The Spira district in Kohst province borders North Waziristan in Pakistan’s Northwest Frontier Province. Red agencies/ districts controlled by the Taliban; purple is defacto control; yellow is under threat.
While fighting has rages in Kandahar, Uruzgan, Herat provinces, the Afghan Army succeeded in killing Abdul Manan, a senior leader of the Haqqani Network. Manan was killed during an ambush by Afghan soldiers as he attempted to infiltrate the Spira district of Afghanistan’s Khost province from Pakistan.
“Afghan soldiers spotted 12 enemy fighters attempting to infiltrate from Pakistan near a border checkpoint in the Spira district,” The American Forces Press Service release stated. “They set up an ambush, engaged the fighters with small-arms fire, and killed several, including the infamous Abdul Manan.”
The Spira district of Khost province directly borders North Waziristan and the Mir Ali region, where the Taliban has fought the Pakistani army to a standstill. The Haqqani network is based out of North Waziristan.
Manan led the Haqqani network in fighting against NATO and Afghan security forces, and was “responsible for the movement of both insurgent fighters and weapons across the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.” The US military compared Manan “to the late Taliban commander Mullah Dadullah Lang, killed by Afghan and coalition forces in May, for his span of control, influence and corruption.”
Maj. Chris Belcher, a spokesman for Combined Joint Task Force-82, said the death of Manan was “a huge setback, which will send the enemy into a tailspin.” But the Taliban is deeply entrenched across the border, and has displayed a capacity to replace senior leadership.
The US military singled out Siraj Haqqani and his network as a major threat in eastern Afghanistan just two weeks ago. Siraj Haqqani, the son of the influential Taliban leader and former defense minister Jalaluddin Haqqani, was described as “one of the most influential insurgent commanders in eastern Afghanistan” who has “vied for the lead role as the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan’s prime antagonist.”
Siraj is believed to be dangerous not only for his connections with the Afghan Taliban, but with al Qaeda’s central leadership. “Siraj is part of a younger, more aggressive generation of Taliban senior leadership that is pushing aside the formerly respected elders,” said Army Lieutenant Colonel Dave Anders, the director of operations for Combined Joint Task Force-82, which oversees operations in eastern Afghanistan. “Now, the Haqqani network is clearly in the hands of Siraj, and the face of it is evolving, becoming more violent and self serving.”
The younger Haqqani’s “extended reach brings foreign fighters from places like Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Chechnya, Turkey and Middle Eastern countries into Afghanistan,” said Major Chris Belcher, a spokesman for Combined Joint Task Force-82.
This represents a growing trend to internationalize the Afghan jihad by bringing in foreign fighters and using tactics such as suicide attacks, which were rare in the past. In a video by Taliban military commander Mullah Mansour Dadullah, he admitted “reciprocity” with al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Iraq. “Military strategies and methods are shared between the groups so as to hit the enemy with the strongest force,” said Mansour Dadullah.
Elsewhere in Afghanistan, the Afghan Army and NATO forces drove the Taliban out of the Arghandab district just north of Kandahar City. The Taliban took the district after the death of a senior pro-government tribal leader. Fifty Taliban were killed in the fighting, and 250 more were thought to have been surrounded. The remaining Taliban from Arghandab are now said to be in full retreat to the north.
In Herat province in western Afghanistan, the Taliban overran a second district center. On Monday, over 400 Taliban overran the district center of Gulistan district on the Iranian border. Over 90 Taliban have been killed during fighting in Gulistan.
As NATO and Afghan forces are battling to retake the district, the Taliban stormed the district center in Bakwa. “The Taliban wanted to keep Afghan and foreign troops busy (in Gulistan) as another group of Taliban tactically overran the district centre,” said the district leader of neighboring Delaram. “During the confrontation 14 Taliban insurgents and two Afghan police were killed and the Taliban set the district centre building on fire.”