The Taliban have intensified their assassination program in southern Afghanistan, killing two senior government officials in Kandahar and Zabul provinces.
Two days ago, a Taliban suicide bomber killed the chief of police for the district on Daman in Kandahar province. Three policemen and a civilian were also killed in the Aug.17 attack, which targeted the police chief as he drove toward Kandahar city. The suicide attack in Daman took place just two days after a combined Coalition and Afghan special operations force captured “a key Taliban weapons distributor” along with an undisclosed number of fighters in the district.
In the neighboring district of Dand, the Taliban killed six policemen by poisoning their food. The soldiers died from their meal after breaking the Ramadan fast. The cook who poisoned the food fled and rejoined the Taliban.
In Zabul province, the Taliban killed the provincial Border and Tribal Affairs chief and his wife and wounded his sister in an attack on his home. Zabul is a known haven for the Taliban and al Qaeda. On Aug. 11, Afghan and Coalition forces detained more than 20 suspected “insurgents” in Zabul while targeting an al Qaeda foreign fighter facilitator operating in the district of Shamulzai.
Background on the Taliban’s operations in Kandahar
The Taliban, under a directive issued by Mullah Omar, have responded to the Coalition and Afghan offensive in the south with a campaign of violence and intimidation. Taliban fighters have been directed to “capture and kill any Afghan who is supporting and/or working for coalition forces or the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan,” as well as “any Afghan women who are helping or providing information to coalition forces.”
As part of the Taliban’s offensive in Kandahar, the terror group has targeted tribal leaders, politicians, and other elites for assassination. More than 20 people, including the district chief for Arghandab and the deputy mayor of Kandahar City, have been killed over the past several months. On July 31, the Taliban assassinated a tribal leader in the strategic Arghandab district just north of Kandahar city.
The Taliban’s military commander in Kandahar is Mullah Muhammad Isa Akhund. In an interview with Al Sumud, a Taliban magazine, Akhund claimed that nearly all of Kandahar is under Taliban control.
“The situation in Kandahar is favorable to the mujahedeen, with the grace of God, and the mujahedeen are present in effective and influential ways in the city of Kandahar, the farther districts, the surrounding areas, and the crucial roads of the province,” Akhund told Al Sumud. “It is known to all that the mujahedeen control the rural areas of the country.”
Top leaders at the International Security Assistance Force and US politicians have described Kandahar as the strategic center of the country, and said the province is key to defeating the Taliban.
Over the past five months, ISAF has targeted top Taliban leaders in Kandahar in a series of raids that have killed more than 150 mid and high-level commanders. Key Taliban commanders recently killed in the province include Haji Agha, the Taliban’s military commander for the Panjwai, Dand, and Zhari districts in Kandahar; Mullah Zergay, the Taliban’s leader for Kandahar City and the districts of Zhari and Arghandab; and Izzatullah, the Taliban’s military commander for Panjwai.
At the end of July, ISAF stated that its operations are impacting the Taliban’s command and control in the key province. “Since June, security forces have conducted several clearing operations within Kandahar province capturing more than 125 suspected insurgents, including numerous Taliban leaders,” the ISAF press release stated. “Coalition Forces have also discovered and destroyed several IED factories, and a large number of IEDs and automatic weapons.”