US strike kills Iranian-backed Taliban commander in western Afghanistan


The US military killed a senior Taliban commander with links to Iran's Qods Forces during an airstrike in western Afghanistan.

Mullah Mustafa and sixteen of his followers were killed in the western province of Ghor after intelligence assets, likely unmanned aerial vehicles, spotted his movement and attacked his convoy.

"Coalition forces observed Mustafa moving by vehicle from his compound. When he stopped in a remote area, he was joined by multiple militants," a press release issued by the US military stated. "After determining no civilians would be endangered, forces used precision aerial munitions to strike the group, killing Mustafa and as many as 16 other militants." Mustafa reportedly met with a group of senior Taliban commanders prior to today's airstrike.

Mustafa commanded a group of 100 Taliban fighters and was based in the mountanous district of Shahrak and conducted attacks against both Afghan and Coalition forces in the west.

The US military said Mustafa had connections to Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps - Qods Force, the external special operations division that is tasked with supporting the Khomeinist Islamist revolution.

Qods Force has secretly support Taliban elements and is a known backer of Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, the leader of the Hizb-e-Islami Gulbuddin faction and an ally of al Qaeda and the Taliban.

Hekmatyar is known to have sheltered in Iran and receives financial and military aid from the Qods Force. According to a Spanish military intelligence report from 2005, Hekmatyar had "total freedom" while openly living at a hotel in the Iranian capital of Tehran. Qods force provided for Hekmatyar's security while he "met daily with many unidentified individuals."

Coalition and Afghan officials have long stated that Iran has smuggled weapons into Afghanistan and supplied them to the Taliban and Hizb-e-Islami Gulbuddin. In January 2008, Afghan officials claimed they have evidence that Iran is supplying weapons to the Taliban and other groups, after an arms cache was confiscated in western Afghanistan.

Just yesterday, British intelligence officials stated that Iran continues to smuggle weapons into Afghanistan.

"That's a regular occurrence," an official told the Daily Telegraph. "It tends to be heavier weapons like mines and mortars rather than Kalashnikovs".

Taliban commanders also admit that Iran is supporting their operations. In September 2008, an unnamed Taliban commander said Iran was supplying the deadly explosively-formed penetrators, or EFPs, called the Dragon. Iran supplied these same weapons to Shia terror groups in Iraq.

"There's a kind of landmine called a Dragon. Iran's sending it," the commander said. "It's directional and it causes heavy casualties. We're ambushing the Americans and planting roadside bombs. We never let them relax."



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READER COMMENTS: "US strike kills Iranian-backed Taliban commander in western Afghanistan"

Posted by tom at June 10, 2009 2:25 PM ET:

Good, accurate information about Iranian support for Hekmatyar. Get this out to the average Americans who dont have a clue about Iran supporting Sunni terrorists. Kudos for the personnel who are responsible for the personality being taken out.

Posted by Rosario at June 10, 2009 3:38 PM ET:

Bill,

If I am understanding your report correctly, the Iranian Shia government are providing protection, weapons and and funds to the Taliban, who in turn terrorize and kill Shia in Pakistan, just to keep Afghanistan unstable and the US tied up there, right?

Posted by Midnight at June 10, 2009 4:11 PM ET:

I believe this report and as I read it he was killed for coming and going and possibly joining forces with the Taliban. He is in fact a leader.

Qud forces have been busy at something like intercepting missles or maybe you know things, that cost huge amounts of money and take you know guts, to go out and get and build havent they?

Posted by AMac at June 10, 2009 6:29 PM ET:

Prominent Central Asia blogger Joshua Foust of Registan.net contests the notion that elements of the Iranian Government (e.g. Qods Force) would supply Taliban units or otherwise ally with them.

Would Iran *Really* Give Weapons To Mullah Omar?

Foust doubts the Long War Journal's sourcing on this point.

Let's Compare

My impression is that Foust is erudite and very well informed. He is perhaps not always willing to entertain explanations other than those he favors (e.g. in this exchange re: the Georgia-Russia war).

Posted by captainjohann at June 11, 2009 12:51 AM ET:

Long war journal is a very respected journal.Heketmayer, who used to throw acids on the face of girls in Kabul university was given audience by President Reagan himself.Infact it is Saudi arabia which was focussing on heketmayer with some leaders of Pakistan to give him power sharing with Karzai. If some Taliban is killed, he doesnot automatically become a memeber of Kouds force.

Posted by Lorenz Gude at June 11, 2009 12:56 AM ET:

I can't be sure if the Iranians are supporting Sunni insurgents in Western Afghanistan but it seems perfectly logical to me. The Iranians do proxy war and get away with it all the time. A small investment in supplies creates a large problem for US forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. Neither the US or Israel make Iran pay directly so the Iranians a big return on their investment. As long as they are not supporting the larger Sunni cause then supplying Sunni insurgents at a tactical level suits their strategic goals.

Posted by Tyler at June 11, 2009 1:18 AM ET:

I'd say that Iran and the Taliban are natural enemies. Obviously they almost went to war when

Having said all that, I don't at all put it past Iran, or at least elements of the Revolutionary Guard, to try and find elements of the Taliban. Recruiting from within the Taliban ranks to form 'Special Groups' similar to how they co-opted elements of the Badr Corps and Mehdi Army in Iraq. It serves a number of purposes besides the obvious 'America as common enemy' rationale.

A.) It gives Iran an 'in.' In exchange for weapons and logistics, Iranian intelligence gets an army of eyes inside the inner workings of a group they want to keep tabs on.

B.) Iran can exert its influence over these Taliban 'Special Groups' so they avoid targeting Hazaras or other Shia/Iranian friendly targets. Just as the 'Special Groups' in Iraq eventually refrained from targeting the Maliki government as Maliki curried more and more favor with Tehran.

C.) If these Special Groups gain a reputation for sophistication and lethality against the Americans on par with the Haqqanis or Mehsuds, it will drive new recruits and resources towards Iran's chosen proxy. Resources that might otherwise go to the more virulently anti-Shia Taliban groups like the old Dadullah militia.

Posted by David M at June 11, 2009 9:54 AM ET:

The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the blog post From the Front: 06/11/2009 News and Personal dispatches from the front and the home front.

Posted by Lita at June 11, 2009 10:01 AM ET:

Ghor is Lithuanian zone.They send lot of messages to americans about Mulas ties with Iran.I am proud,lithaunians and americans are shoulder to shouder in the war on teror.