by Bill Roggio & Caleb Weiss
The Long War Journal
November 19, 2015
The Islamic State’s small branch in Afghanistan and Pakistan, Wilayat Khorasan (Khorasan Province), advertised a training camp that is named after a former religious scholar who was killed by the US last month. While the location of the camp was not disclosed, it is likely in the eastern province of Nangarhar, where the Islamic State (ISIS) has established a presence.
The “Sheikh Jalaluddin training camp” is named after Khorasan Province’s former mufti, or senior religious and legal scholar, who was killed by the US in an airstrike in Nangarhar’s Mohmand Dara district on Oct. 13. Jalaluddin was a disciple of Fazeel-A-Tul Shaykh Abu Mohammed Ameen al Peshawari, an influential Taliban leader and al Qaeda facilitator who is also known as Sheikh Aminullah.
Jalaluddin’s death has not been officially announced by the Islamic State, but the group has typically named its camps for leaders and figures who have been killed in combat.
The photographs of the Sheikh Jalaluddin training camp, which were distributed on Twitter, claim to show a “graduating class” of Islamic State recruits. At least 40 fighters can be seen training in a wooded area. The instruction includes physical exercises and weapons training, including the use of a DSHK heavy machine gun.
In the last two months, the Islamic State has advertised three training facilities in Afghanistan, including the Sheikh Jalaluddin camp. Last month, the jihadist group showcased the “Sheikh Abu Omar al Baghdadi camp” and the “Sheikh Abu Musab al Zarqawi camp”, which are also likely in Nangarhar. The two camps are named after the former leader of the Islamic State of Iraq and the founder al Qaeda in Iraq (the predecessor of the Islamic State), respectively. The images offered the first official visual evidence of Islamic State training camps in Afghanistan.
Other Islamic State camps in the region have also been reported in the area by unofficial channels. In August, photos emerged purporting to show the “Shahid Hakeemullah Mehsud camp,” which is named after the last leader of the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan and is thought to be located somewhere in Pakistan’s tribal areas. Earlier this year, other images were published showing the “Ustad Yasir camp,” which was run by the Sa’ad bin Abi Waqas Front in Logar province in Afghanistan. The status of these two camps is unclear.
Much has been made of the Islamic State’s presence in Afghanistan by the Western media. The Islamic State, which is challenging al Qaeda for supremacy in the global jihad, is attempting to supplant the Taliban and al Qaeda in their strongholds in Afghanistan and Pakistan. However, it has largely been contained in Nangarhar after being defeated by the Taliban in Farah, Helmand, and other provinces. The Taliban and al Qaeda are far more potent in Afghanistan and Pakistan at this time, having overrun dozens of districts.