Senior Taliban commander killed in Kandahar

Afghan and Coalition special operations forces killed the senior Taliban military commander for Kandahar city after tracking him for weeks.

Mullah Zergay, who led the Taliban in Kandahar City, as well as in the vital districts of Zhari and Arghandab, Taliban strongholds to the west and north of the provincial capital, was killed last week "in a Taliban safe haven area south of Kudeza'i" in the district of Zhari, the International Security Assistance Force reported today. Zergay and an undisclosed number of his bodyguards were killed during a raid designed to capture him. Intelligence assets had been "tracking his location for several weeks" before the raid was executed.

Zergay was behind the targeted assassination program in Kandahar that has been designed to break the will of Afghans working with the Coalition and Afghan government. The campaign is part of the Taliban's counteroffensive against the Coalition's push to secure the province this summer.

Over the past several months, more than 20 government officials and tribal leaders have been assassinated in Kandahar City and the surrounding areas, including the deputy mayor of the provincial capital. Azizullah Yarmal, the deputy mayor, of Kandahar city, was shot and killed while praying in a mosque.

"[Zergay] rose to power through violent intimidation campaigns against civilians and by leading kidnappings and executions of government employees and village elders," ISAF stated. "He used explosives in nearly all of his operations and was directly responsible for multiple deaths in Kandahar city alone."

ISAF described Zergay's death as "a major loss for the Taliban leadership in southern Afghanistan."

Zergay is the second senior Taliban leader was reported to have been killed in Kandahar since May 30. Haji Amir, who was described as one of the top two Taliban leaders in all of Kandahar, was killed along with several of his bodyguards in an airstrike and follow-on raid in Kandahar.

Background on operations in Kandahar

Over the past several months, US and Afghan special operations forces have been conducting raids against the Taliban's top leaders and operatives in Kandahar to prepare the battlefield for an upcoming offensive that seeks to wrest control of the province from the Taliban. More than 70 mid-level Taliban commanders have been killed during a series of special operations raids in and around Kandahar City over the past four months, The National Post reported.

The US has placed great importance on the need to secure Kandahar, which is considered the ideological and spiritual home of the Taliban. Two brigades of the additional troops surging into Afghanistan are slated to deploy in Kandahar in the upcoming months.

But a Department of Defense survey of the situation in key districts in Afghanistan paints a grim picture of public support for the government in the south. In Kandahar and Helmand, the two provinces considered to be the key to the Taliban's power in the south, the majority of the population is considered to be ambivalent toward the Afghan government and the Coalition, or sympathetic to or supportive of the Taliban.

Of the 11 of Kandahar's 13 districts assessed earlier this year, one district (Kandahar City) supported the government, three districts were considered neutral, six were sympathetic to the Taliban, and one supported the Taliban. Of the 11 of Helmand's 13 districts assessed, eight of the districts were considered neutral, one was sympathetic to the Taliban, and two supported the Taliban.

The US has indicated that it will begin turning over security to the Afghan Army and police by July 2011 and that it will also start to withdraw its forces from the country at that time.


READER COMMENTS: "Senior Taliban commander killed in Kandahar"

Posted by BraddS at June 4, 2010 1:51 PM ET:

Keep 'em coming

Posted by Zeissa at June 4, 2010 5:06 PM ET:

I've noticed a very obvious increase in efficiency in both Afghanistan and Pakistan over the last year. I didn't take the propaganda about crippling CIA capabilities seriously at all, though it probably damaged them for a while and will continue to have milder aftereffects.

Posted by doug at June 4, 2010 10:48 PM ET:


The Taliban and AQ guys sure are taking heavy losses recently. It can't be much fun for the top management - none of whom has ever volunteered for a suicide mission. I wouldn't be surprised if some of them start to peel off from the core and start collecting the bounties. That's a lot easier than getting a hellfire up your tailpipe.

Posted by ArneFufkin at June 5, 2010 8:52 PM ET:

The interesting and hopeful aspect of the Taliban movement in Afghanistan is that a small majority are involved through some ideological fealty. Most are engaged for economic, tribal or criminal motives. They are the first to peel away from the jihad gang when the blood starts getting spilled.

The sad truth in much of Afghanistan is that the Taliban provided a better future and governance than the corrupt Afghan central and provincial governance did.

That's the battle we're primed to wage: Give legitimate, rule of law governance and non-narco economic prosperity a chance to grow and flourish.

Posted by Zeissa at June 6, 2010 8:09 PM ET:

The Afghan government was never worse than the Taliban, but it sure hasn't improved much upon it's past either.

Defeating drugs? Good idea would be to pay subsidies to the Saffron-industry and/or legalize mariuhana and hashis in the West.

Posted by Neo at June 7, 2010 1:39 AM ET:

Zeissa said:
"Defeating drugs? Good idea would be to pay subsidies to the Saffron-industry and/or legalize mariuhana and hashis in the West."

The whole drive to legalize drugs in the West is based on the false premise that interdiction is the primary force behind maintaining illegal drug prices, and that once removed there would be no profit incentive. In fact interdiction is a relatively minor force in maintaining drug prices. The organized crime networks that supply the illegal drugs set drug prices. They are quite willing to kill anyone who undercuts their prices and do kill hundreds every year in never ending battles for control.

Legitimate businesses will not sell marihuana, hashish, and narcotics in large quantities. It's involves too much liability plus you risk getting targeted by illegal competition. It will be the same drug cartels that currently control the business. They'll just have made their business much easier, and much more profitable.

The drug trade is one in which increased access, creates an increase in users, and a corresponding increase in demand. Florida is a very good example. Years ago they made it very easy to get prescription pain killers from largely unmonitored small pharmacies and doctors offices. In fact you didn't have to actually see the doctor to get the prescription filled. Already existing organized crime networks got into the business big time. Practically overnight Florida became the primary source for certain types of illegal prescriptions. The illegal prescription trade expanded many fold to become a prominent feature of the illicit drug trade.

I haven't followed what Florida has done about this problem, but once the cat is out of the bag it's next to impossible to get it back in. Tightening up controls and tracking down illicit pharmacies takes time and resources. At the same time there is a lot of pressure to look the other way, and money to back it.

I am always amazed at otherwise intelligent people who feel that legalization will somehow collapse the drug trade and its price structure. It's apparent that they have accepted the whole premise of peaceful legalization as gospel without the least bit of forethought. Sadly, it has become one of those things good college students and liberal thinkers are supposed to believe. Nothing against liberal thinkers, I consider myself one. The rubbish one is required to believe in is a rite of passage into any group though. Groupthink is part of the human condition.

Sorry to stray a bit off topic, but this point is often brought up related to the interdiction campaign in Afghanistan.