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The 055 Brigade (or 55th Arab Brigade) was an elite guerrilla organization sponsored and trained by Al Qaeda that was integrated into the Taliban army between 1995 and 2001. [1] It comprised mostly foreign guerrilla fighters (Mujahideen) from the Middle-East, Central Asia and South-East Asia whom had some form of combat experience, either fighting the Soviet invasion during the 1980s or elsewhere.

They were equipped with weapons left behind by the Soviets, as well as those provided by the Sudanese and Taliban governments. The Brigade was also the beneficiary of Al Qaeda's worldwide network of procurement officers who obtained sophisticated equipment including satellite phones, night vision goggles, and even airplanes.

Reports from Time magazine indicate that members of the 055 Brigade were often deployed in smaller groups to help reinforce regular Afghan members of Taliban. This was often achieved via threats or intimidation designed to enforce discipline and a commitment to the mujahedin philosophy.

Estimates on the strength of the 055 Brigade vary, however it is generally believed that at its peak it comprised somewhere between 1,000 and 2,000 personnel. The 055 Brigade suffered heavy losses during the 2001 war in Afghanistan and many were captured by the United States. Those that survived retreated with Osama bin Laden to the Afghanistan-Pakistan border area where they regrouped with the intention of waging a protracted campaign.

According to Joint Task Force Guantanamo counter-terrorism analysts the brigade was a unit of foreign fighters in Afghanistan under the command of Usama bin Laden [sic]. [1][2] JTF-GTMO analysts said that, under bin Laden's command, the 55th Arab Brigade was integrated into the Taliban's military.

A Summary of Evidence memo prepared for Guantanamo captive Said Ibrahim Ramzi Al Zahrani's first annual Administrative Review Board, on 14 October 2005 stated [1]:

  • The detainee spent two days at the Muaz house in Kabul and then took a truck to the front lines. He was given a Kalashnikov [sic] with four magazines and two hand grenades. The detainee then was sent to a bunker facing the Northern Alliance in a position called the Bilal Position.
  • The Bilal unit is part of the 55th Arab Brigade.
  • The al Qaida Force, or 55th Arab Brigade, is Usama bin Laden's primary formation supporting Taliban objectives. Information indicates that the ideology of those in the 55th Arab Brigade includes willingness to give their lives for tactical objectives as declared by Usama bin Laden and the Taliban.

According to the 2005 "Warlords Rising: Confronting Violent Non-State Actors" the 55th Arab Brigade was a mechanized unit.[3]

According to the Long War Journal, the 055 Brigade has been reestablished as part of the Taliban's Lashkar al Zil or 'Shadow Army.'[4]

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