AFGHAN MUJAHIDEEN DETERMINED TO CLOSE KABUL TO KANDAHAR CORRIDOR
Shaykh Nur ul-Haqq Mujahid bin Mohamed, the Taliban military commander in the Maydan Shahr district of Wardak province, stated in a recent interview that Taliban forces are trying to block a major supply corridor south of Kabul and “close it permanently.” One of Afghanistan’s most important highways passes through Maydan Shahr, connecting Kabul with the Taliban stronghold of Kandahar. The interview appeared in the 44th issue of al-Somood, the monthly magazine of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (posted to jihadi websites on July 22).
In the prologue to the interview, Shaykh Nur ul-Haqq is described as a high-standing graduate of a Peshawar theological school who joined the Taliban movement in its early stages in the mid-1990s, eventually becoming head of military security in Nangarhar province. He has been in charge of military operations in Maydan Shahr since 2002.
According to the Taliban commander, the “Crusader” forces in Maydan Wardak have military positions in the provincial capital of Maydan Shahr as well as at various points along the Kabul-Kandahar highway. “Battles between the mujahideen and the Crusaders occur to control the corridor and the two sides will swap control of it during the day, but at night the mujahideen will take complete control of it and all the roads leading to the district,” stated the shaykh.
Shaykh Nur ul-Haqq insists the growing number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan is not as important as their morale, which he claims is in a state of decline, saying, “This ailment cannot be evaded by increasing the number of troops.”
Fighting in Maydan Wardak can be difficult, the Taliban commander admits. The “huge capabilities of the enemy” are posed against the limited resources of local fighters, and the district’s close proximity to Kabul makes it easy for the Coalition to move troops quickly to Maydan Wardak in response to any Taliban attack. Despite this, the shaykh affirms that successful attacks on military and supply convoys continue in the district.
Shaykh Nur ul-Haqq also described the various Taliban strategies and tactics used throughout Afghanistan, noting that what works in one province will not necessarily work in another:
"For example, in Kunar and Nuristan provinces, the most suitable military method is a military clash because those two provinces possess a geographic situation suitable for this military strategy. Meanwhile, in Helmand and the southwest of Afghanistan the preferred method is to plant mines and use explosives because the terrain of those areas is desert terrain, which does not afford the mujahideen secure places to hide. As for Kabul, martyrdom operations and surprise attacks are best because the open concentration of large numbers of invaders there gives the mujahideen an opportunity to launch those kinds of campaigns against their bases and barracks."
For now, however, Shaykh Nur ul-Haqq’s focus on closing the highway through Maydan Wardak may be disrupted by an outbreak of fighting between the Taliban and their former ally, the Hizb-i-Islam militia of Gulbuddin Hekmatyar (Weesa [Kabul], July 26). Mullah Zabiullah, a Maydan Wardak Taliban commander, was reportedly killed in separate fighting with Afghan security and intelligence forces on July 31 (Bakhtar News Agency, July 31).
LEADER OF YEMEN’S ADEN-ABYAN ISLAMIC ARMY REJECTS SOUTHERN SECESSION
In a recent interview with a pan-Arab daily, Shaykh Khalid Abd al-Nabi (a.k.a. Khalid Abdulrab al-Nabi al-Yazidi), the leader of Yemen’s Aden-Abyan Islamic Army (AAIA), condemned the Southern secession movement as the work of “Jews and Christians,” while claiming he was the victim of accusations by “atheistic communists” who had infiltrated the Sana’a government (al-Quds al-Arabi, July 9, 2009).
The AAIA was established in the early 1990s by Abu Hasan Zayn al-Abadin al-Mihdhar. When al-Mihdhar was executed in 1998 for his role in the deaths of four Australian and American tourists, al-Nabi took over leadership of the group (al-Hayat, October 11, 2005). A member of the Yafa’i tribe and a native of the al-Yazid district of Lahaj Governorate, al-Nabi left socialist-ruled South Yemen in the 1980s for religious training in Saudi Arabia. In 1994 he received military training from the Taliban in Afghanistan but returned to Yemen to participate in the civil war against the South Yemen socialists. After this he became a senior member of the AAIA. By 2003 al-Nabi was leading his followers in clashes against government forces in the Hutat Mountains of Abyan Governorate. According to al-Nabi, the “atheistic communists” of South Yemen had merely been dispersed rather than defeated in the civil war. “Some remained in Yemen as members of the opposition, others became members of the opposition outside Yemen, and some donned the garb of the state and joined the ruling [General People’s] Congress Party. Outwardly, these people pretended to owe allegiance to the Congress Party but inwardly they owed their allegiance to the socialist party,” stated al-Nabi.
In 2005, al-Nabi turned himself in to authorities and received an official pardon. He was released to his farm where authorities maintained he was leading a peaceful life despite numerous reports he was raising and training an Islamist militia. Al-Nabi has repeatedly denied having ties to the government, especially Major General Ali Muhsin al-Ahmar, the president’s brother and commander of Yemen’s First Armored Brigade (Asharq al-Awsat, April 4, 2006; January 8).
The AAIA takes its name from an apocryphal prophecy by the Prophet Muhammad that predicts an army will arise from Aden-Abyan in the last days to fight for victory in God’s name. Al-Nabi believes in this prophecy, though he stops short of claiming to represent its fulfillment. According to him, “The Prophet (p.b.u.h.) preached about this army and about the fact that such an army will emerge either now or in the future. When this will happen exactly, only God knows. I believe that the global prophecies of our Prophet (p.b.u.h.) will inevitably take place. No one can stop them or interdict them… [Regarding the AAIA] I cannot say definitively whether it actually exists and is effective or anything else.”
Al-Nabi claims his difficulties with the government are inflated by those seeking revenge for their defeat in 1994. “For instance, the authorities may receive information that I am carrying arms in a certain location. Now this is not a big deal. The majority of the Yemeni people carry arms and even the women carry arms these days,” he said. Al-Nabi also complains that the strength of the AAIA was consistently exaggerated in the past to the point where a band of some 20 followers was treated as the equal of the national army. According to him, “The media inflated the issue because, as you know, more media coverage means more U.S. support and aid in the name of fighting terrorism.”
Al-Nabi continues to defend al-Mihdhar’s murder of four Western tourists in 1998, saying, “I believe… he was killed unjustly because, at the end of the day, even the killing of thousands and thousands of Christian unbelievers is not equal to one drop of blood of a believer.” He points to a fatwa by Shaykh Muqbil bin Hadi al-Wadi, who ruled in his book Al-Burkan fi Nasf Jami’at al-Iman that the tourists “had come in war and were spies and corrupters on earth.”
The AAIA leader holds a conspiratorial view of Yemen’s political violence, claiming the Huthist rebel movement in north Yemen is a creation of the state supported by the United States, though he does not explain how this would benefit either party. He believes the southern secession movement is likewise the work of “Jews and Christians,” saying it is “certain that the United States and Britain are involved.”
Though resolute in his advocacy of national unity, al-Nabi has elsewhere acknowledged there are numerous problems facing the people of southern Yemen, including “injustice, racism, usurping the money of the people, looting the land, oppression, barbarism, the use of violence and force, a corrupt judiciary, corrupt security, and many other reasons. In fact, if we look at the situation of the people in the southern regions, you might excuse them for demanding secession” (Asharq al-Awsat, January 8).