U.S. Airstrikes in Afghanistan Kill Two Al Qaeda Commanders

first published on March 12, 2018 by

Two commanders tied to Tehrik-e Taliban and Al Qaeda were killed by U.S. Airstrikes in the Bermal district of Paktika province. This is the second direct strike against high echelons of Taliban command and control in the first two months of 2018 that has been conducted by Operation Resolute Support. One messages is being sent to the Taliban in Afghanistan, and that message is, “We’re not done with you just yet.”

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Tehrik-e Taliban and Al Qaeda have a symbiotic relationship in Afghanistan that often leads to the two groups working together against Afghan and Coalition forces. Al Qaeda provides Tehrik-e Taliban forces with funding and training, and in return Tehrik-e Taliban facilitates Al Qaeda movements throughout their areas of control. This relationship between the two groups strengthens both exponentially, and makes the missions of the Afghan government and Coalition troops increasingly more difficult. By killing off their commanders in a series of kinetic airstrikes, a clear message is being sent to both groups, and that message is that neither group is welcome to conduct operations in Afghanistan.

On February 22, 2018, the second strike targeting leadership in these two groups was conducted by Operation Resolute Support. Two commanders, one from Tehrik-e Taliban, and another from Al Qaeda, were spotted in a vehicle in the Bermal district of Paktia province in Afghanistan. Having confirmed the identity of both targets using a drone, Operation Resolute Support drone pilots stalked the two commanders until they were a safe distance away from any civilians. Once that standoff from civilians on the ground was achieved, munitions were released and both commanders were killed.

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Under the newest rules of engagement in Afghanistan, which you can read about at this link, Operation Resolute Support has been given more freedom of movement, and more freedom to act in support of their Afghan partners. As a result of these new rules of engagement, Operation Resolute Support airstrikes have increased in number and effectiveness. The deterioration of command and control, as well as narcotics operations that finance the groups is happening at a much higher rate due to these increased strikes. Many of these kinetic attacks against key leadership within Tehrik-e Taliban and Al Qaeda are being approved and published into the public domain within several hours or days of the munitions being released to their targets, sending a clear message to both groups. We are not done with you.

Throughout the winter, U.S. and Afghan strikes continue to demonstrate the collective will of Operation Resolute Support to fight terrorism in Afghanistan, and return full control of the country back to the central government. Continued operations on the ground by Afghan troops supported by Resolute Support air power have yielded returns in many provinces of Afghanistan. Groups like Tehrik-e Taliban, ISIS-K, and Al Qaeda continue to have control in many regions of the country, but that control is deteriorating at a rapid pace as key leaders are eliminated and narcotics facilities that provide much of their funding are destroyed by direct strikes against confirmed enemy positions.

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