The US State Department has added the Mullah Nazir Group, a Taliban subgroup based in South Waziristan, and an important deputy commander to the list of foreign terrorist entities and individuals. The designations are likely to cause friction with Pakistan, which considers the Mullah Nazir Group to be “good Taliban,” despite the group’s historical support of al Qaeda and attacks on US and NATO forces in Afghanistan.
The group’s former emir, Mullah Nazir, who was killed in a US drone strike in early January, has long supported and sheltered al Qaeda and allied terror groups. In 2011, Nazir even self-identified as an al Qaeda commander [see LWJ report, ‘Good’ Pakistani Taliban leader Nazir affirms membership in al Qaeda].
Today’s State Dept. designation, which confirms years of reporting by The Long War Journal, noted that the group, which is based in South Waziristan, has sheltered al Qaeda, runs suicide training camps, and attacks both US and NATO forces in Afghanistan as well as Pakistani citizens and the military.
“Since 2006, [the Mullah Nazir Group] has run training camps, dispatched suicide bombers, provided safe haven for al Qaeda fighters, and conducted cross-border operations in Afghanistan against the United States and its allies,” State’s designation said.
“In addition to its attacks against international forces in Afghanistan, [the Mullah Nazir Group] is also responsible for assassinations and intimidation operations against civilians in Afghanistan and Pakistan,” State continued.
State also noted that the Mullah Nazir Group and Commander Malang, who was added to the US’s list of Specially Designated Global Terrorists today, have conducted several attacks against the Pakistani military.
“Malang claimed CNG responsibility for a March 2008 vehicle-borne improvised explosive device attack in front of an army brigade headquarters in Zari Noor, South Waziristan, Pakistan, which killed five Pakistani soldiers and injured 11 more,” according to the designation. Additionally, the Mullah Nazir Group “broke a ceasefire agreement and attacked a Pakistani army camp in Wana, Pakistan, with missiles and rockets” in May 2011.
Malang was named a key subcommander of the Mullah Nazir Group on Jan. 4, just one day after Mullah Nazir was killed in a drone strike in South Waziristan. The group’s shura named Salahuddin Ayubi, who is also known as Bahwal Khan, to replace Nazir. Other top leaders of the Mullah Nazir group include Haji Tehsil Khan, Haji Ainullah, Taj Muhammad, and Muhammad Shoaib.
The day after Nazir’s death, US intelligence sources told The Long War Journal that Ayubi and the Mullah Nazir Group would continue to support al Qaeda’s operations [see LWJ report, Taliban name Mullah Nazir’s replacement].
Several top al Qaeda leaders, including Ilyas Kashmiri, Abu Khabab al Masri, Osama al Kini, Sheikh Ahmed Salim Swedan, and Abu Zaid al Iraqi, have been killed while being sheltered by Nazir. [For more information on Nazir and al Qaeda leaders killed while under his protection, see LWJ reports, ‘Good’ Pakistani Taliban leader Nazir affirms membership in al Qaeda, and US drones kill ‘good’ Taliban commander in South Wazirstan.]
Nazir’s Taliban faction is one of four major Taliban groups that joined the Shura-e-Murakeba, an alliance brokered by al Qaeda in late 2011. The Shura-e-Murakeba also includes Hafiz Gul Bahadar’s group; the Haqqani Network, a close al Qaeda ally; and the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, another al Qaeda ally, which is led by Hakeemullah Mehsud and his deputy, Waliur Rehman Mehsud. The members of the Shura-e-Murakeba agreed to cease attacks against Pakistani security forces, refocus efforts against the US in Afghanistan, and end kidnappings and other criminal activities in the tribal areas.
Despite Nazir’s support for al Qaeda and his group’s attacks in Afghanistan as well as against the Pakistani military, Nazir and his group have long been described by Pakistani officials as “good Taliban.” In the eyes of Pakistani officials, Nazir and his followers serve as “strategic depth” against India and a hedge against Indian interests in Afghanistan. The Pakistani government and military have signed several peace agreements with Nazir that allowed him to rule over the Wazir areas of South Waziristan.