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."