Zawahiri Describes the Afghan Camp Complex
In Chapter 4 Section 4 of the 2d edition of his spiritual autobiography, Knights Under the Banner of the Prophet, Ayman al-Zawahiri describes the training camp complex that had developed throughout Afghanistan during the chaos of its civil war. He paints a picture of a country teeming with foreign fighters (“jihadist immigrant sons in Afghanistan”). The scale of the enterprise is the biggest revelation. Despite ten years of scrutiny, I’m not sure we have a good idea of the reach of the jihadi camp complexes of this time, and the scale of their long term influence over global jihadi-salafist movement. So rather than provide analytical commentary, I’ve decided to let Zawahiri describe it, and you can come up with your insights.
Even after the fall of the Communist government in Kabul, Afghanistan did not stop the training camps that embraced the immigrants and especially Arabs. There was the Al-Khaldan Camp near Khost, and it was the center of the quiet hard work that was carried out by the righteous Arab immigrants and their brothers from several nationalities. These men worked hard with secrecy, loyalty, and dedication, and did not stop ever since the camp was establish under the communist reign and until it merged with the other Al-Qa'ida camps before the two blessed raids. This restless camp sent out hundreds of men, who attended various military and religious courses in that center that was established by Shaykh Abu-Abdallah al-Muhajir inside the Al-Khaldan Camp.
Although I cannot remember the names of all those who participated in this stunning work, I should mention the two brothers Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, may God have mercy on him, and Abu-Zubaydah al-Filastini, may God grant him freedom. These two men worked with loyalty, secrecy, and dedication — and God knows — in order to prepare the Muslim youth to fight for the sake of God. Abu-Zubaydah al-Filastini, may God grant him victory, was responsible for the finance, administration, and immigration and Ibn al-Shaykh was responsible for the military training and preparation.
There were other Al-Qa'ida camps as well in Gawar, next to Khost. These camps kept on offering training and jihadist experience to the Tajiks, Uzbeks, and Caucasian fighters even after most of the Arabs departed. The camps revived after Shaykh Usama and his companions came back to Afghanistan. Back then, the encamping jihadist martyr — as we consider him — Abu al- Atta al-Tunisi was in charge of these camps.
The jihadist training and preparation process revived after Shaykh Usama's return, which was accompanied by batche[s] of immigrants and Arab fighters that came to join the Islamic Emirate.
Al-Qa'ida also had Char Asyab Camp in Lowgar. The camp was close to another camp for the brothers from East Turkistan, which is occupied by China. Later, the Al-Qa'ida camp moved to Aynak mine in Lowgar. Al-Faruq Camp was then established in Garmawak, in Maywand, Helmand. The Taliban have told the brothers in Al-Qa'ida that they are optimistic to offer them a camp in Mayuwand, because it was the city that launched the jihad against the British troops.
Back to the preparation topic, I say that the Al-Faruq camp in Garmawak, in Maywand was the biggest camp belonging to Al-Qa'ida. In fact it was several camps that teach many courses, and then Al-Qa'ida established another camp to operate concurrently with Maywand camp in the outer part of the Arab village in Kandahar after the inhabitants had left it for security reasons.
In addition to the camps of Al-Qa'ida, there were many camps, and we mentioned earlier Khaldan camp that was completely added to the camps of Al-Qa'ida. There was a camp for the brothers of Turkistan near Kabul, and it was moved to the hills of Tura Borah near Jalalabad. There was also a camp for Shaykh Abu-Khabab near Jalalabad and he moved it near Kabul. The camp was for poisons and chemical preparations. There was an extension to the camp of Khaldan near the camp of Shaykh Abu-Khabab. The extension was run by Abu-Sulayman Assad Allah Al-Jaza'iri, may God have mercy upon him, and it was mainly for training on explosives.
Another camp was for the Arab Brigade that was with Shaykh Hekmatyar and left Afghanistan for fear of the Islamic Emirate, but its personnel returned to Afghanistan after getting confirmation from the Islamic emirate that they would not be attacked them if they returned. The Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, the Turkish brothers, and the group of jihad had camps in the fighting front in northern Kabul. The Moroccan brothers had a camp near Jalalabad, and Abu Mus'ab AL-Zarqawi, may God have mercy upon him had a camp near Herat. In addition to these camps, the jihadist Pakistani groups were establishing their camps in Kabul near Khost and Kandahar.
All these camps were in a continuous activity and action that almost did not stop. They precede the time to prepare the mujahidin for fighting in the cause of God. In addition to these camps, there were other several courses in security, intelligence, electronics, forgery, and other jihadist arts besides many legislative and political courses.
Afghanistan was and still the place that embraces the spirit of the Islamic ummah that looks forward to victory and rejects defeat and surrender. It insists on taking revenge on the Islam's enemies, who committed crimes against us for centuries.
With the support of God, after the blessed raids, this live and effective spirit that is elevated by faith and proud of its Islam increased in its progress and rise. The Crusader attack against Afghanistan only made it more active and alert.
Shaykh Usama founded a media committee that started to produce media materials of which the most important was the “Destruction of the United States Navy destroyer USS Cole” provocative video that greatly shook the world at the time of its posting. It was a clear and courageous defiance to the US tyranny, a call for Muslims to make a jihadist uprising against the Jewish Crusader dominance, and above all a practical method to achieve this through joining the centers and camps of Al-Qa'ida that the video showed effective images for them.