U.S. forces attack a HVT in Kunar; two Taliban leaders confirmed captured in Pakistan; Mullah Dadullah speaks
Mullah Dadullah on Al Jazeera.
Just days after the announced capture of Taliban leader Mullah Obaidullah Akhund was arrested in Pakistan, U.S. and Afghan forces are said to be on a major offensive in Kunar province, one of the most violent in Afghanistan. The target is said to be a High Value Target, possibly Osama bin Laden or another senior al Qaeda leader. “According to eyewitnesses and local reporters in Kunar province, Coalition forces launched a fierce attack on a small enclave in the village of Mandaghel, approximately 17 miles from the border with Pakistan, on Friday afternoon,” ABC News’ The Blotter reported. “Warplanes pounded the positions; U.S. special forces and Afghan National Army soldiers moved in shortly afterwards.”
The joint U.S. and Afghan force is said to have struck at the compound of an “Islamic militant and suspected drug trafficker named Haji Aminullah.” Kunar province has long been an al Qaeda stronghold, notes The Blotter. The battle is said to be ongoing for the past 2 days.
Kunar also sits across the border from Bajaur agency in Pakistan, where Faqir Mohammed’s Tehrik-e-Nifaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammadi (or TNSM, which translates to the Movement for the Enforcement of Islamic Sharia), the Pakistani Taliban rules and al Qaeda maintains a command and control center to direct operations into eastern and northern Afghanistan.
As the Kunar operation is underway, unnamed Pakistani sources are indicating that two additional Taliban commanders have been captured. Amir Khan Haqqani, the Taliban commander commander of Zabul province in Afghanistan, and Jaland Abdullah Sarhadi, who was released from Guantanamo Bay after three years in detention, were captured in the Gul Park Hotel in Quetta. This is the same location where Mullah Obaidullah was captured.
Pakistani sources are saying that “Mullah Obaidullah has been taken to the capital, Islamabad where a team of U.S. intelligence and law enforcement officials will assist in the interrogation process,” according to NBC News.
The Pakistani government has a long history of making high profile arrests and attacking Taliban and al Qaeda camps when foreign dignitaries are visiting or the pressure for the government to act is cranked up. NATO and Afghan military and political leaders have long said they know the location of Mullah Omar and other Taliban commanders, yet the Pakistani government has refused to act. Yet after a week of intense pressure for the U.S. government, three Taliban commanders suddenly appear.
While the intrigue inside Pakistan plays itself out and the battle occurs in eastern Afghanistan, Mullah Dadullah, the Taliban’s military commander, appeared on Al Jazeera television. The Taliban is sending fighters to Iraq. “Whenever there is a chance the Mujahideen travel to Iraq and the opposite is also true,” said Dadullah. “We have very strong relations with the Mujahideen in Iraq. The Mujahideen stay in Iraq for a month for example then they come here. We also share intelligence. Travel from and to Iraq is at a peak currently … if any mujahid wants to carry out an operation in Iraq he can travel.” This is the peak season as the winter weather makes fighting difficult in many of the mountainous regions of Afghanistan. Afghan fighters were recently killed and captured during the battle of Amiriya, Iraq.
Mullah Dadullah is currently operating in Pakistan, with the full support of Pakistan’s Inter Services Agency, according to Pakistani journalist Syed Saleem Shahzad. Mr. Shahzad also states the Taliban has distanced itself from al Qaeda in order to obtain the support of the Pakistani state. Mullah Dadullah’s statements and the cooperation with al Qaeda in Iraq puts that theory to rest.
Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD’s Long War Journal.