Chairman of Afghanistan’s Taliban military council killed

Map of region of recent fighting in Helmand province. Click to view.

Qari Faiz Mohammad killed in a raid in Helmand province

Coalition forces struck another blow to the senior Taliban leadership in Afghanistan. On July 23, Afghan and International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) troops killed Qari Faiz Mohammad, the chairman of the Taliban Military Shura, or council, during a targeted raid in Helmand province. Mohammad was also a close associate of Taliban leader Mullah Omar, and a chief financier for the Taliban.

Afghan and ISAF have been conducting major offensives up and down the Helmand River Valley in the northern portion of the province over the past several months. Major ground and air strikes have been ongoing in the Musa Qala, Kajaki, Nari Saraj, and Sangin districts in Helmand province, as well as in the Ghorak district in Kandahar and in southwestern Uruzgan. Afghan and ISAF forces have been attempted to clear the Taliban stronghold and reopen the vital Kajaki Dam. The Taliban openly control the Musa Qala district. Upwards of 150 Taliban fighters have been killed in strikes in the region during the past week.

Afghan and ISAF forces clearly have good intelligence on the movement and locations of several senior Taliban leaders, including two members of the Taliban’s Shura Majlis, or executive council. Mohammad’s death follows the death or captured of several senior Taliban leaders since December 2006. Numerous regional and district-level Taliban commanders have been killed or captured during the same time period.

U.S. forces killed Mullah Akhtar Usmani, a member of the Taliban Shura Majlis, or executive council in December 2006. Mullah Omar’s former deputy, a former foreign minister, and the operational commander in Uruzgan, Nimroz, Kandahar, Farah, Herat and Helmand provinces in southern Afghanistan.

Afghan forces captured Taliban spokesman Dr. Muhammad Hanif on January 16, 2007. Hanif has given numerous interviews with the media, and issued press releases and rebuttals to NATO and Afghan statements. He was said to have been in instant satellite phone and email contact with the press. Hanif claimed that Mullah Omar is operating out of Quetta.

In late February, Pakistani security forces arrested Mullah Obaidullah, the Taliban Defense Minister during the reign of the Taliban from 1996 until the United States toppled the government in the fall of 2001. Obaidullah “is considered by American intelligence officials to have been one of the Taliban leaders closest to Osama bin Laden, ” as well as part of the “inner core of the Taliban leadership around the Mullah Muhammad Omar who are believed to operate from the relative safety of Quetta.” Obaidullah was a member of the Shura Majlis, and was thought to be the Taliban’s third in command.

The Afghan military confirmed Mullah Dadullah Akhund, the brutal, charismatic, and respected Taliban military commander and leader of the forces in southern Afghanistan, was killed during an air strike on May 13. Mullah Dadullah sat on the Taliban Shura Majlis He was the Taliban’s most senior military commander and reported to have been one of Mullah Omar’s most trusted advisers. Dadullah joined forces with the Taliban at its formation in 1994. After the fall of Afghanistan in 2001, Dadullah fled to South Waziristan in Pakistan, where he reconstituted his forces and continued to fight NATO and Afghan forces. Dadullah orchestrated and promoted the Taliban’s suicide campaign in Afghanistan.

On June 12, ISAF forces killed Mullah Mahmud Baluch, a senior Taliban commander in the Helmand and Nimruz provinces.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.

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12 Comments

  • Tommy says:

    It’s been a great 8 months!!
    That leaves about 7 senior leaders left.
    My guy feeling tells me that by the time Bush leaves office in 2009 the Taliban leadership will be no more.
    Bill,
    Do you think the recent threats by the US will eventually force the ISI to cut loose Mullah Omar? Or will they continue to go after everyone under him and leave him alone?
    Keep up the great reporting. Best site on the net!

  • Neo says:

    This red mosque fight has more subplots than a bad soap opera.
    Now they’ll have to guard all the mosques in Islamabad, all the red paint too. Anyone in Islamabad wanting large quantities of red paint should be immediately reported to authorities.
    //news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20070730/ap_on_re_as/pakistan_militant_attacks
    And for serious political maneuvering between Musharraf and Bhutto. Take it with a grain of salt because the article is speculation. To my ear it sounds like they have inside information on this but note that they aren’t quoting anyone in the article.
    //news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20070730/wl_nm/pakistan_politics_dc_1;_ylt=ArgWbVBoaNfD41BgvQcqy3v9xg8F
    “Analysts say Musharraf and Bhutto would form a formidable duo to counter a rising Islamist tide.”

  • Neo says:

    This red mosque fight has more subplots than a soap opera.
    Now they’ll have to guard all the mosques in Islamabad, all the red paint too. Anyone in Islamabad wanting large quantities of red paint should be immediately reported to authorities.
    //news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20070730/ap_on_re_as/pakistan_militant_attacks
    And for serious political maneuvering between Musharraf and Bhutto. Take it with a grain of salt because the article is speculation. To my ear it sounds like they have inside information on this but also note that they aren’t quoting anyone in the article.
    //news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20070730/wl_nm/pakistan_politics_dc_1;_ylt=ArgWbVBoaNfD41BgvQcqy3v9xg8F
    “Analysts say Musharraf and Bhutto would form a formidable duo to counter a rising Islamist tide.”

  • Neo says:

    That’s were that other one went.

  • templar knight says:

    Yes, Tommy, many of the top Taliban commanders have been killed or captured over the past few months, but you must remember that the top echelon of Taliban commanders is well supplemented by experienced and capable fighters who are able to take the place of the ones who have been killed or captured.
    It has amazed me on more than one occasion how quickly the leadership of Taliban forces is replaced, whether due to capture of death. And that leadership has proven to be effective, regardless of the losses. It is likely the result of fighting that has occurred there over the past 30 years. But we can’t pin our hopes on just killing Taliban and AQ leaders, as more seem to pop up as quickly as some are neutralized. These are a tough people, who seem to delight in war, and it would be a terrible mistake to underestimate them.
    I have an idea or two on how to better handle these people, but don’t feel comfortable giving my opinion to people who are much more knowledgeable on the situation in the tribal areas. Yet. I am here to learn.

  • David M says:

    Trackbacked by The Thunder Run – Web Reconnaissance for 07/30/2007
    A short recon of what’s out there that might draw your attention, updated throughout the day…so check back often.

  • Fight4TheRight says:

    I agree Tommy, it has been a very nice roll the U.S., NATO, and Afghan forces have been on. And i don’t care how hunkered down and reclusive Mullar Omar is, his knees have to be shaking a bit.
    And while you make some valid points Templar, I would argue that with the top level killings that have occurred, the striking power of the Taliban has been greatly reduced – the heralded “spring offensive” fizzled out completely and since Dadullah’s death, it has looked more and more like a rag tag outfit. I think the other factor in all of this has been a torn strategy – whether to continue the attacks into Afghanistan or to try and build the new empire in Pakistan.
    It’s my personal belief that Omar is so secluded out of self-preservation that he cannot lead the Taliban effectively and with these other top, more accessible, leaders being bopped one after another, the strategy is not reaching the tactical forces.
    But I agree about the resiliency of the Taliban. They simply will never go away but hopefully, they will become more scattered and rendered more or less, insignificant.

  • Tommy says:

    That should say ‘gut’. My Gut feeling…
    I believe that the new Pakistani Taliban will be a problem for years to come, but if we’re able to finish off the remaining original leadership (Omar, Berader, Haqqani etc..) of the Afghan Taliban I think it will begin to fade fast. It’s not decentralized like Al Qaeda. The group exists in Afghanistan with its leaders in Pakistan. If we decapitate the head, it’s survival will definitely be jeopardized.
    Maybe im wrong…IDK. I’m only 18…I have no experienced expertise in this field whatsoever. That’s just my analysis from being a big news junkie the past 7 years.

  • Neo-andertal says:

    “But I agree about the resiliency of the Taliban. They simply will never go away but hopefully, they will become more scattered and rendered more or less, insignificant.”

  • JY says:

    Bill,
    Signs of a possible revolt within the Pakistan Army?
    Shun war on terror or face suicide attacks, says ex-army officer
    OUR STAFF REPORTER
    KARACHI – The government should abandon its support to US-led global war on terror in order to avoid backlash in the country in shape of suicide bombings, said former army official here on Monday.
    Speaking at press conference at Karachi Press Club, Major (R) Muhammad Zaman Mehsud, president ‘Mehsudi Tribes,’ suggested that President Pervez Musharraf should avoid killing own people to appease the global powers.
    Contradicting the official claim that Abdullah Mehsood blew himself up during the security agencies’ raid on his hide-out in Zhob, Balochistan, the retired army official urged Supreme Court of Pakistan to take suo moto notice of the incident. He also demanded judicial inquiry into the killing of suspected militant.
    He alleged the govt was involved in extra-judicial killings of suspected militants in Waziristan and other tribal areas. He asked why the govt did not allow port-mortem examination of body of Abdullah Mehsud.
    He added that Mehsud was not in the country for the last one and half years.
    He opined that foreign policies of present regime caused hatred among the patriotic people of Federally Administrated Tribal Areas (FATA) because they first encouraged Taliban and later initiated the drive against them at behest of USA.
    He claimed that Mehsud Tribes were very much patriotic. He pointed out that Abdullah’s forefathers were freedom fighters who fought against the British colonial rulers.
    He said Abdullah was grandson of Jangi Khan who fought against the colonial rulers along with his 20,000 men. Hence, after creation of the country, Quaid-e-Azam Mohammed Ali Jinnah handed over the control of the tribal areas to the local elders.
    He said that several tribesmen of Mehsudi were a part of Pakistan army and one brother of Abdullah was a serving major in the army. He said Mehsudi tribe was not against army but they would not allow any other foreign forces to kill their people and establish their bases in NWFP.
    //nation.com.pk/daily/july-2007/31/nationalnews9.php

  • templar knight says:

    JY, I couldn’t get your link to work, but if you are quoting the article correctly, it is interesting to note that a former army officer would call a press conference to criticize Musharraf and his tactics. I wonder how much of his sentiment is present in the Pakistani army, especially among the higher ranking officers. I had always thought the support for the Taliban was present in the intelligence services in Pakistan, but didn’t know how many high-ranking army officers might sympathize with the Taliban/AQ.
    Calling for the end of Musharraf support for the US and the GWOT would be expected from a tribal leader in the NWFP, I suppose, but is he appealing for help from others in the army, or the public at large, including Pakis who do not support the Taliban? The suicide bombing threat seems to be aimed at that part of the public, or perhaps I have misread that particular intent of the news conference.
    Perhaps Mr. Roggio or others on this site could enlighten me on what signals this man gave by having his news conference. Are there other things at play here?

  • JY says:

    templar,
    The link works for me. Strange!
    My view is that it is alarming to see public threats of terrorism made by an ex-army officer. Overall, to me this indicates a systemic view within the Pakistani military that the Taliban are “our boys” which fundametally clashes with our view.
    I seriously doubt that any Pakistani leader would help us get rid of the Taliban without us issuing existential threats to them. And we cannot issue such threats to Pakistan if we don’t mean it. I really doubt anyone at the Pentagon believes in an “invade Pakistan” scenario.

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