The US has launched several drone strikes against ISIL militants recently in Nangarhar, reportedly killing several commanders. Mr Mujahid said he was aware of government plans for an operation against ISIL, but at least until that point his district was badly suffering. “No one really cares enough to eliminate ISIL, not the Afghan government, the foreign forces or even the UN,” he said. The battles between ISIL and Taliban illustrate divisions within the global jihadi movement, but the faultlines are complex and frequently shifting. Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, who has pledged allegiance to new Taliban leader Mullah Mansour, earlier this month hinted his group might be willing to work with ISIL. If realised, that would be a stark about-turn in his previous opposition to the group, which he disowned in 2014 after it ignored his instructions to stay out of Syria. However, experts say ISIL’s extreme ideology is unlikely to take root in Afghanistan. Graeme Smith, senior analyst with International Crisis Group, said ISIL has had “a very slow start” in Afghanistan, and “they don’t have a lot of territory to show for it.” Still, Mr Smith cautioned, while “it’s a tiny phenomenon right now, nobody knows how fast or far it will spread.”
Afghanistan/Taliban – The Afghan Taliban say they have put aside disagreements and rallied around their new leader Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansour, an article written for the BBC said on the 23 Sep 15. The announcement followed weeks of intensive efforts to unite the movement behind the man who succeeded Taliban founder Mullah Mohammad Omar. Following the announcement of Omar's death in Jul 15, Mullah Mansour was quickly installed as the new Amir ul-Mumineen, Commander of the Faithful. The decision was initially opposed by some of Mullah Omar's followers. The new emir's main challengers were Mullah Omar's brother and eldest son - until now relatively unknown, who questioned the way he was appointed.
But both eventually pledged loyalty to Mullah Mansour. "Mullah Yaqoub, the son and Mullah Manan, the brother of Mullah Omar, swore their allegiances to the new leader in a splendid ceremony," Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid told the BBC last week, without revealing the location of the gathering. "Now the movement will continue in a united manner." In recent weeks, hundreds of Taliban commanders, fighters and clerics travelled in and out of Pakistan to try to overcome the open divisions. Reports from the Pakistani city of Quetta near the Afghan border said the consultations required local supporters to host hundreds of Taliban in mosques, madrassas and private houses, and organise transport and supplies.
The task of unifying the movement appears as yet incomplete with some senior figures still threatening to disobey Mansour and run their own faction and their own insurgent attacks. The effort put into overcoming the early challenge to Mullah Mansour's leadership suggests how important it was for the movement to preserve unity. Waheed Mozhda, a Kabul-based expert who used to work in the Taliban foreign ministry before they were driven from power in 2001, says the group realises that unity is key to their survival. "Their enemies are stronger than they are and therefore they know that if there are differences they will be wiped out," Mr Mozhda says.
Barnett Rubin, a leading US expert on Afghanistan, says the Taliban have been bound together by a coherent ideology that has so far prevented any splits. "The Taliban were founded to put an end to factionalism and there is a strong presumption against it," says Mr Rubin, "Everyone follows the commands of the emir. There have been dissident individuals who left or were expelled from the organisation, but once they were expelled or left, they lost all influence." Mullah Mansour as the emir heads a strictly organised command structure with two deputies. One of these is Sirajuddin Haqqani, a leader of the Haqqani network which has been blamed for some of the most violent attacks inside Afghanistan.
Sirajuddin Haqqani is wanted by the US who have offered a reward of $5m for his arrest. The layer below is formed by an 18-member leadership council, the Rahbari Shura. It has just been expanded to 21 under Mullah Mansour, according to the Pakistani writer Rahimullah Yusufzai, who says that the leadership belongs almost entirely to Afghanistan's Pashtun ethnic group. "Only two members are non-Pashtun, an ethnic Tajik and an ethnic Uzbek from northern Afghanistan," he says. "Besides that an overwhelming majority of the Rahbari Shura members are from the southern provinces of Kandahar, Uruzgan and Helmand, known as the heartland of the Taliban movement and its birthplace." The leadership council oversees around a dozen commissions - effectively the ministries of the Taliban.
Borhan Osman of the respected Afghanistan Analysts Network, AAN, says the military commission is the most important, running the insurgency. "The head of the military commission is a person equivalent to a defence minister in a country." On the ground the insurgency is run by a network of regional commanders and shadow governors in the different provinces of Afghanistan, Mr Osman says. In parallel to the insurgency, the Taliban run a political commission with an office in Qatar, set up as an international point of contact to facilitate initial peace talks. With the leadership thought to be based in Pakistan and commanders and fighting units scattered over many different Afghan provinces, communication is a major challenge, BBC Urdu's Islamabad bureau editor, Haroon Rashid, says the main consideration is keeping sensitive information safe. "The best and safest option for them is through 'word of mouth'," he says. "But they have also been communicating through written letters. I have seen some letters in North Waziristan's main town of Miranshah which suggests that written letters were the most popular way of communicating."
Borhan Osman says field commanders and shadow governors will use electronic methods too. "While the provincial governor may not be himself talking to one of his commanders, one of his aides might do it, using all this code language, maybe talking on the phone and also increasingly now on walkie-talkies when they are close by in the same area." Some of the names used for the Taliban leadership council, such as the "Quetta Shura" suggests a firm base in a specific location, but Borhan Osman says such terms are misleading. "It's a name for a mechanism rather than for a headquarters," he says. "They meet at the home of one of the members or supporters. The next day they meet in another town." Haroon Rashid agrees that it would be wrong to think of the Taliban as an organisation with a firm infrastructure. "They survive on the bare minimum," he says. "They remain on the move all the time. Pakistani seminaries and mosques have remained their favourite place to operate from." The Taliban have traditionally relied on donations from sympathisers in the Gulf.
But some experts say that such "foreign aid" has dwindled. "I have the impression that this source has decreased as the focus of global jihad is now back in the Arab world itself," says Barnett Rubin. "Inside Afghanistan the main income seems to come from protection rackets and tolls, bribes or taxes collected or extorted from commercial and other traffic." Mr Rubin says that some Taliban also own businesses in the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Saudi Arabia. "The Haqqanis have a large business network in Pakistan, Afghanistan and the Persian Gulf, including the sale of honey. And of course everyone in Afghanistan who controls land that grows poppy or roads over which opiates are transported makes money from protection and extortion of the drug industry." The potential of Afghanistan's national resources has also not been lost on the Taliban. The ex-Taliban official Waheed Mozhda says that the group added a special branch to its finance committee to deal with mining just last year. "The committee leases those mines under the Taliban's control to people and companies," he says.
The Afghan government consistently claims that its neighbour Pakistan is supporting the Afghan Taliban, something Islamabad rejects. "Pakistan officially denies it has any control whatsoever over the Afghan Taliban," says Haroon Rashid. "But there is hardly any denying the fact that Pakistan has influence on them and has contacts." Barnett Rubin says that claims the Pakistani security services, the ISI, have close connections have some credibility. "It is quite possible that many Taliban operations are directly run by ISI or ISI contractors embedded with the Taliban," he says. "This was the case during 1994-2001." Mr Rubin says that Pakistan may use the Taliban to further its strategic interests in Afghanistan: "Pakistan wants to use the pressure of Taliban operations in Afghanistan to prevent consolidation of a pro-Indian or pro-Pashtunistan government.
They have said so. But implicitly they are offering to stop the Taliban insurgency if those demands are met." Pakistan of course has its own insurgency to deal with at home, the Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP), as well as al-Qaeda affiliated groups. Observers say that while links to the Afghan Taliban exist, this amounts to little practical co-operation. "The TTP has pledged allegiance to Mullah Omar and by default [they] would be transferring that allegiance to Akhtar Mansour," according to the AAN's Borhan Osman. "But even from the beginning it was more of a symbolic solidarity. The TTP is a completely different organisation, with a different ideology, different goals, and different mechanisms. It's the same as with al-Qaeda. It pledged allegiance to the Taliban, but that is just symbolic solidarity." One potential rival to the Afghan Taliban has emerged with some insurgents in Afghanistan declaring allegiance to the Islamic State group which claims a presence in some parts of the country.
But observers say these are mainly disgruntled fighters. "Some Taliban with grievances against the leadership and who found it impossible to organise factions, instead left the organisation and joined IS," says Barnett Rubin. There are still some challengers to the new emir's authority. One prominent field commander in southern Afghanistan, Mullah Mansour Dadullah has accused the new leader of being a puppet of the Pakistani intelligence service and there have been reports of clashes between his supporters and mainstream Taliban fighters. But despite these challenges, the AAN's Borhan Osman thinks there is no sign that the Taliban are seriously weakening. "The fight is going [on] as intensive as ever. So we don't see any changes on the ground, so far at least."
Afghanistan/Islamic State – The ISIS group is making inroads in Afghanistan, winning over a growing number of sympathizers and recruiting followers in 25 of the country’s 34 provinces, a U.N. report said on the 25 Sep 15. The militant group, which controls large areas of Syria and Iraq, has been trying to establish itself in Afghanistan, challenging the Taliban on their own turf. Afghan security forces told U.N. sanctions monitors that about 10 percent of the Taliban insurgency are ISIS sympathizers, according to the report by the U.N.’s al-Qaeda monitoring team. “The number of groups and individuals who are openly declaring either loyalty to or sympathy with ISIS continues to grow in a number of provinces in Afghanistan,” said the report. Afghan government sources said “sightings of the groups with some form of ISIS branding” or sympathy were reported in 25 provinces in the war-torn country, it added. The ISIS-backed groups “regularly engage” Afghan military forces, but fighting with other parts of the insurgency are rare, except in Nangarhar province where they are battling the Taliban for control of the drug trade.
Among the prominent ISIS fighters, the report singled out Abdul Rauf Khadem, a former Taliban adviser to Mullah Omar, who visited Iraq in October 2014 and has since formed his own group in Helmand and Farah provinces. Khadem allegedly has been recruiting followers by paying out large sums of money. Foreign fighters from Pakistan and Uzbekistan, some of whom have close ties to al-Qaeda, have come under the ISIS banner after fleeing their country and have “rebranded themselves” in recent months, the report said. Up to 70 IS fighters have come from Iraq and Syria and now form the core of the militants’ branch in Afghanistan, according to the report.
Afghan security authorities do not consider the growing emergence of ISIS as an “immediate increased threat” but they are keeping an eye on the situation as a “potential new threat”, it added. The U.N. monitoring team said ISIS had improved its propaganda in English in a sign of increased competition with the Taliban. The Taliban, who have themselves often been accused of savagery during their 14-year insurgency, are seeking to appear as a bulwark against ISIS’s brutality and as a legitimate group waging an Islamic war. Earlier this month the Taliban condemned a “horrific” video that apparently showed ISIS fighters blowing up bound and blindfolded Afghan prisoners with explosives.
Afghanistan – Hundreds of Taliban fighters carried out an early-morning raid on the city of Kunduz in Afghanistan, entering the northern city from three different directions it was reported on the 28 Sep 15. It was thought that eight people which include police officers were killed, and 50 others injured in the attack. Kunduz city was on lockdown on the 28 Sep as security forces attempted to fight back. There were reports that the provincial council building has been seized. The armed fighters were also reportedly to have taken control of a 200-bed hospital in the city. There were reports that the Taliban had taken control of a university in Kunduz. There were reports that the Taliban had gained the support of Kunduz residents, who were unhappy about local government corruption. Taliban fighters were reportedly searching houses in the city looking for government officials.
The fighters were thought to have blocked roads leading to the airport and the hospital to prevent civilians from fleeing the city. Additional government troops were deployed to the area. The attack is the second time this year that the Taliban threatened to seize Kunduz, which is the main city of Kunduz province. The province is one the most volatile provinces in the northern region of the country, with three districts reportedly under Taliban control. On the 29 Sep 15 Afghan forces were reportedly mobilising for a counter-offensive and the United States launched airstrikes in the area. This comes amid the fear that Kunduz would give the Taliban a strategic base of operations.
On the 01 Oct 15 reports stated that Afghan government forces were back in control in parts of the city of Kunduz, three days after it was captured by the Taliban, an Afghan Special Forces commander said. Operations were ongoing on Thursday morning to take control of the entire city, the commander stated. He said the Taliban left the centre of the city, now under government control, on the 29 Sep 15 night following a US air strike that decimated their ranks. Residents and security sources said the army was facing stiff resistance in residential areas still held by the Taliban.
China – At least six people have been killed and dozens were injured in a series of explosions in a small town in the southern Chinese region of Guangxi it was reported on the 30 Sep 15. Parcel bombs went off in a number of places in Liucheng county, including government buildings, a prison and a supermarket, state media say. It is not clear who carried out the attacks. There are no reported arrests. Unverified photographs posted on social media show what appears to be substantial damage; in one, a five-storey building has been almost completely destroyed. A police statement said that - over a two-hour period in the afternoon - more than a dozen explosions took place in and around the town of Dapu. The local authorities say they are investigating the possibility that bombs may have been put into parcels and then posted. Lethal attacks on public targets in China are sometimes carried out by individuals with an unresolved medical or legal grievance. But the scale of this apparently deliberate act - on the eve of China's National Day holiday - will fuel speculation that there may be a connection to organised separatist militants from the western region of Xinjiang, blamed by China for a number of violent attacks in recent years.
361 COMMENT: On the 01 Oct 15 Chinese officials stated that the attacks were not carried out by terrorists, this being after a further blast occurring bringing the total to 17. However, in the past disgruntled several disgruntled Chinese citizens have bombed local government buildings in an attempt to draw attention to their plight. These attacks seem a little over board to draw attention to a complaint. These explosive devices were planted in advance and in different locations indicating a well planned and executed incident. But the Chinese authorities claim that they have a suspect in custody. We may never know the truth but the amount of devices used along with planning and logistics does seem somewhat excessive for someone with a grudge. COMMENT ENDS
Iran/al-Qaeda – The government of Iran released five top al-Qaeda leaders earlier this year, The New York Times reported on the 17 Sep 15. The Times reported that experts fear that the release of these terrorists “could re-energize the militant group, providing an influx of vetted leaders at a crucial time.” Cynthia Storer, the CIA’s first full-time analyst dedicated to studying Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda, called Adl a “founding father” of the terror group. Gen. Michael Flynn, formerly the head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, said that Adl will provide al-Qaeda “a shot of energy.” “The collusion between Al Qaeda and Iran is something we have seen before and this trade, if known by the U.S., should have been included as part of the Iran deal negotiations,” he told the Times.
The other al-Qaeda figures released by Iran were identified as Abdul Khayr al-Misri, Abul Qassam, Sari Shibab, and Abu Mohamed al-Misri. After the terror attacks of the 11 Sep 01, al-Qaeda moved a number of its military leaders to Iran as a means of keeping them safe from American retaliation. It is not clear when the al-Qaeda figures were detained by Iran, but that they remained in contact with the organization throughout the time they were in Iran. Iran released the five in exchange for a diplomat who had been held by al-Qaeda in Yemen. When the diplomat, Nour Ahmad Nikbakht, was released this past March, Iran claimed that he was freed by a Special Forces operation. However, Yemen’s Houthi-controlled Interior Ministry said at the time that Iran had engaged in prisoner swap.
The Houthis are the Iranian-backed rebels in Yemen. A spokesman for the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria said last year that al-Qaeda refrained from striking at Iran in order to preserve its network that was operating inside Iran. The pan-Arab newspaper a-Sharq al-Awsat reported in February that al-Qaeda attacks against American interests in the Gulf had been directed since 2007 by Saleh al-Qarawi, who operated in Iran. Earlier this week, an editorial in The Wall Street Journal called on the Obama administration to release all documents recovered from Osama Bin Laden’s compound, so that the public can get a fuller understanding of the ongoing ties between Iran and al-Qaeda.
Malaysia – Malaysian authorities have arrested three people including a Syrian and an Indonesian national on suspicion of planning terror attacks against domestic and foreign targets, police reports said on the 25 Sep 15. The announcement came a day after the U.S. and Australian embassies had warned their citizens to avoid a popular Kuala Lumpur tourist area on the 24 Sep 15 due to an unspecified security threat. The detainees were planning to "attack important national assets, Western assets, and public spots," a statement by Deputy Inspector-General of Police Noor Rashid Ibrahim said. The statement did not specify their nationalities, but Malaysian news outlets quoted Noor Rashid later telling reporters they were a Malaysian, a Syrian and an Indonesian.
The police statement said one of the foreigners had travelled frequently to Yemen. On the 24 Sep the U.S. and Australian embassies warned citizens to stay away from Jalan Alor, an outdoor dining strip in central Kuala Lumpur that is packed nightly with foreigners and locals. The arrests were related to the Jalan Alor threat, and that the detainees were taken into custody on the 24 Sep 14. "The operation is a result from information obtained from suspects arrested previously," the police statement said. Muslim-majority Malaysia practices a moderate brand of Islam and has not seen any notable terror attacks in recent years.
But concern has risen in the multi-faith nation over growing hard-line Islamic views and the country's potential as a militant breeding ground. Authorities say dozens of Malaysians have travelled to Syria to fight for the radical Islamic State in its civil war there, and warn they may seek to return home and import its ideology. Over the past year, police have arrested numerous suspects whom they say were ISIS sympathizers plotting attacks. Last month, police said 10 Malaysians were arrested for fostering suspected links with the Islamic State and planning attacks in the country.
Pakistan – Peshawar has become a hotspot in the last few months following some of the attacks by the Taliban and subsidiaries of the Taliban in Pakistan. General Asim Badwa stated in a press conference on the 20 Sep 15 that the attack left 16 people killed during the morning prayers at a mosque inside the base. The Pakistani Taliban has already claimed responsibility. While the attack was attempted to be stopped, the security forces failed, even when there are claims that 13 terrorists were killed. In the same press conference, there was a statement that 29 military personnel were injured. The base location is venerable to attack but lately the focus from the Pakistani Taliban has been to pick targets that are not harder to hit. In this case, this compound is a big victory for the Taliban. As to the weapons used, AK-47 and explosives were used. Unlike previous situations where insiders were the attackers, the Pakistani military and Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) will begin to investigate if in this case there was any insider assistance. Afghanistan and that area of Pakistan need a more pragmatic approach. ISIS now has set their focus in that area.
Tajikistan – Tajikistan's government has said on the 16 Sep 15 that it had eliminated a group of Islamist rebels behind recent deadly street battles in the volatile ex-Soviet state. The interior ministry of the impoverished country bordering Afghanistan said it had eliminated a rebel group led by former deputy defence minister, Abdukhalim Nazaroda. "The terrorist group headed by ex-deputy defence minister Abdukhalim Nazaroda has been liquidated in the course of a joint operation of government troops," an interior ministry source said. He added that "Abdukhalim Nazaroda is also among the dead."
The rebels attacked police stations and an airport in the capital Dushanbe earlier this month, killing nine police and injuring 10; thirteen militants were also killed in the attack. Tajikistan launched an air and ground operation against the rebels, accusing them of attempting to overthrow the government. It said earlier on Wednesday that the rebels had killed four troops including a Special Forces commander in a shootout. The rebels were hiding in the mountainous Ramit Valley around 60km (35 miles) east of Dushanbe.
Nazaroda served as deputy defence minister until his dismissal this month. He has been charged with treason, terrorism, sabotage and creating an extremist group. Nazaroda fought with the Islamist opposition against the secular government during a five-year civil war that ended in 1997 with a deal that saw former rebels integrated into the defence ministry. Tajik President Emoli Rahman promised that perpetrators of armed attacks would be "deservedly punished". Tajikistan on the 15 Sep 15 hosted a summit of the Russia-led Collective Security Treaty Organisation, a regional security organisation. Russian President Vladimir Putin told the summit that Tajikistan was facing "attempts to destabilise the situation" and pledged Russia's assistance if needed.
The latest violence comes amid growing tensions in the majority-Muslim but secular country of eight million over the role of Islam in public life. Tajikistan's highly authoritarian government last month effectively banned the only registered Islamic political party, which was also the country's largest opposition group, the Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan. Earlier this month a 23-year-old student Umar Bobojonov was also allegedly beaten by police after refusing to shave his beard. The government accused the opposition bloc made up of moderate Muslims and more secular-minded Tajiks of ties with ISIL. The authorities said that Nazaroda was a member of the Islamic Renaissance party, although the party denied this. Tajikistan's security structures say up to 600 of its citizens are fighting alongside ISIL jihadists in Iraq and Syria.