Abdul Rauf Aliza

Abdul Rauf Aliza was an Afghan commander of the Taliban and former Guantanamo inmate who returned to terrorism following his repatriation to Afghanistan.Bill Roggio, “US kills Islamic State’s deputy emir for ‘Khorasan province’ in airstrike: report,” Long War Journal, February 9, 2015, http://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2015/02/us_kills_islamic_sta_1.php. He served three tours for the terrorist group prior to his capture.“The Guantanamo Docket: Abdul Rauf Aliza: JTF-GTMO Assessment,” New York Times, accessed March 4, 2016, http://projects.nytimes.com/guantanamo/detainees/108-abdul-rauf-aliza/documents/11. Following his release, he was made a shadow governor of the Uruzgan provinces for the Taliban but moved his allegiance to ISIS, who positioned him as the Deputy Governor of their Khorasan Province. Aliza was killed on February 9, 2015 by a NATO airstrike.Bill Roggio, “US kills Islamic State’s deputy emir for ‘Khorasan province’ in airstrike: report,” Long War Journal, February 9, 2015, http://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2015/02/us_kills_islamic_sta_1.php.

Aliza was captured by U.S. forces in Afghanistan in December 2001 and was sent to the detention center at Guantanamo Bay. He claimed that he was a mere foot soldier and food deliverer for the Taliban. The Department of Defense’s Joint Task Force Guantanamo (JTF) initially classified Aliza as low intelligence value and a medium risk.“The Guantanamo Docket: Abdul Rauf Aliza: JTF-GTMO Assessment,” New York Times, accessed March 4, 2016, http://projects.nytimes.com/guantanamo/detainees/108-abdul-rauf-aliza/documents/11;
Thomas Joscelyn, “The Gitmo Files: 2 of Afghanistan’s most wanted hid leadership roles while in US custody,” Long War Journal, May 14, 2011, http://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2011/05/the_gitmo_files_two.php.

As interrogations continued, Aliza’s story grew increasingly inconsistent.“The Guantanamo Docket: Abdul Rauf Aliza: JTF-GTMO Assessment,” New York Times, accessed March 4, 2016, http://projects.nytimes.com/guantanamo/detainees/108-abdul-rauf-aliza/documents/11. The JTF assessed it was highly unlikely Aliza would retain a food delivery position after serving three tours with the Taliban. Aliza was able to identify many senior level Taliban members whom he admitted to have associated with, while other Taliban detainees identified Aliza as a military leader.“The Guantanamo Docket: Abdul Rauf Aliza: JTF-GTMO Assessment,” New York Times, accessed March 4, 2016, http://projects.nytimes.com/guantanamo/detainees/108-abdul-rauf-aliza/documents/11. Aliza was uncooperative in terms of discussing his complete involvement with the Taliban. He admitted to running an opium business through the criminal elements of the Taliban and Northern Alliance, but refused to reveal the details of the operation.“The Guantanamo Docket: Abdul Rauf Aliza: JTF-GTMO Assessment,” New York Times, accessed March 4, 2016, http://projects.nytimes.com/guantanamo/detainees/108-abdul-rauf-aliza/documents/11.

On October 26, 2004, the JTF reassessed Aliza as a medium intelligence source—believing that the detainee had evaded answering questions—and suspected him of having a more important role in the Taliban than he claimed. Despite the suspicions of his deceit, the JTF recommended Aliza be transferred to the control of another country for continued detention.“The Guantanamo Docket: Abdul Rauf Aliza: JTF-GTMO Assessment,” New York Times, accessed March 4, 2016, http://projects.nytimes.com/guantanamo/detainees/108-abdul-rauf-aliza/documents/11. He was repatriated to Afghanistan on December 12, 2007.“The Guantanamo Docket: Abdul Rauf Aliza: JTF-GTMO Assessment,” New York Times, accessed March 4, 2016, http://projects.nytimes.com/guantanamo/detainees/108-abdul-rauf-aliza/documents/11.

Afghan authorities held Aliza for two years following his transfer from Guantanamo, but he was released sometime in 2009. He quickly rejoined the Taliban and rose through their ranks. By 2011 he was made the shadow governor of the Taliban’s Uruzgan province and a member of the leadership council, or Quetta Shura.Bill Roggio, “US kills Islamic State’s deputy emir for ‘Khorasan province’ in airstrike: report,” Long War Journal, February 9, 2015, http://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2015/02/us_kills_islamic_sta_1.php;
Thomas Joscelyn, “Former Gitmo detainee turned Taliban leader threatens Afghan elders,” Long War Journal, August 4, 2010, http://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2010/08/former_gitmo_detaine_6.php#ixzz1MLAEYBKB.

Aliza’s history with the Taliban surfaced upon the announcement of his new position. Multiple news reports asserted that prior to detainment, Aliza had been the commander of the Taliban’s elite mobile reserve force. Prior to the fall of the Taliban government, his team worked as a quick reaction unit that fought regime opponents throughout Afghanistan.Thomas Joscelyn, “The Gitmo Files: 2 of Afghanistan’s most wanted hid leadership roles while in US custody,” Long War Journal, May 14, 2011, http://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2011/05/the_gitmo_files_two.php.

In October 2014, Aliza severed his relationship with the Taliban due to a power struggle among the leadership. He traveled to Iraq to meet with ISIS leaders and returned to Afghanistan to form an ISIS affiliate. He began operating in Afghanistan’s Helmand province and began recruitment by offering followers high salaries.“Islamic State gaining ground in Afghanistan: UN,” Yahoo News, https://news.yahoo.com/islamic-state-gaining-ground-afghanistan-un-235952988.html; Bill Roggio, “US kills Islamic State’s deputy emir for ‘Khorasan province’ in airstrike: report,” Long War Journal, February 9, 2015, http://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2015/02/us_kills_islamic_sta_1.php. The once-Taliban commander began turning on his former group and replaced many white Taliban flags in the region with the black flags of ISIS. Aliza’s group also began to attack Taliban forces, which led to the death of fighters on both sides.Dan Lamothe, “Meet the shadowy figure recruiting for the Islamic State in Afghanistan,” Washington Post, January 13, 2015, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/checkpoint/wp/2015/01/13/meet-the-shadowy-figure-recruiting-for-the-islamic-state-in-afghanistan/;
Sune Engel Rasmussen, “Isis-linked militant killed in Afghanistan drone strike,” Guardian (London), February 9, 2015, http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/feb/09/isis-militant-rauf-killed-afghanistan-drone-strike-guantanamo.

The splinter group Aliza formed began with only a couple dozen followers. However, a number of Afghan and Pakistani militants—primarily former members of Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan and the Afghan Taliban—pledged their allegiance to ISIS and brought up arms with Aliza’s group.Margherita Stancati and Habib Khan Totakhil, “Islamic State Adds to Terror In Afghanistan,” Wall Street Journal, January 11, 2015, http://www.wsj.com/articles/islamic-state-adds-to-terror-in-afghanistan-1421008584;
Bill Roggio, “State Department lists Islamic State’s ‘Khorasan Province’ as Foreign Terrorist Organization,” Long War Journal, January 14, 2016, http://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2016/01/state-department-lists-islamic-states-khorasan-province-as-foreign-terrorist-organization.php.
ISIS announced the formation of their new branch, the Khorasan Province, on January 10, 2015.Bill Roggio, “State Department lists Islamic State’s ‘Khorasan Province’ as Foreign Terrorist Organization,” Long War Journal, January 14, 2016, http://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2016/01/state-department-lists-islamic-states-khorasan-province-as-foreign-terrorist-organization.php.

Soon after his pledge of allegiance to ISIS, Aliza was targeted and killed in a U.S.-led airstrike in southern Afghanistan on February 9, 2015.Bill Roggio, “US kills Islamic State’s deputy emir for ‘Khorasan province’ in airstrike: report,” Long War Journal, February 9, 2015, http://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2015/02/us_kills_islamic_sta_1.php.He was traveling in the northern district of Kajaki in the Helmand province when a drone targeted his vehicle. Aliza and seven fellow insurgents were killed.Bill Roggio, “US kills Islamic State’s deputy emir for ‘Khorasan province’ in airstrike: report,” Long War Journal, February 9, 2015, http://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2015/02/us_kills_islamic_sta_1.php.

One year after the formation of ISIS’s Khorasan Province, the U.S. Department of State designated the branch as a Foreign Terrorist Organization, on January 14, 2016.Bill Roggio, “State Department lists Islamic State’s ‘Khorasan Province’ as Foreign Terrorist Organization,” Long War Journal, January 14, 2016, http://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2016/01/state-department-lists-islamic-states-khorasan-province-as-foreign-terrorist-organization.php.

 
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