Taliban attempts to cover up images posted by an Uzbek jihadist group in Afghanistan

The Taliban, which has consistently lied about the presence of foreign fighters in Afghanistan, was not happy with our coverage.

In a tweet released earlier today by its spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid, the Taliban claimed that “these images have been stolen from our archive.”

Mujahid tweets that the images were “falsified by anti-peace circles for propaganda.” The same photo produced by KIB, but without the group’s watermarks, was also tweeted out by Mujahid.

Zabihullah’s assertions are noteworthy for several reasons.

First, the Taliban is, in effect, accusing KIB of “falsifying” the images, because KIB’s media team produced the photos with its watermarks.

The photos in question were originally posted on Telegram by the overall emir of KIB’s Syrian wing, Abu Yusuf al-Muhajir. KIB’s channels are routinely banned on the platform. But Muhajir’s channel is relatively stable and he has taken on the task of publishing the group’s media from both Syria and Afghanistan.

The original Telegram post by Abu Yusuf al-Muhajir, the emir of KIB’s Syrian wing, as republished by another KIB-linked account.

Abu Yusuf’s post yesterday clearly indicated the photos are from the KIB’s Afghanistan wing, while also mentioning that the photos were from a joint raid with the “Ansar Mujahideen,” a term for local Taliban fighters.

The images were then circulated by KIB’s media network and other Uzbek jihadist channels and even by al Qaeda’s Thabat News Agency.

As of earlier today, after FDD’s Long War Journal reported on the photos, Abu Yusuf deleted the post from his Telegram channel. When trying to access the specific post, one now gets a “message doesn’t exist” notification as seen below.

Abu Yusuf al-Muhajir’s current Telegram page showing an error message when attempting to redirect to his original post regarding the photos from Afghanistan.

Additionally, reverse image searches for Zabihullah’s alleged “archived original image” on Google, Yandex, and TinEye produced zero results.

If anyone “falsified” the images, it was clearly KIB itself.

Second, the Taliban spokesman does not dispute that the images are from Afghanistan. Indeed, Zabihullah makes it clear that this is from a Taliban operation. But this does not cancel out KIB’s claim of a joint raid.

The KIB, which has pledged allegiance to the Taliban’s emir, Mullah Haibatullah Akhundzada, sees itself as part of the group. Indeed, KIB often refers to itself as the “Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan – Katibat Imam al-Bukhari,” a nod to the official name used by the Taliban.

Zabihullah may have inadvertently confirmed KIB’s reporting by releasing the “original” image.

Third, there is no real dispute over the presence of KIB inside Afghanistan. In fact, the group has released sporadic photos and videos from the country without rebuke from the Taliban since 2016.

That year, the group released two videos from the northern part of the country depicting training camps for both general indoctrination and lessons on the manufacturing of IED’s, along with combat footage.

The promotion of its activities in Afghanistan that year correlates to when fighters from its Syrian wing began redeploying to the country, as confirmed by the United Nations.

Since then, other releases have focused on combat footage or captured weapons from Afghan forces. The group has also claimed smaller sporadic attacks, such as sniper operations.

In addition, a monitoring team that works for the United Nations Security Council reported earlier this year that KIB, a splinter of the former Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, “participates actively in hostilities against Afghan government forces.”

Yesterday’s images were the first material published by KIB’s Afghanistan branch since the Taliban and the United States signed a withdrawal agreement earlier this year. The last image released by KIB from Afghanistan was in October 2019.

Following the announcement of the deal, KIB’s Abu Yusuf congratulated the Taliban on its “victory” in Afghanistan.

During negotiations with the U.S. and thereafter, the Taliban has sought to deny the existence of KIB, and other foreign jihadist groups, inside Afghanistan. Just last week, the Taliban again repeated its false narrative that al Qaeda does not exist in Afghanistan.

The Taliban is pretending that KIB, al Qaeda, and other foreign jihadist groups do not operate in Afghanistan in order to give the appearance that it is in compliance with the “peace” deal struck with the U.S. Under that agreement, the Taliban supposedly offered assurances that it will not allow al Qaeda and other international terrorist organizations to operate alongside its men.

The KIB would beg to differ.