First, the disclaimer up front: I have not been able to confirm this and have been told by several sources to proceed with caution on this report. The Christian Science Monitor is reporting that four additional members of the Afghan Taliban’s Quetta Shura have been captured. And one of them may be none other than Mullah Abdul Qayum Zakir, the former Guantanamo Bay detainee who serves as the leader of one of the four regional military shuras. According to the Monitor:
Pakistan has also captured several other Afghan members of the leadership council, called the Quetta Shura, two officials with the Pakistani Intelligence Bureau, and a United Nations official in Kabul told the Monitor.
These include: Mullah Abdul Qayoum Zakir, who oversees the movement’s military affairs, Mullah Muhammad Hassan, Mullah Ahmed Jan Akhunzada, and Mullah Abdul Raouf.
At least two Taliban shadow provincial governors, who are part of the movement’s parallel government in Afghanistan, have also been captured.
A Taliban spokesman denied the arrests, saying that they were meant to hide the difficulties that United States and NATO forces were having in Afghanistan.
First, a couple of points, and then I’ll try to define who may have been captured.
• Given what is known about the composition of the Quetta Shura and its regional commands and committees, it isn’t accurate to say that half of the leadership council is under arrest.
• Zakir’s capture would be considered a major coup. He is considered an effective military commander in the South and is well respected in the Taliban ranks.
• Note that the source of information is the Intelligence Bureau, Pakistan’s domestic intelligence agency run by the Interior Ministry, and not the Inter-Services Intelligence agency, run by the military. Depending on how you look at that, it can add validity to the report or make it more suspect.
• There is no confirmation from US sources on this. Baradar has been in custody for an estimated month.
• The two Shadow Governors mentioned are likely Mullah Salam and Mullah Mir Mohammed, who have already been reported captured.
• Zakir is on the list of the Afghan Taliban’s top leaders that was recently published at The Long War Journal. Mullah Muhammad Hassan is likely either Rehmani or Akhund; it is not clear which one, however. But Mullah Muhammad Hassan appears to be a pretty common nom de guerre.
Here is the best I can do on the possible identity of the other two Taliban leaders who are not on my list:
• Mullah Ahmed Jan Akhunzada is likely Mullah Ahmed Jan Akhund, the former Minister of Water and Electricity during the Taliban regime.
• Mullah Abdul Raouf may be the former Taliban governor of Paktia province. He was reported to be a military commander in northeastern Afghanistan.
More as this story develops.