The Hazara and the Liwa Fatemiyoun – TTG

This article leads to a PBS FRONTLINE documentary by Najibullah Quraishi that was released on 20 July. It highlights two threats to Taliban rule not emanating from the Panjshir Valley. The Hazara, like the Tajiks of the Panjshir Valley just want the Taliban to mind their own business and leave them the hell alone to live in peace. The Taliban just can’t do that. As Deobandi jihadists, they are bent on evangelizing in their own heavy handed way. This will lead to spontaneous local resistance by the Hazara. A second more organized and formidable threat is the Liwa Fatemiyoun, a military force organized, equipped and trained by the IRGC. Here’s a description of the Fatemiyoun from an article entitled “Will Iran support guerrilla warfare to restore military balance in Afghanistan?” that appeared in the Indian on 13 August.

“Analysts say that Iran can deploy the Fatemiyoun brigade, an irregular fighting force drawn from the nearly 300,000 Afghan refugees in Afghanistan, displaced earlier by the rolling conflict in the country. The Fatemiyoun brigade is battle tested as it had been deployed by Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) to fight Islamic extremists in Syria.”

“The Fatemiyoun Brigade or Liwa Fatemiyoun is also called Hezbollah Afghanistan, as it has apparently been trained on the lines of the Iran backed Lebanese Hezbollah—a key player to counter the Islamic State and other radical groups in Syria. It has been widely reported that the group trained by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) of Iran has lost around 2,000 fighters and 8,000 wounded in the Syrian theatre by 2017 alone.”

I can damned near guarantee that we’ll hear precious little about what’s going on among the Hazara and with the Liwa Fatemiyoun. But I have little doubt that Teheran has answered Daijiworld’s question in the affirmative. Good. They killed jihadis by the hundreds in Syria. Now they can kill them by the hundreds in Afghanistan.

What should we do about this? Not much besides quietly wishing them luck and cheering them on. We can rescind our declaration of Liwa Fatemiyoun as a terrorist organization either quietly or publicly. We can also, again either quietly or publicly, remove any impediments from Iran’s ability to operate against the Taliban and ISIS-K. Beyond that the best we can do is covertly support Ahmad Massoud as Colonel Lang and I will continue to advocate. In his own words, Massoud needs “more weapons, more ammunition and more supplies.” Give the man what he needs along with a few Green Berets who have traded their berets for pakols. Oh yes, we can also stop kissing Pakistan’s ass and start making their life miserable. Quietly, of course. Smile in their face while firmly twisting their nut sacks.


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35 Responses to The Hazara and the Liwa Fatemiyoun – TTG

  1. Lytenburgh says:

    Taliban is not Salafi. They are Deobandi.

    • TTG says:

      Absolutely correct. I changed it. They’re actually a fairly young brand of Deobandi beginning with Mohammed Omar and his 30.

    • Leith says:

      Since the 1970s & 1980s the Saudis have infused Deobandi seminaries in Pakistan and Afghanistan with Wahhabi ideology. So in my book the Taliban Deobandi brand is almost identical to the Salafi movement.

  2. English Outsider says:

    TTG – also some reports that some SAS might go back in, or want to. As far as I can make out working with the Taliban to counter IS-K. But nothing solid on that at least that I can find.

    With the failure of the Western operations in Afghanistan over the last couple of decades there are now attempts by countries in the region to stabilise the country. They also have a strong interest in not seeing Afghanistan become a Jihadi hellhole, or if it does in keeping the instability outside their own borders. If the Western powers try to do the same would they not have to coordinate their efforts with those countries in the region?

    • TTG says:

      I can definitely see the SAS get involved in some way given the way your MOD is being restructured. I think direct operations targeting IS-K are in everyone’s interests, including the Taliban. However, I also think firm control over all the peoples of Afghanistan will lead to a jihadi hellhole a lot faster than a Taliban government largely limited to the Pashtun lands. The Taliban are jihadists themselves now in firm alliance with al Qaeda and others albeit mortal enemies of IS-K.

      I know of no regional countries who would support IS-K, not even Pakistan. India is hard set against Taliban rule in Afghanistan for their own reasons. Tajikistan is supportive of the Panjshir Tajiks’ stand against the Taliban. Iran supports their brother Shia Hazaras against the Taliban. Other than India, I don’t think any neighboring country is bent on the total destruction of the Taliban. Western powers should keep that in mind as they move forward.

      • Pat Lang says:

        The name is interesting. Like a lot of language in the Islamic culture continent seeking religious validity it is in Arabic – “Brigade of the adherents of the Fatimids.” The Fatimids were a Shia dynasty of Caliphs in Egypt.

        • hani bahout says:

          No affinity necessarily.The historical Fatimid Empire and the actual Liwa Fatimiyoun both refer to Fatima the daughter of the Prophet, the wife of Ali and the mother of Hussain, both of them, Imams of the Shia sect.

        • Leith says:

          Colonel Lang,

          Somewhere I read that the meaning of Fatemiyoun is ‘Followers of Fatimah’, daughter of Muhammad and wife of Ali. The suffix may be Persian or the Dari equivalent?

          • Pat Lang says:

            “oon” is an Arabic plural suffix for humans. Someone wrote below to express the opinion that the reference could be either to Fatima or or to the Shi 1fatimid dynasty who we named for her. Still trying to pee on me, eh?

          • Leith says:

            Not at all Colonel. I had no intent to be adversarial. I did use a question mark when I said ‘The suffix may be Persian or the Dari equivalent?’

            I speak neither Arabic nor Persian so concede to your expertise.

  3. JerseyJeffersonian says:

    Thank you, TTG, this is informative.

    Perhaps as part of the nut sack twisting, some involvement with the Balochs in their regions in Pakistan and Afghanistan might be in order. They have bones to pick with both the Pushtuns and the Punjabis. Keeping them busy being the principle.

    As similar issues exist in the Iranian areas of Balochistan, that might present some issues, but that is for the Iranians (shia) to work out with the Balochs (sunni).

    • TTG says:

      I don’t want to stir up trouble in Pakistan, at least not in any covert military way. A little judicious use of IO in Pakistan’s Balochistan province, however, I’m not opposed to. But what we can and should do is massively turn down or even cut off any aid to Pakistan and make things difficult for them trade wise. Trump cut way back on military aid to Pakistan, but it wasn’t enough to change their behavior. Sure they’ll turn even more towards China, but that’s their problem.

      • asx says:

        The turn towards China has its limits. Their elites still fancy owning pizza franchises and parking their offspring among the think tanks, academia and media houses in the West.

        The whole state is set up to collect extortive tolls from whoever wants to play in that region. But China will account for the last yuan they spend. Expect a lot of 99 year leases carved out like in Hambantota.

  4. Pundita says:

    Thank you for this, TTG. Bill Roggio talked about Panjshir on Batchelor’s show last night. He emphasized the importance of the terrain for defense. Podcast:

  5. Marc says:

    What about leaving these people alone, sorting out their problems themselves? Sanctions/meddling/ local guérilla support have ben’ tried before and almost never worked. It was quite legitimate and understandable for the US to invade Afghanistan in 2001, but what about trying to let them be for a while? There is so far no indication that talibans (no matter how bad they are, but I don’t think they are any worse than the Saudi regime, for example) intend to turn the country into a terrorist nest targeting the US. Just my 2 cent.

  6. Polish Janitor says:

    In that piece, Liwa Fatemiyoon, or simply Fatemiyoon and Hazarah are portrayed as two separate entities which (or at least tried gives the impression) is misleading. The Hazarah are the ethno-religious shi’ite minority with historically little to no political and military representation in Afghanistan, whereas the LW’s is a relatively new and complex network of ideologically revolutionary Shi’ite militia that only obeys the orders of the Supreme Leader in Iran and operates as the Afghan branch of the Quds force in the ME and is relatively pluralistic in terms of nationality yet comprised mostly of the Hazarah, along with some Baloochis. So there is extensive overlap here. There is the strong Iranian angle in this which needs to be addressed. Iran has been able to successfully create and then infuse Shi’ie proxies into the polity of the countries that house significant Shi’ite population it deems essential to its interests and this is an integral part of its ‘regional proxy doctrine’, which ultimately has to lead to acquisition of political power in those countries with the help of these proxies. Examples are, Hezbollah in Lebanon which exists both as political and a militia movement, and in Iraq Kata’ib Hezbollah and Asa’ib ahl-al-haqh that form the body of the larger PMF that now has both poltical and militia presence. There are exceptions to this such as Azerbaijan, Bahrain which are majority Shi’ite but with no Iranian proxy penetration which has its own long story better suited for another time. Based on this pattern, the LW can be considered as a the ‘activated/mobilzied’ mostly Hazarah that guided by appropriate policies and conditions can achieve political power in Afghanistan EVEN UNDER the Taliban rule. I highly doubt that LW would disobey SL’s current orders of neutrality and decides to mount resistance against Taliban and even help Massoud Jr. In Iran, the issue of Afghanistan is a highly polarized one, with intellectuals and the general population (and reformists) considering Taliban terrorist whereas the conservatives have taken a more ‘neutral’ and patient approach waiting to see what kind of government guided with which policies would emerge in its eastern 940km-long border. The LW is politically and ideologically affiliated with the conservative (Quds force) camp and thus directly obeys the SL and therefore at least in the short to medium term I can’t see how LW can be expected in opposing Taliban and even helping Massoud Jr in his endeavor against the Taliban. Interestingly, the Cmdr. of the Quds force who replaced Gen. Soleimani is Ismail Qa’ani whose area of responsibility had been in Afghanistan pre-2020 for decades, so there’s special attention for Iranian decision-makers regarding the developing situation in Afghanistan. The conservatives in Iran are patiently running several scenarios to see whether or not it is possible to implement the same regional proxy doctrine Afghanistan amid the collapse of the U.S. led secular government, diplomatically or by force/resistance. I think (based on my observations) Iranian conservatives do not mind having Taliban in power, but they don’t want all the power to become consolidated in the Pashtun hands and prefer a pluralistic government in which they also have certain piece of the pie, therefore it is here that the Hazarah angle if you will, enter into the picture. I believe the only scenario based on which LW would resist against Taliban is when the Hazarah is rejected and systematically targeted/murdered en-mass by the medieval goatf**ers.

    • Polish Janitor says:

      Repalce LW with LF. Just a typo…

      • d74 says:

        Thank you for your information.

        It’s complicated, but I think you’re right on target. As I am deprived of relevant information, it is at best a hunch.
        Like all governments in the region, Iran is applying the “wait and see and don’t rush into anything” approach. This is in line with China and Russia, which are asking the Taliban to provide the country with an “inclusive” government, representing all ethnicities. It would not be surprising if information were exchanged between these 3 countries in order to reach a common understanding.
        There will always be time to act if the Taliban, -a bunch of savages let’s remember-, turn to their usual intolerance. And as you show, Iran has the means and the experience, even if it were limited to southwestern Afghanistan.
        The relationship between India and Iran is a mystery to me. I believe that if India played the anti-Taliban game, by reference to Pakistan, it would be a powerful anti-Taliban ally. Discrete rear bases in India would be very welcome. Disinteresting China is not out of reach.

        Pakistan is sick with its lack of strategic depth complex vis-à-vis India and it is a country crossed by all kinds of violence and very unstable. As TTG suggests, it is better not to tickle it too much. Let them dream that they have control of the Taliban. Pakistan has not been a politically reliable country for a long time. A burden, not an ally.

        All of this is perhaps baseless speculation, but one can dream.

  7. Leith says:

    There are at least two Hazara militia groups in Afghanistan. They had been formed long prior to the Taliban takeover, because the Afghan government was not providing security for Hazara schools, mosques, and institutions. One is led by Zulfiqar Omid with 800 regulars divided into seven self-protection units in Central Afghanistan. Plus he claims that he has another 5,000 village irregulars. Omid has said that he had recently held talks with Ahmad Massoud, and that Hazara forces would unite with the Tajiks against the Taliban.

    The other is led by Abdul Ghani Alipur in Wardak province west of Kabul. His group is called the Resistance-for-Justice Movement AKA the Hazara Resistance Popular Front. Like Omid’s group, they were formed long before the Taliban takeover. No info on number of troops. In the past they had assisted the ANA and in some cases fought against it.

    Many of the regulars in these two groups are former soldiers or police who quit or were forced out of the ANA or ANP due to discrimination. Possibly both of these groups have veterans of the Liwa Fatemiyoun. But Iran has so far been very accommodating to the Taliban, so I wonder if they have sent any current Fatemiyoun back to Afghanistan. There are reports that Iran is settling many Liwa Fatemiyoun members and their family in the Euphrates Valley of Syria. And there are unconfirmed reports that some have been sent to Yemen to aid the Houthis. But I don’t think the Houthis need that assistance so I am skeptical.

    • TTG says:

      Leith, thanks for fleshing out the existing Hazara resistance forces inside Afghanistan. They will fight Taliban attempts to control the Hazara no matter what Teheran does with the Liwa Fatemiyoun. Like the Panjshir Tajiks and the Hazara, the Iranians are willing to coexist with a Taliban led government that minds its own business, leaves everyone else alone and doesn’t ally with jihadists like al Qaeda or worse. But I doubt the Taliban are willing to live under those restrictions.

    • Polish Janitor says:

      Tnx Leith, always appreciate your accurate insight.

      Yes, the area you mentioned Iran is stationing the Hazarah is in the vicinity to Abu Kamal, which itself is near the Imam Ali base that Iran has set up there a few years ago. Also, there have been reports that Iran and the LF are buying land and real estate in and around Abu Kamal for the same reason.

  8. Deap says:

    At one time a parade of military hardware, as shown in this video, would have been an intimidating portrait of US military might. What message does this parade display today? A moment of infamy under your command, President Biden.

  9. elkern says:

    I wish Iran well in supporting & protecting their Shia brethren in Afghanistan. But I think the best way we – USA – can help is by avoiding any attempt to “help”, at least overtly. Perhaps the best way for us to help would be to restrain Britain from trying to help (SAS could not operate in Afghanistan without US support, coordination, and approval, particularly for logistics through our air bases in the ‘Stans).

    And the same goes double for India, though I doubt we have much influence there. The BJP has gone all-in on their own Hindu Nationalist fantasies, imagining that they can “punch above their weight”, when the opposite is true. (The Daijiworld link includes some of the wishful thinking that I see in a lot of Indian FP writing). Maybe they could help by distracting Pakistan/ISI, but even that could backfire by undermining Khan’s (feeble?) attempts to regain civilian control of the Pak military.

    Afghanistan will not have a strong centralized government anytime soon; it is not France, the Metropole cannot control the countryside. Taliban know this well; they know there will be endless negotiations over the balance of central, regional, sectarian, and local power. And yes, those negotiations are strongly influenced by the firepower of each faction.

    But we – USA – don’t really have any strong national interest there. MSM love the R2P framework, because it gives them huge influence (“Wag The Dog”) over US FP, but we can’t protect everybody everywhere; worse, it usually leads to worse problems down the line.

  10. Pundita says:

    Latest from Sputnik ‘live’ A’stan coverage includes these two updates:

    “Roughly 600 militants from the Taliban (terrorist movement, outlawed in Russia) were eliminated in Afghanistan’s northeastern province of Panjshir on Saturday, the Afghan resistance forces said.

    “About 600 Taliban terrorists have been liquidated in various districts of Panjshir since morning. More than 1,000 Taliban militants have been captured or surrendered themselves,” the resistance forces’ spokesman Fahim Dashti tweeted.

    The spokesman added that the Taliban had problems with getting supplies from other Afghan provinces.” …

    The offensive of the Taliban (terrorist group, banned in Russia) against the capital of Afghanistan’s northeastern province of Panjshir has been slowed down by land mines, Al Jazeera reported on Saturday, citing a source in the radical movement.

    Landmines are said to be placed on the road to the capital city of Bazarak as well as the provincial governor’s residence.

    According to the broadcaster’s source, the offensive and demining are being conducted at the same time. …”

  11. Leith says:

    TTG –

    There is pushback by some Hazara in Kabul against Omid and Alipur. They are afraid that a Hazara resistance against the Taliban will fuel another massacre. I wonder if that pushback originated in Tehran?

    But the Hazaras have suffered pogroms for hundreds of years. The worst less than 150 years ago when Pashtun Emir Abdur Rahman Khan murdered or enslaved 60% of the Hazarajat, built towers of Hazara skulls, and forcefully converted many to Sunniism. So I don’t think the Hazara will lie down and be doormats even though some may collaborate. The problem though is that neither Bamiyan nor Wardak provinces nor other Hazara areas are anywhere near as defensible as the Panjshir valley.

    Hazaras had served as scouts with the British earlier in the 19th Century. And the 106th Hazara Pioneer Regiment was part of the British Indian Army in WW1. They were used mostly in the Mesopotamian Campaign. But one company served with distinction in France, not sure where but based on dates perhaps the Battle of Armentieres.

  12. Johnb says:

    Haven’t seen any reference to the Muslim Brotherhood, the commonality between Qatar, Turkey and this current version of Taliban I suspect that concordance will continue to prove to be of importance. The first delegations and aid have already arrived in Kabul from immediate regional interests.

  13. Leith says:

    The Afghan Ulema council issued a declaration yesterday, 4 September 2021, calling for an “immediate end to the war.” And one of the articles in the declaration called to lift the sanctions imposed on Panjshir.

    Massoud welcomed the proposal, or most of it. He stated the National Resistance Front “is ready to immediately end the war to achieve lasting peace if the Taliban end their attacks and military operations in Panjshir and Andarab.”

    But is the Taliban listening to the Ulema? Just a week ago there was a report they arrested the leader of the council.

    But in any case it is a good move on Massoud’s part. If the Taliban don’t accept it gives him some legitimacy as a moderate and a peacemaker. If the Talib’s do accept it will buy him time until the snows start. He’ll need that time if twitter comments are true that Pakistan’ ISI is using Chinese made drones over Panjshir to pinpoint NRF locations for the Taliban.

  14. Leith says:

    Sorry Mark, I don’t see anywhere in that link that the ISI met with the Afghan Ulema Council. He did meet with Baradar, Haqqani, and Hekmatyr.

    • Mark Logan says:

      My mistake. I view the ruling council of the Taliban as the defacto religious authority, so I missed the nuance of ulema council.

      • Leith says:

        I do agree with you about KSA purse strings. Yaqoob, the new Taliban Defense Minister has reportedly been pushed and influenced by a few multi-million Saudi Riyals.

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