number for January at four.
Additionally, three of the four claims in May were part of the Islamic State’s global “Battles of Attrition” campaign. This campaign, in which other branches also saw relative boosts to their activities, was meant to signal the group’s staying power in the face of a global battle against it.
The first use of this moniker was in April 2019 when then-Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al Baghdadi urged his followers to conduct a “battle of attrition” in order to “drain the enemies of their resources.”
The relative increase in activity inside Somalia last month is likely explained by ISS participating in this renewed campaign. That said, only one of the Islamic State’s claimed operations inside Somalia in May can be confirmed by local media.
On May 18, the group stated its responsibility for detonating an improvised explosive device (IED) on a vehicle belonging to the Somali military in Mogadishu the previous day.
Local media indeed reported an IED on Somali troops in Mogadishu on May 17. This attack was also unclaimed by Shabaab, Al Qaeda’s branch in East Africa, thereby giving more veracity to the Islamic State’s communiqué.
The other three alleged assaults have so far not been confirmed by local sources.
At the same time, local media has reported additional clashes between ISS and Shabaab in Somalia’s north-central region of Mudug.
According to Garowe Online, several clashes between the two were reported near the town of Dasaan where earlier rounds of infighting has also taken place.
The outlet goes on to cite Abdiqani Hassan, a local Reuters correspondent, that the Islamic State’s men reportedly gained the upper hand in the fight.
The renewed battles between the jihadist groups marks the first instances of the infighting since early last year. The two groups have been fighting each other since the emergence of the Islamic State in Somalia in late 2015.
Garowe Online‘s report also notes that some of Shabaab’s men fled the region for Puntland’s mountains, where both Shabaab and ISS maintain refuge. However, this cannot be independently verified.
Shabaab has recently been quite active in Mudug, where it killed the regional governor in a suicide bombing on May 17.
Suffering setbacks
While all of this was occurring, ISS suffered several blows in Puntland and Mogadishu. On May 9, Puntland Security Forces (PSF) killed a purported member of the group’s amniyat [internal security force] wing near Bosaso.
Photos released by the PSF following the raid also show captured explosive material, indicating the breakup of a potential bombing inside the city. And only two days later, three other ISS members were also arrested by the PSF in Bosaso.
On May 13, the PSF captured several IEDs and suicide belts from Islamic State safe-houses in Bosaso. While on May 25, the PSF launched major security operations in several areas near Bosaso which purportedly captured dozens of ISS militants.
Puntland officials have also stated that one of the militants captured during the raids is the “driver for Abdulqadir Mumin,” the overall leader of the Islamic State’s branch in Somalia.
If confirmed, this could provide additional intelligence for the PSF as it continues to mount pressure on ISS.
These raids also follow additional strikes against the group earlier this year. In April, Somali intelligence reportedly captured the head of the ISS branch in southern Somalia. This has yet to be confirmed, however.
And in March, the PSF launched other security operations in Bosaso, which reportedly captured members of both ISS and Shabaab. A senior ISS leader was also reportedly killed by the PSF in January.
These security operations have undoubtedly impacted ISS’ operational capabilities in Puntland. While the group still sporadically claims operations inside Bosaso, the majority of its claims this year have been focused on Mogadishu and its suburbs.
Local security operations, infrequent U.S. drone strikes, and clashes with Shabaab have all greatly reduced the Islamic State’s capabilities inside Somalia. With the zenith of its activities in 2018, it has steadily seen a decline in operations since last year.
That said, it has shown the capability to retain its bases in Puntland’s mountains. Earlier this year, the group highlighted a training camp there, while the UN noted in January that ISS’ bases in the mountains have acted as a “command center” for the Islamic State’s Central African Province.
Caleb Weiss is a contributor to FDD’s Long War Journal.
Are you a dedicated reader of FDD’s Long War Journal? Has our research benefitted you or your team over the years? Support our independent reporting and analysis today by considering a one-time or monthly donation. Thanks for reading! You can make a tax-deductible donation here.
Tags: Bosaso, ISIS, ISIS in Somalia, Islamic State, Islamic State Somalia, ISS, puntland, Shabaab, Somalia

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U.N.: Taliban “regularly consulted” with Al Qaeda throughout negotiations with U.S.

In May 2019, Al Qaeda released a video titled, “Under the Shade of the Islamic Emirate.”
A new report by a U.N. monitoring team casts further doubt on the supposed counterterrorism assurances made by the Taliban in its Feb. 29 withdrawal agreement with the U.S.The Taliban “regularly consulted with Al Qaeda during negotiations with the United States and offered guarantees that it would honor their historical ties,” according to the monitoring team. The analysis contains numerous allegations of ongoing collusion between the Taliban and Al Qaeda.
The report is dated May 27, or nearly two months after the U.S. and Taliban entered into their accord in Doha. In exchange for a withdrawal timetable and various other concessions made by the U.S., the Taliban supposedly agreed to prevent groups such as Al Qaeda from operating inside its territory and wouldn’t allow Al Qaeda to threaten the U.S. and its allies. However, the language of the deal is vague and the Taliban has repeatedly lied about Al Qaeda’s presence, as well as the group’s threat to the U.S., since the 1990s. The text of the agreement released to the public also doesn’t include any verification or enforcement mechanisms, though the State Department claims compliance is being monitored behind the scenes.
The monitoring team’s report discusses key aspects of the ongoing Taliban-Al Qaeda relationship that would need to be addressed. Many of the details cannot be independently corroborated, as the sources listed are “Member States,” which do not typically make their intelligence public.
Kim Dozier of Time first reported on the analysis.
Al Qaeda’s “senior leadership…remains present in Afghanistan,” as do “hundreds of armed operatives,” the monitoring team writes. These jihadists include members of Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS) and other “groups of foreign terrorist fighters aligned with the Taliban.”
Moreover, a “number of significant Al Qaeda figures were killed in Afghanistan during the reporting period.”
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Special Representative Zalmay Khalilzad have made assurances that the Taliban would “break” with and even work with the U.S. to “destroy” Al Qaeda. But the U.N.’s analysts find that relations between the Taliban, including “especially the Haqqani Network,” and Al Qaeda “remain close, based on friendship, a history of shared struggle, ideological sympathy and intermarriage.”
High-level meetings between the Taliban and Al Qaeda reported.
Member States told the U.N.’s monitoring team that the Taliban and Al Qaeda “held meetings over the course of 2019 and in early 2020 to discuss cooperation related to operational planning, training and the provision by the Taliban of safe havens for Al Qaeda members inside Afghanistan.”
There were six reported high-level “meetings between Al Qaeda and [the] Taliban senior leadership held over the past 12 months.”
The U.N. monitoring team provides an intriguing detail concerning one such meeting. And if this detail is confirmed, then it adds a new wrinkle to the biography of Osama bin Laden’s ideological and biological heir: Hamza bin Laden.
In the Spring of 2019, Hamza bin Laden reportedly met with several Taliban representatives in the Sarwan Qal’ah District of Afghanistan’s southern Helmand Province. The Taliban’s liaisons were Sadr Ibrahim, Mullah Mohammadzai and Gul Agha Ishakzai. The last figure — Gul Agha Ishakzai — was close to Taliban founder Mullah Omar since their childhood and became one of his most trusted advisers, as well as the head of the Taliban’s financial commission. The trio of Taliban men met with Hamza bin Laden “to reassure him personally that the Islamic Emirate would not break its historical ties with Al Qaeda for any price.”
U.S. officials reported Hamza’s death in the summer of 2019. The White House confirmed in September 2019 that Hamza had been killed in a counterterrorism operation. However, most of the details surrounding Hamza’s demise remain murky. As FDD’s Long War Journal reported at the time, the Trump administration didn’t explain when or precisely where Hamza was targeted. The White House also said Hamza “was responsible for planning and dealing with various terrorist groups,” but didn’t name those specific organizations. [See FDD’s Long War Journal report: Key questions concerning Hamza bin Laden’s life remain unanswered.]
The monitoring team cites unnamed “interlocutors” as saying that Ayman al-Zawahiri himself “met with members of the Haqqani Network in February 2020.” The Haqqani delegation included Hafiz Azizuddin Haqqani and Yahya Haqqani. The latter jihadist is the brother-in-law of Sirajuddin Haqqani, the deputy emir of the Taliban’s Islamic Emirate and overall leader of the eponymous network. The Haqqani team “consulted” with Zawahiri “over the agreement with the United States and the peace process.” It is not clear where the reported meeting was held or what else was discussed.
Yahya Haqqani has worked with Al Qaeda for more than decade, if not longer. The U.N.’s terrorist designation page for Yahya notes that he has served as a “liaison between the” Haqqani Network and Al Qaeda, while maintaining ties with Zawahiri’s organization “since at least mid-2009.” Yahya has “provided money to [Al Qaeda] members in the region for their personal expenses,” and acted as the Haqqani Network’s “primary liaison with foreign fighters, including Arabs, Uzbeks, and Chechens.”
Several other Al Qaeda leaders also met with the Taliban during the last year or so, according to the U.N. monitoring team. They are Ahmad al-Qatari, Sheikh Abdul Rahman, Hassan Mesri (al-Masri, also known as Abdul Rauf), and Abu Osman (whom the analysts describe as a “Saudi Arabian member of Al Qaeda.”) Interestingly, the Islamic State has consistently criticized Abdul Rauf, including for his close ties to the Taliban.
Al Qaeda continues to fight under the Taliban’s banner.
It is unsurprising that Al Qaeda would seek to guarantee its safe havens in the event of Western withdrawal. There are significant epistemological issues when it comes to documenting the group’s presence inside the country, mainly because Al Qaeda’s leadership decided years ago to work clandestinely underneath the Taliban’s banner. But there is plenty of evidence showing that the group has survived in Afghanistan after all these years of war.
The U.N. monitoring team notes that information “provided to the Monitoring Team since its previous report has indicated that Al Qaeda is quietly gaining strength in Afghanistan while continuing to operate with the Taliban under their protection.” (emphasis added)
Al Qaeda is “covertly active in 12 Afghan provinces: Badakhshan, Ghazni, Helmand, Khost, Kunar, Kunduz, Logar, Nangarhar, Nimruz, Nuristan, Paktiya and Zabul.” It is likely that the group continues to operate elsewhere as well. And “although it is difficult to be certain of the exact number of Al Qaeda fighters in Afghanistan,” the U.N. monitoring team’s “estimate is between 400 and 600 armed operatives.”
The U.N. team points to the joint U.S.-Afghan raid in Musa Qala, Helmand in Sept. 2019 as evidence of Al Qaeda’s persistent presence. Asim Umar, the first emir of AQIS and a senior Al Qaeda figure, was killed alongside “several foreign nationals, including the [AQIS] deputy, its ‘courier’ to al-Zawahiri and several foreign female members.” They “were being sheltered by local Taliban forces, some of whom” were also “killed in the raid.”
There are indications that the Taliban sought to protect Al Qaeda figures after the raid in Musa Qala.
“Possibly prompted by the killing of Asim Umar,” the U.N. monitoring team reports, the Taliban’s “head of intelligence, Mawlawi Hamidullah Akhundzada…reportedly instructed Taliban fighters to facilitate the movement of Al-Qaida fighters under the command of Mufti Mahmood..from the south to the eastern region of Afghanistan.”
FDD’s Long War Journal continues to caution that the true extent of Al Qaeda’s presence is unknown and a full accounting would have to reflect the group’s relationships with various ethnic jihadist outfits, as well as its ties to other organizations throughout the region. In addition, Al Qaeda continues to operate under the banner of the Taliban’s Islamic Emirate, meaning that it usually doesn’t claim attacks on its own. The U.N. team points to one possible example of this in Bagram last year, when Al Qaeda operatives carried out an attack claimed by the Taliban.
A new joint Al Qaeda-Haqqani fighting force?
The U.N. team reports that Al Qaeda and the Haqqani Network may be forming a new fighting force based in eastern Afghanistan. Citing unspecified “information,” the analysts write that there have been discussions “among senior Haqqani Network figures” about establishing “a new joint unit of 2,000 armed fighters in cooperation with and funded by Al Qaeda.”
The “newly established unit would be split into two operational zones with Hafiz Azizuddin Haqqani in overall command and leading forces” across the Khost, Logar, Paktika and Paktiya provinces. The “remaining force would be deployed to Kunar and Nuristan under Shir KhanManga,” who is the “head of intelligence for the Haqqani Network.” Additionally, a Member State reported that Al Qaeda is “establishing newtraining camps in the east of the country.”
It is not clear what came of this proposal, or if it is still being worked out. Al Qaeda has previously operated as a “Shadow Army” in Afghanistan and along the border with Pakistan. This fighting force has been reorganized several times since 2001 and the reporting picked up by the U.N. may pertain to the latest reshuffling.
Despite reported divisions within the Taliban, the group’s relationship with Al Qaeda may have even grown stronger.
The monitoring team’s report references possible divisions within the Taliban, but it isn’t clear what, if anything, they amount to.
For instance, the Taliban’s Political Office supposedly has a split between Abdul Ghani Baradar Abdul Ahmad Turk and a “more hard-line group close to Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanekzai.” The political delegation in Doha reportedly “understood the need for the Taliban to interact with the international community and show moderation, while rank-and-file fighters were reported not to share that view.” As a consequence, some unidentifed “interlocutors believed that the Taliban leadership had not fully disclosed the details of the agreement, particularly any commitment to cut ties with Al Qaeda and foreign terrorist fighters, for fear of a backlash – a matter that had surfaced repeatedly as a topic of acrimonious internal debate.”
Given the other reports cited, however, there are no indications that the deal in Doha was intended to lead to a real break between the two.
“Al-Qaida has been operating covertly in Afghanistan while still maintaining close relations with the Taliban,” the monitoring team reports. And should the “agreement with the United States” become “binding for the Taliban, it may prompt a split between pro- and anti-Al-Qaeda camps.” The monitoring team points to a group known as Hizb-i Vilayet Islami, which consists of Taliban figures who are opposed “to any possible peace agreement.” But this outfit is “composed mainly of dissident senior Taliban members residing outside Afghanistan,” so it isn’t clear how important they are.
Even so, some “Member States” told the U.N. that the “Taliban appear to have strengthened their relationship with Al Qaeda rather than the opposite.” One Member State said the regular meetings between senior Al Qaeda leaders and the Taliban “made any notion of a break between the two mere fiction.” This same undisclosed source explained that the relationship between the two is “one of deep personal ties (including through marriage) and long-term sense of brotherhood.”
Al Qaeda has a “network of mentors and advisers who are embedded with the Taliban, providing advice, guidance and financial support.” The Taliban “offensive against Ghazni City in August 2018 was a prime example of the effective deployment of Al-Qaida support,” the report reads.
To date, the U.S. State Department hasn’t provided any evidence of a break between the Taliban and Al Qaeda. Meanwhile, Al Qaeda has celebrated the Feb. 29 deal in Doha as a “great victory” for the jihadists’ cause.
U.N. monitoring teams have repeatedly reported on the close relationship between the Taliban and Al Qaeda. For analyses of these reports by FDD’s Long War Journal, see:
UN: Al-Qaeda maintains close ties to Taliban despite talks with U.S.
Al Qaeda’s alliance with the Taliban ‘remains firm,’ UN says
UN: Al Qaeda continues to view Afghanistan as a ‘safe haven’
Al Qaeda growing stronger under Taliban’s umbrella, UN finds
UN Security Council continues to report on al Qaeda-Taliban alliance
Thomas Joscelyn is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Senior Editor for FDD’s Long War Journal.
Are you a dedicated reader of FDD’s Long War Journal? Has our research benefitted you or your team over the years? Support our independent reporting and analysis today by considering a one-time or monthly donation. Thanks for reading! You can make a tax-deductible donation here.
Tags: Afghanistan, Al Qaeda, Haqqani-Al Qaeda, Taliban, Taliban-Al Qaeda, Taliban-Al Qaeda axis, Taliban-Al Qaeda nexus

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Iranian organizations establish a foothold in the Gaza Strip

Iran is exerting its regional influence in the Middle East and Gaza is not an exception. Social welfare programs and charities throughout the Gaza Strip have been established by Iran to influence the hearts and minds of its residents.Iran financially and militarily supports a number of its proxies in the Middle East including militant organizations in Gaza such as Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Popular Resistance Committees. However, Iran’s support does not solely go to Gaza’s militant groups.
During the first week of Ramadan, Harakat al Nujaba, an Iranian-backed Iraqi paramilitary group, distributed food baskets and other Ramadan gifts to the families of prisoners and those who have been killed fighting against Israel.
“A gift on the occasion of the blessed month of Ramadan, presented by al Nujaba for the families of the martyrs and captives in Palestine,” a message in the food basket read.
Furthermore, al Nujaba’s Information and Relations office stated “The staff of al Nujaba’s office in Gaza, having collected the needed medical and food supplies, distributed a package of diverse Ramadani presents among the families of martyrs and captives in ash-Shujaiyya and northern areas of the Strip, an act carried out secretly and at night for the image of the targeted families is maintained.”
The statement by al Nujaba is important because it demonstrates that an Iraqi paramilitary group funded and supported militarily by Iran has a presence in the Gaza Strip.
It is noteworthy to mention al Nujaba isn’t the first Shia movement with a military wing to operate in the Gaza Strip. Harakat al Sabireen, founded by former Palestinian Islamic Jihad members who converted to Shia Islam, operated in the Gaza Strip for some years until Hamas arrested its leader and seized the group’s weapons in 2019.
Another Iranian funded organization operating in the Gaza Strip is the Palestinian-Iranian Friendship Association (PIFA). The organization also has branches in Lebanon and Syria.
PIFA describes itself as a “Palestinian civil organization that seeks the participation of the largest possible number of our Palestinian people to work on developing and strengthening Palestinian-Iranian relations by working to develop various forms of culture, media, social, political and other work.”
However, the organization actively associates itself with militant groups in the Gaza Strip and abroad. In the summer of 2018, an event sponsored by PIFA in the Gaza Strip hosted the heads of Abd al Qadir al Husseini, Mujahideen Brigades and a representative of Palestinian Islamic Jihad.
Additionally, according to Hezbollah’s media relations department, a delegation from PIFA met with senior Hezbollah official Ibrahim al Sayed on November 2019.
“We met the brothers in the leadership of Hezbollah to confirm our loyalty to the valiant Islamic resistance that carried the cause of Palestine and offered martyrs for it,” Abdul Karim al Sharqi, PIFA’s Secretary-General stated.
Furthermore, a recent Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center report provided additional information on Iranian funded organizations with an operational presence in the Gaza Strip.
The evidence presented suggests Iran is attempting to influence its Islamic ideology through charitable organizations similar to what it has already done in Lebanon, Syria and Iraq for the last several decades. Whether it will be able to repeat the success it has had in other countries is yet to be seen in the Gaza Strip.
Joe Truzman is a contributor to FDD’s Long War Journal.
Are you a dedicated reader of FDD’s Long War Journal? Has our research benefitted you or your team over the years? Support our independent reporting and analysis today by considering a one-time or monthly donation. Thanks for reading! You can make a tax-deductible donation here.
Tags: Al Sabireen Movement, Gaza, Hamas, Harakat al Nujaba, Iran, Palestinian Islamic Jihad

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Wanted Islamic State leader reported killed in Syria

The U.S. continues to target high level Islamic State leaders in Syria despite President Trump’s claim that the group has been “defeated.” An Islamic State leader who is wanted by the U.S. for his role in the terror group’s chemical and biological weapons programs is thought to have been killed in a Coalition airstrike in Syria earlier this week.Also, the U.S. military announced that it killed two other senior Islamic State leaders in a joint raid in Syria two weeks ago.
Iraq’s Counter-Terrorism Service said that the U.S. led Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve (CJTF-OIR) killed Mu‘taz Numan ‘Abd Nayif Najm al-Jaburi, who is better known as Hajji Taysir, in an airstrike in the eastern Syrian province of Deir Ezzor. Hajji Taysir’s death has not been confirmed by CJTF-OIR or the Islamic State.
“After following up the movements of this dangerous terrorist and his continued movements inside and outside Iraq, he was targeted by an airstrike by the International Coalition against ISIS in the Syrian region of [Deir Ezzor], according to accurate intelligence information by the Counter-Terrorism Service,” the Iraqi agency announced, according to Kurdistan 24.
Hajji Taysir is wanted by the U.S government for his role as a senior leader in the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. On Aug. 21, 2019, the US State Department Rewards for Justice Program announced a reward for up to $5 million for Taysir and two other ISIS leaders. [See LWJ report, US announces rewards for 3 Islamic State leaders.]
According to the State Department, Taysir is considered “one of the most important leaders in ISIS.” He serves as “deputy amir of manufacturing in Syria” and oversees the “Research Department for ISIS’s chemical and biological weapons efforts in Syria.”
According to Iraq’s Counter-Terrorism Service, Taysir was also “responsible for planning and coordinating external terrorist operations.”
The unconfirmed report of Taysir’s death was preceded by a joint raid between CJTF-OIR and the Syrian Democratic Forces in Deir Ezzor that killed Ahmad ‘Isa Ismail al-Zawi and Ahmad ‘Abd Muhammad Hasan al-Jughayfi. The exact date of the raid was not disclosed. CJTF-OIR announced the operation on May 17.
Al-Zawi, “also known as Abu Ali al-Baghdadi, was the ISIS Wali [governor] of North Baghdad, CJTF-OIR stated in its press release. “As a regional leader, al-Zawi was responsible for disseminating terrorist guidance from senior ISIS leadership to operatives in North Baghdad.”
Ahmad ‘Isa Ismail Ibarhim al-Zawi, also known as Abu Ali al-Baghdadi, was the ISIS Wali of North Baghdad. As a regional leader, al-Zawi was responsible for disseminating terrorist guidance from senior ISIS leadership to operatives in North Baghdad.
 Al-Jughayfi, “also known as Abu Ammar, was a senior ISIS logistics and supplies official responsible for directing the acquisition and transport of weapons, IED materials, and personnel across Iraq and Syria,” CJTF-OIR stated.
The U.S. military continues to target senior and mid-level Islamic State leaders and operatives in Iraq and Syria despite President Donald Trump’s declaration two years ago that ISIS was defeated.
The “military mission to eradicate ISIS in Syria is coming to a rapid end, with ISIS being almost completely destroyed,” the White House noted in early April 2018.
Trump repeated this claim in Dec. 2019, when he said “We have defeated ISIS in Syria.”
However, the White House’s declaration of victory was premature. More than two years later, ISIS remains a threat, and continues “to wage a ‘low-level insurgency’ in both Iraq and Syria,” the Lead Inspector General for Operation Inherent Resolve noted in its quarterly report that was released on May 11.
ISIS “remains unable to hold territory and continues to rely on small-arms attacks,” the report noted. “In Iraq, these attacks were concentrated in mountainous and desert provinces north and west of Baghdad. In Syria, the majority of attacks occurred in [Deir Ezzor], Hasakah, and Raqqah provinces.”
According to the report, ISIS has an estimated “14,000 to 18,000 terrorists between Syria and Iraq.” However, as FDD’s Long War Journal has noted numerous times in the past, these estimates are often inaccurate and usually undercount the number of ISIS fighters. [See LWJ report, On the CIA estimate of number of fighters in the Islamic State.]
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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Tags: Hajji Taysir, Iraq, ISIS, Islamic State, Mu‘taz Numan ‘Abd Nayif Najm al-Jaburi, Syria

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