Mullah Dadullah may have been captured during recent fighting in Afghanistan.
The news reports of a major Taliban offensive in southeastern Afghanistan are inaccurate, as Coalition offensives and Taliban attacks have been lumped together to give the impression of a coordinated Taliban assault in multiple provinces. A reading of the various reports indicates that while the Taliban has launched a major strike on a police station and government center in Helmand province and a small scale attack on a police patrol in Ghazni, as well as two suicide attacks against U.S. contractors in Herat and an Afghan army base in Ghazni, the fighting in Kandahar was initiated by Afghan and Coalition security forces during planned operations. Over 100 have been reported killed during the fighting, with 87 being Taliban. Well over half of those killed were killed during the Coalition offensives in Kandahar.
There were two separate major engagements in Kandahar province, and both were initiated by the Coalition. Coalition forces conducted a raid and subsequent air strikes against a Taliban safe haven in the village of Azizi. As many as 27 Taliban are believed to have been killed during the operation. A joint Canadian and Afghan security force conducted a sweep in the Panjwai district of Kandahar, and killed 18 Taliban and captured 26 in the process. One Canadian officer was killed and three Afghan police were wounded during the operation.
The fighting in Musa Qala in Helmand province is a bonafide major Taliban attack. The Associated Press reports an “estimated 300-400 militants with assault rifles and machine guns attacked a police and government headquarters” in Musa Qala. The Afghan police provided reinforcements to the beleaguered police station, fought off the Taliban force, reestablished control over the region, and killed 40 Taliban and took thirteen casualties of their own. Two police patrols were ambushed in Ghazni, and resulted in the death of two policemen. There is no evidence the attacks were coordinated. And they certainly weren’t coordinated to occur in conjunction with Coalition operations.
It is important to understand how the fighting was initiated, as the current reporting is giving the impression of a coordinated Taliban uprising. This provides the Taliban with a propaganda victory, as their power is perceived as far greater than it actually is, which can negatively influence the government and peoples of the Coalition forces serving in Afghanistan. The narrow passage of the extension of the Canadian mission in Afghanistan (by a 149-145 vote in Parliament) illustrates the fragile nature of the support for the mission in some Western nations.
During the fighting of the past few days, the Coalition may have scored a major victory. The BBC’s Alastair Leithead reports Mullah Dadullah, the Taliban’s most senior commander, has been captured, however the military has yet to confirm this report. The Jamestown Foundation describes Mullah Dadullah as “The Military Mastermind of the Taliban Insurgency” as well as “a member of the 10-man leading council of Taliban insurgents.” Dadullah reportedly escaped the U.S. and Northern Alliance onslaught of the Taliban regime in the winter of 2002 and surfaced in South Waziristan, Pakistan, where he raised funds and organized the Taliban insurgency. Dadullah would be a treasure trove of information on the Taliban’s operations in both Afghanistan and Pakistan. Qari Naeem, the Taliban commander of Ghazni province, was also killed.
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