Taliban features its ‘Umari Martyrdom Battalion’

Bill Roggio
13th December 2017 - FDD's Long War Journal

The Afghan Taliban emphasized the training of its ‘Umari Martyrdom Battalion’ in a video released by the group earlier today. The video is the latest in a series of propaganda promoting Taliban units and the group’s network of training camps, all of which train in the open during broad daylight without fear of retribution or air assault from US Forces.

The Umari Martyrdom Battalion was depicted training at a camp in mountainous area which appears to be in southern or southeastern Afghanistan or southwestern Pakistan. The camp appears to have some permanent features, including small buildings, jungle gyms and at least two gun ranges. The precise location of the training site should be easily identifiable by US Forces based on the terrain.

The video appeared to have been filmed during the summer as the fighters were dressed for warm weather.

Taliban flags were displayed prominently throughout the video, which was more than 28 minutes long. The white banner of the Taliban flew from vehicles, at a makeshift parade ground, and at the ranges.

Like other Taliban videos that highlight Taliban camps, the fighters were shown marching in formation, exercising and firing various weapons, including AK-47s, RPK machine guns, RPGs, recoilless rifles and a variant of DSHK anti-aircraft guns.

While the Taliban has attempted in past videos to portray its training as professional, some of the techniques shown in the Umari Martyrdom Battalion video are dubious at best. For instance, in a training exercise that simulated an assault on an Afghan outpost, fighters from the Umari Martyrdom Battalion attempt to sneak up on the position. Some of the fighters comically barrel rolled to their final firing positions, while others pushed themselves forward on their back (see video here).

Jihadist training camps in Afghanistan

The Taliban has publicly flaunted at least 17 of its training camps since the end of 2014. In late 2015, the Taliban announced that its Khalid bin Walid Camp operated 12 satellite facilities throughout Afghanistan, and had the capacity to “train up to 2,000 recruits at a single time.” Additionally, it said the Khalid bin Walid Camp “trains recruits in eight provinces (Helmand, Kandahar, Ghazni, Ghor, Saripul, Faryab, Farah and Maidan Wardak) and “has around 300 military trainers and scholars.”

Other jihadist groups, including al Qaeda, are known to operate camps inside Afghanistan. In 2015, the US raided an al Qaeda camp in Bermal district in Paktika, and two others in the Shorabak district in Kandahar province. The outgoing commander of US Forces in Afghanistan, General John Campbell, said that one of the camps in Shorabak was the largest in Afghanistan since the US invaded in 2001. Al Qaeda has also operated camps in Kunar and Nuristan.

Harakat-ul-Mujahideen, a Pakistani jihadist group that is closely allied with al Qaeda,“operates terrorist training camps in eastern Afghanistan,” the US government stated in 2014. The Turkistan Islamic Party, the Islamic Jihad Union, and the Imam Bukhari Jamaat, an Uzbek jihadist group that operates in both Syria and Afghanistan, have all claimed to operate camps inside Afghanistan. Coalition forces have also raided Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan suicide training camps in Samagan and Sar-i-Pul.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD’s Long War Journal.

Follow the Foundation for Defense of Democracies on Twitter at @FDD

Tags

afghanistan, al-qaeda, pakistan, taliban, training-camp, umari-martyrdom-battalion