Coalition forces may have killed a senior insurgent commander during an airstrike in the western province of Herat.
Ghulam Yahya Akbari, the leader of an independent insurgent group aligned with the Taliban, and upwards of 15 of his leaders and fighters were targeted in a “precision strike” that targeted his headquarters in Herat’s Gozara district.
Akbari is “a key insurgent commander” with “affiliations with Hezb-e-Islami Gulbuddin and the Taliban,” the US military said in a press release. He is behind a surge in violence in Herat province over the past several months.
Akbari, who is also known as the “Tajik Taliban,” served as the mayor of the city of Herat before the Taliban took control in 1995. After the fall of the Taliban, he was appointed the province’s minister of public works. He was relieved of his position in 2008 and took up arms against the government shortly afterward.
Akbari maintains his base of operations in the Gozara district, which has been considered an area outside of the government’s control. In an interview with Al Jazeera he claimed to have run more than 20 bases in the region and boasted of having more than 600 fighters under his command.
He claimed he is not Taliban and called his group the Mujahideen of Herat. But Akbari also said he shares the same goals as the Taliban and frequently allows Arab fighters to pass from Iran through the areas under his control. He also runs the areas under his control using the same harsh version of sharia, or Islamic Law that is used by the Taliban.
Akbari was profiled by The National on the same day he was reported killed. In 2008 his forces fired rockets at the UNAMA compound as well as at the Herat airport. Akbari was also behind the abduction of one Indian and six Afghan nationals who worked for a communication company in Herat. The Indian national died in custody in the beginning of February 2009 while the six Afghans have been released.
The report of Akbari’s killing comes one day after a US airstrike killed the shadow governor of Badghis province in northern Afghanistan.
The US will send an additional 17,000 troops to help stem the deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan. More than 8,000 Marines and 9,000 soldiers will be deployed to Afghanistan by this summer. The troops will likely be deployed to the provinces around Kabul, where the Taliban have gained strength, as well as the east and south where the Taliban controls wide swaths of territory. It is unclear if southwestern and western Afghanistan will receive additional troops to help stem the rising violence in these once-quiet provinces.