Pakistan detains Taliban shadow governor of Kunduz


Mullah-Salam.JPG

Kunduz shadow governor Mullah Abdul Salam. Image obtained by The Long War Journal from an interview by Al-Sumud, a takfiri magazine from Afghanistan published in Arabic.

Pakistan's military intelligence service, aided by the CIA, has captured the shadow Taliban governor of Afghanistan's Kunduz province during a raid in the city of Faisalabad.

Mullah Abdul Salam was detained during a joint raid by the Inter-Services Intelligence agency and the CIA one week ago in the eastern province of Punjab, Pakistani and US intelligence officials told Newsweek.

Salam was detained along with three other Taliban operatives as they were planning to meet with Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the Afghan Taliban's operational commander and the top deputy to Mullah Omar, who was captured more than 10 days ago in Karachi. The Taliban and the Pakistani military have confirmed that Baradar was captured.

Salam is considered a dangerous and effective commander. He is currently number one on the Coalition's 10-most-wanted list for Kunduz province. Salam takes direct orders from the Quetta Shura, the Taliban's executive council, which is based in Pakistan and was led by Baradar before his capture.

Afghan security officials previously claimed that Salam was killed during a series of clashes in Kunduz in early September 2009 that resulted in the deaths of than 90 Taliban and Central Asian fighters. The Taliban denied the reports of Salam's death.

Kunduz has been the hub of Taliban activity in the north as the group seeks to pressure the Afghan government from a region previously thought to be secure. The Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), a grouping of al Qaeda-backed Central Asia extremists, is known to operate in Kunduz with the local Taliban.

A strong Taliban presence in Kunduz has led to the interdicting of NATO supply lines from Tajikistan. A Taliban presence in Kunduz also puts the Taliban on the border with the Central Asian nations.

Three districts in Kunduz - Chahara Dara, Dashti Archi, and Iman Sahib - are considered contested between the Taliban, and Afghan and Coalition forces. Two districts in neighboring Baghlan province - Baghlan-i-Jadid and Burka - are under the control of the Taliban [see Threat Matrix report, Afghanistan's wild-wild North].

The captures of Baradar and Salam appear to signal a shift in the Pakistani government's attitude toward the Afghan Taliban. In the past, the US and other Western countries have accused the Pakistani military of directly aiding the Afghan Taliban, or of looking the other way as the Quetta Shura operates freely. As recently as the fall of 2009, US officials have accused senior ISI officers of sitting in on Taliban planning and strategy sessions, The Wall Street Journal reported.

It is unclear if the arrests of Baradar and Salam represent a true shift in policy regarding the Afghan Taliban, or if the Pakistani government and military have facilitated the arrests in order to secure control of potential negotiations between the Afghan Taliban and the Afghan government, while currying favor with the US. Baradar is said to have been amenable to talks with the Afghan government; his removal from the Taliban leadership would put Pakistan in the driver's seat as the primary broker in any negotiations.

US officials have accused the ISI of knowing the exact locations of members of the Quetta Shura and other senior Taliban commanders. If the Pakistanis have changed their outlook on the Afghan Taliban, then more arrests should be forthcoming.



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READER COMMENTS: "Pakistan detains Taliban shadow governor of Kunduz"

Posted by BullsEye at February 17, 2010 11:32 PM ET:

Well, it looks like the fallout of the Baradar capture is beginning to manifest...

Posted by Setrak at February 17, 2010 11:38 PM ET:

Anyone else suspecting that we're going to continue to see more news like this?

Posted by RangerMedic at February 17, 2010 11:42 PM ET:

Keep it coming.

Posted by TimSln at February 18, 2010 7:19 AM ET:

Add Mullah Mohammad, the shadow governor of Baghlan province to the mix of Afghan Taliban leaders captured in Pakistan.

http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,586541,00.html

Posted by C. Jordan at February 18, 2010 7:45 AM ET:

Fantastic! These guys are more useful alive and talking.

Evidence is everywhere that actionable intelligence is flowing.

Posted by Marlin at February 18, 2010 8:26 AM ET:

Wow! Another of the Taliban's shadow governors was recently arrested in Pakistan, plus more al Qaeda linked militants in Karachi. Something significant almost certainly has changed to cause this sudden flurry of activity.

Pakistani officials say up to nine al-Qaida-linked militants have been arrested in several raids in the southern city of Karachi.

Two Pakistani intelligence officials said those arrested in the Wednesday night raids included Ameer Muawiya - a man they said was in charge of foreign al-Qaida militants operating in Pakistan's tribal regions near Afghanistan.

The officials said Thursday that U.S. communication intercepts played an important part in tracking down the suspects.

[...]

Two Taliban shadow governors from northern Afghanistan have been arrested by Pakistani authorities, an Afghan official told The Associated Press on Thursday.

The reported arrests occurred about the same time as the capture of the Afghan Taliban's No. 2 figure, who was apprehended in the Pakistani city of Karachi.

[...]

Mohammmad Omar, the official governor of Kunduz province, said Mullah Abdul Salam, the Taliban governor of Kunduz and Mullah Mohammad, his counterpart in Baghlan, were arrested about 10 to 12 days ago in Pakistan.

Associated Press: Pakistan: Al-Qaida-linked militants arrested

Posted by Scott at February 18, 2010 8:34 AM ET:

I'm just curious why the ISI is operating, with the U.S., in Afganistan. I sorta understand the whole power struggle, but doesn't this prove that the ISI and the taliban are one in the same? If the Pakistani ISI knows where a taliban leader is located in Afganistan? Hmmm. Any thoughts anyone?

Posted by Chris at February 18, 2010 10:30 AM ET:

It seems to me that perhaps Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar wasn't so much captured but rather he reached a deal to help the US and also try and turn the Taliban into more of a political organization. Between the rumors that there had been negotiations between Barardar's people and the US, and his known efforts to try and move the Taliban to more of a political organization. Then the fact that these two guys who were arrested " were the most merciless individuals," said Gen. Razaq Yaqoobi, police chief of Kunduz Province. "Most of the terror, executions and other crimes committed in northern Afghanistan were on their orders." New York Times Any thoughts on this?

Posted by Bungo at February 18, 2010 11:09 AM ET:

I've been pushing for "live captures" for a while now. This is the only way to acquire real actionable intelligence. Hopefully this round of several HVT captures will start a domino effect with many more to come. Let's keep our fingers crossed and our spirits high.

Posted by Hanging on every word at February 19, 2010 7:55 AM ET:

Scott, all these arrests took place deep inside Pakistan, not Afghanistan. The locations of the arrests of these Afghans (and assorted others) are much closer to New Delhi and Mumbai, India than they are to Kunduz, Baghlan or Marja.

Posted by Hanging on every word at February 19, 2010 8:03 AM ET:

And the mention of major Indian cities was not my way of saying India has anything to do with these scum. Just saying these guy's present safe harbor was as far from Afghanistan as they can be without leaving Pakistan.

Posted by Zeissa at February 19, 2010 10:28 AM ET:

Actually the greatest change is that the Pakistanis are willing to go get them when we have actionalbe intelligence.