Small Wars Journal

Countering the IMU in Afghanistan

Thu, 03/11/2010 - 8:35pm
Countering the IMU in Afghanistan

by Captain Andrew R. Feitt

Download the full article: Countering the IMU in Afghanistan

Foreign Fighters (FF) have always played a significant role in the conflicts in Afghanistan. Whether it was the large numbers of Arabs, Central Asians, and others who swelled the ranks of the mujahidin during the Soviet invasion or the al-Qa'ida and other Islamist fighters who buttressed the Taliban's forces during the late 1990s and the past decade, well-equipped and motivated FF groups have provided a manifest benefit to their allies. Outside of al-Qa'ida itself, one of the most numerous and active FF groups operating in Afghanistan is the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU). Though its members and operations are focused in only a handful of districts in Afghanistan, the IMU's disciplined fighters form an elite training cadre acting as a true combat multiplier for the Afghan Taliban, and thus its influence is felt exponentially across much of the country's south. In places like the Deh Chopan district of Zabul province, the IMU is a critical piece of the local insurgency. However, the past year has dealt a series of setbacks to the group: from the possible death of their leader, Tahir Yuldashev, to the large-scale Pakistani Military operations directed against their safe havens in Waziristan. Deprived of leadership and under pressure in Pakistan, the IMU is now at a crossroads regarding its future in the Afghan conflict. This article will briefly examine the history of the IMU in southern Afghanistan; their importance to the Taliban insurgency, and examine how to best counter the group's dangerous influence in light of General McChrystal's population-centric focus and the addition of 30,000 new U.S. soldiers to the country.

The IMU has its origins in the aftermath of the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan. The victory of the mujahidin and the collapse of Communism formed a nexus of burgeoning Islamism across Central Asia. It was in the volatile Fergana Valley at the crux of Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan, where a young mullah named Tahir Yuldashev and a former Soviet paratrooper with the nom du guerre 'Juma Namangani' first began to organize an Islamist movement against the autocratic Uzbek government of Islam Karimov. When the government cracked down on their movement in 1992, Yuldashev and Namangani fled to neighboring Tajikistan. Following that country's descent into civil war a short time later, they again fled -- this time to Afghanistan. It was during this period that the rebel Uzbek movement grew closer to the Taliban and al-Qa'ida, and took on its current character.

Download the full article: Countering the IMU in Afghanistan

Captain Andrew R. Feitt is a Military Intelligence officer assigned to 1st Battalion, 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne). He has deployed to Iraq in 2005 and 2007 with the 3rd Infantry Division, and to Afghanistan in 2009 with the 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne).

About the Author(s)


Outlaw 09

Thu, 12/19/2013 - 3:30pm

Would be interested what unit of the 3rdID the author served with in 2005?


Sun, 07/01/2012 - 4:57pm

In reply to by Peter J. Munson

Same here, I can open it with no problem. The default setting opens in a new window in pdf.

Peter J. Munson

Sun, 07/01/2012 - 4:23pm

In reply to by Brettus

The link seems to be working for me. It downloads a PDF, so if you're having problems with Adobe, that may be the problem.


Tue, 06/26/2012 - 10:44am

Very interesting and informative slice of the pie, and would like to read more, but I cannot seem to download the full article. Is there another way of getting the full version?

Moderator adds: note sent to SWJ Editor. Maybe an IT bug?