Deputy Taliban commander in Waziristan captured by Task Force 145; Taliban commander arrested in Kandahar; Tora Bora Front cell broken up; Achilles update
As NATO and Afghan forces are on the offensive in northern Helmand province, U.S. special forces have conducted a cross border raid in Pakistan and nabbed the deputy Taliban commander in Waziristan, according to a report by Al Jazeera Television. The Taliban leader is identified as Mullah Hakimallah Mansub, however the likelihood is the Romanization of the name is incorrect. ‘Mansub’ may well be of the Mehsud tribe, of which Baitullah and Abdullah Mehsud are the two leading Taliban commanders in South Waziristan.
This raid would have been conducted by Task Force 145, the specialized hunter-killer team designed to detain or kill senior al Qaeda leaders in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere. Task Force 145 was behind the strike in Danda Saidgai against Osama bin Laden’s praetorian Black Guard in the spring of 2006, among other operations in western Pakistan.
Today’s raid in South Waziristan follows the capture of Mullah Mahmood, a Taliban commander fleeing the fighting in southern Afghanistan. Mahmood was captured by Afghan soldiers after he tried to pass through a checkpoint while wearing a burka.
In Nangarhar province in northen Afghanistan NATO forces captured the leader of an IED cell of the newly formed Tora Bora Front. The Tora Bora Front is an al Qaeda linked organization and offshoot of Hizb-i-Islami Khalis fighters led by Anwarul Haq Mujahid. Mujahid is the son of Maulvi Yunis Khalis, who hosted Osama bin Laden after he entered Afghanistan in 1996.
Meanwhile, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, the leader of the Taliban and al Qaeda allied Hizb-i-Islami Gulbuddin (HIG), has claimed he has broken with the Taliban and is willing to negotiate with the Afghan government. “The jihad went into high gear but later it gradually went down as certain elements among the Taliban rejected the idea of a joint struggle against the aggressor,” Hekmatyar told AFP “He said his forces were now mounting only restricted operations, partly because of a lack of resources.” Hekmatyer has always been an opportunist in Afghan affairs, but this might be a sign that the Taliban and al Qaeda no longer see any use in Hekmatyer’s services as they are now secure in Western Pakistan.
The raids against Taliban leaders occur as NATO and Afghan forces enter the third day of Operation Achilles in Northern Helmand province. Over 4,500 NATO and 1,000 Afghan troops are battling Taliban forces in the Taliban infested districts. Mullah Abdul Qassim, a “top Taliban commander in Helmand province,” according to The Associated Press, claims to have 4,000 fighters in northern Helmand and up to 9,000 fighters in the entire province.
“All of them are well-equipped and we have the weapons to target helicopters,” Qassim told The Associated Press. “The Taliban are able to fight for 15 or 20 years against NATO and the Americans.”
The fighting over the past 24 hours has focused around the Garmsir district. “[The NATO led International Security Assistance Forces] consisting of the British 45 Commando Royal Marines, supported by Afghan National Army troops, have successfully engaged Taliban extremist strongholds as well as compounds being used by the enemy as arms and ammunition storage facilities in the general area of Garmsir,” according to the ISAF press release. Afghan artillery has been firing in support of the operation, and U.S., British and Dutch close air support has been called in as well.
Elements from the Royal Canadian Regiment and the U.S. 1st Battalion, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 82nd Airborne Division appear to be conducting blocking operations at the Kandahar and Helmand provincial boundaries.
The Taliban control the districts of Musa Qala and Washir, and claimed to have captured Nawzad. The Sangin, Kajaki and Grishk districts have also been been the scene of heavy Taliban activity this winter. ISAF is attempting to secure the region around the Kajaki Dam in northern Helmand province to push forward with reconstruction projects in the region.
Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD’s Long War Journal.