Afghan Intelligence: Joint US-Afghan Operation Kills Top al-Qaida Leaders
VOA - Wednesday 6th December, 2017
ISLAMABAD - Afghanistan's security forces, in joint counterterrorism raids with U.S. partners, have killed several high-profile leaders of al-Qaida, along with 80 other members of the terrorist network and Taliban fighters.
The Afghan intelligence agency, National Directorate of Security (NDS), announced details of the operations Tuesday, saying Omar bin Khetab, also known as Omar Mansoor, was among the dead.
Khetab was said to be the second-in-command of al-Qaida in Afghanistan and the Indian subcontinent. He also was the most senior member of al-Qaida to have been killed in the country since 2001 when a U.S.-led invasion ousted the Taliban from power in Kabul for sheltering the leadership of the international terrorist group.
The joint security operations focused on the provinces of Ghazni, Zabul and Paktia, bordering Pakistan. They also destroyed five al-Qaida bases and arrested 27 militants, the NDS said. The agency did not give further details about the nationalities of Khetab and other high-profile slain commanders.
The U.S. military has not yet commented on its role in the operations.
The Taliban has rejected the NDS claims as baseless, saying the Islamist insurgency has no links with any foreign organization. In a statement sent to media, the group's main spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, denied any Afghan-U.S. operations this week in the three provinces.
Last week, the commander of U.S. forces and NATO's Resolute Support mission in Afghanistan, General John Nicholson, spoke in detail about the presence of al-Qaida and its affiliates and their ongoing collaboration with the Taliban.
Even though the Taliban would not publicly acknowledge ties with al-Qaida, there is still a close relationship at the "tactical level" between the two, the general noted.
"They [al-Qaida] tend to provide some of the expertise, the training on specialized weapons or IEDs or bomb making. It is al-Qaida Indian subcontinent fighters who are the ones who are training a lot of local Taliban and in return for this the Taliban affords them sanctuary," said Nicholson.
Nicholson also said U.S. forces continue to hunt al-Qaida fighters and strike them wherever they find them, primarily in the eastern part of Afghanistan.
"And when you find them, they are existing within a friendly environment created by the Taliban," he said.
U.S. forces two years ago located and destroyed a major al-Qaida camp in the southern Afghan province of Kandahar, killing a large number of militants.
The United States and its allies invaded Afghanistan 16 years ago to bring al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden and his associates to justice, accusing them of masterminding the 9/11 terrorist attacks on U.S. cities.
The U.S. military has since killed a large number of commanders and fighters of the group in Afghanistan. Bin Laden was located and killed by U.S. special forces in 2011 in a covert raid against his hideout in neighboring Pakistan.
Rian Johnson's Star Wars: The Last Jedi, the eighth installment in the venerable, now-four-decades-old space-fantasy franchise, is a big, messy, uneven, but largely enjoyable follow-up to J.J. Abrams's Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015), which kick-started the new trilogy in ...