Qari Faiz Mohammad killed in a raid in Helmand province
Coalition forces struck another blow to the senior Taliban leadership in Afghanistan. On July 23, Afghan and International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) troops killed Qari Faiz Mohammad, the chairman of the Taliban Military Shura, or council, during a targeted raid in Helmand province. Mohammad was also a close associate of Taliban leader Mullah Omar, and a chief financier for the Taliban.
Afghan and ISAF have been conducting major offensives up and down the Helmand River Valley in the northern portion of the province over the past several months. Major ground and air strikes have been ongoing in the Musa Qala, Kajaki, Nari Saraj, and Sangin districts in Helmand province, as well as in the Ghorak district in Kandahar and in southwestern Uruzgan. Afghan and ISAF forces have been attempted to clear the Taliban stronghold and reopen the vital Kajaki Dam. The Taliban openly control the Musa Qala district. Upwards of 150 Taliban fighters have been killed in strikes in the region during the past week.
Afghan and ISAF forces clearly have good intelligence on the movement and locations of several senior Taliban leaders, including two members of the Taliban’s Shura Majlis, or executive council. Mohammad’s death follows the death or captured of several senior Taliban leaders since December 2006. Numerous regional and district-level Taliban commanders have been killed or captured during the same time period.
U.S. forces killed Mullah Akhtar Usmani, a member of the Taliban Shura Majlis, or executive council in December 2006. Mullah Omar’s former deputy, a former foreign minister, and the operational commander in Uruzgan, Nimroz, Kandahar, Farah, Herat and Helmand provinces in southern Afghanistan.
Afghan forces captured Taliban spokesman Dr. Muhammad Hanif on January 16, 2007. Hanif has given numerous interviews with the media, and issued press releases and rebuttals to NATO and Afghan statements. He was said to have been in instant satellite phone and email contact with the press. Hanif claimed that Mullah Omar is operating out of Quetta.
In late February, Pakistani security forces arrested Mullah Obaidullah, the Taliban Defense Minister during the reign of the Taliban from 1996 until the United States toppled the government in the fall of 2001. Obaidullah “is considered by American intelligence officials to have been one of the Taliban leaders closest to Osama bin Laden, ” as well as part of the “inner core of the Taliban leadership around the Mullah Muhammad Omar who are believed to operate from the relative safety of Quetta.” Obaidullah was a member of the Shura Majlis, and was thought to be the Taliban’s third in command.
The Afghan military confirmed Mullah Dadullah Akhund, the brutal, charismatic, and respected Taliban military commander and leader of the forces in southern Afghanistan, was killed during an air strike on May 13. Mullah Dadullah sat on the Taliban Shura Majlis He was the Taliban’s most senior military commander and reported to have been one of Mullah Omar’s most trusted advisers. Dadullah joined forces with the Taliban at its formation in 1994. After the fall of Afghanistan in 2001, Dadullah fled to South Waziristan in Pakistan, where he reconstituted his forces and continued to fight NATO and Afghan forces. Dadullah orchestrated and promoted the Taliban’s suicide campaign in Afghanistan.
On June 12, ISAF forces killed Mullah Mahmud Baluch, a senior Taliban commander in the Helmand and Nimruz provinces.