In the closing days of September, American and Afghan Special Operation Forces (SOF) conducted a raid that resulted in the death of Asim Omar, the leader of al-Qaida in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS).
According to the Afghan intelligence agency, Omar and an additional six AQIS terrorists were killed in the raid. Among them was also Omar’s courier to Ayman Al-Zawahiri, the current leader of al-Qaida.
The location of the raid, a Taliban compound in the Taliban stronghold of Musa Qala, and the deaths of both Omar and his courier to the al-Qaida leader suggest that the jihadists were expecting a fight. It’s a common misconception that the primary aim of kill-or-capture missions is to neutralize the target. Capturing the target is instead far more preferable. The potential intelligence that could be extracted from the HVT or his buddies could fuel more raids, thereby further disrupting the whole network. And in the case of this raid, the desire to capture Omar would be that much greater given his position in the al-Qaida structure.
In a Twitter statement, the Afghan intelligence agency stated that it “can now confirm the death of Asim Omar, leader of Al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS), in a joint US-Afghan raid on a Taliban compound [the] in Musa Qala district of Helmand province on Sep. 23.”
Most of the terrorists killed in the raid, including Omar, were Pakistani.
A separate raid in the vicinity resulted in the deaths of 22 Taliban fighters and the arrest of 14. According to the Afghan Ministry of Defence, “as a result of ANDSF operations in Musa Qala district of Helmand province, 22 foreign members of Taliban were killed and 14 arrested.
The arrested terrorists include five Pakistani nationals and one Bangladeshi. The foreign terrorist group was actively engaged in organizing terrorist attacks. During the operation, a large warehouse of the terrorists’ supplies and equipment was also demolished.”
Also known as the doctor, al-Zawahiri has been al-Qaida’s leader ever since SEAL Team 6 paid a night visit to Usama bin Laden’s compound in 2011. There is currently a $25 million bounty on information that would lead to the apprehension of al-Zawahiri.
Al-Qaida has certainly lost most of its previous luster. The rise of the Islamic State (ISIS) diverted many potential recruits and funders away from the terrorist organization that mastermind the 9/11 attacks.
The Afghan government seems to be effective in dealing with the terrorist network inside its borders. The same, however, can’t be said about its dealings with the Taliban, who have been steadily gaining ground. As long as American and Coalition Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR), transport, and SOF assets are there to assist the Afghans, the situation won’t deteriorate. The moment they leave, however, it’s highly improbable that the Afghan Security Forces will manage on their own. Given the exorbitant amount of American money and blood spent in the conflict, it’s safe to predict that the U.S. will keep a permanent SOF and support presence in the country to avoid it falling apart.