Report: airstrike killed Taliban shadow governor Sheikh Dost Mohammed

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Dost Mohammed, the Taliban’s shadow governor for Nuristan province, is interviewed on Al Jazeera in November 2009.

The Taliban’s most vaunted commander in Nuristan and Kunar provinces, Sheikh Dost Mohammed, has been killed along with three other Taliban figures in a US drone strike, according to Bokhdi News, citing an official from the Afghan and NATO Military Coordination Office. Sheikh Dost Mohammed has served as the top Taliban leader and shadow governor in Nuristan province for several years, and his insurgent network maintains deep ties to regional Salafist movements and al Qaeda.

The alleged drone strike took place early yesterday morning in the unstable Ghaziabad district in Kunar province. Among others said to be killed in the strike were Taliban operatives Akhtar Mohammad and one of Dost Mohammed’s relatives, Nematullah Haidar.

International Security Assistant Forces (ISAF) issued a brief statement confirming that Afghan and Coalition forces killed three insurgents and wounded another during an operation in Ghaziabad district, Kunar province, on March 2. The ISAF statement further added: “The security force positively identified the militants engaging in insurgent activity in an isolated area away from civilians. After ensuring no civilians were in the vicinity, the security force engaged the armed insurgents, killing three and wounding one.”

Dost Mohammed has previously been reported killed numerous times since 2009, and the latest report about his death should be viewed with caution.

Since abandoning several outposts in the more remote border districts of Nuristan province in October 2009, Afghan and Coalition forces have continued operations against an entrenched Taliban network spanning Kunar and Nuristan provinces. Last May, a Coalition operation killed Sheikh Jamil ur Rahman, the Taliban’s deputy shadow governor for Nuristan province, as he and associate Abdul Hakim were traveling through Nuristan’s Waygal district.

Background on Dost Mohammed

Dost Mohammed is one of the most wanted Taliban commanders in Afghanistan, and has organized massed assaults on US bases in the province. In one such attack, on Camp Keating in October 2009, Dost’s fighters, backed by al Qaeda and other foreign fighters, overran a portion of the base and killed nine US soldiers.

Nuristan province is a known haven for the Taliban and al Qaeda. In September 2011, Governor Nuristani said that six of the eight districts in his province were effectively under Taliban control [see LWJ report, Governor: Most of Nuristan under Taliban control]. The current status of Nuristan’s districts is unclear; the Taliban are still thought to hold sway in the province. In November 2011, Coalition and Afghan special operations forces captured an al Qaeda operative who was known to operate in Waygal as well as in Kunar.

The Afghan government and the Coalition have given up on waging counterinsurgency operations in Nuristan and Kunar. The US military has withdrawn from several combat outposts in the rugged, remote provinces. Instead, conventional and special operations forces are launching periodic sweeps to cull the Taliban forces, or “mowing the grass,” as a senior US general described it in April 2011.

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