Taliban dismisses senior Afghan commander [Updated]

Former Taliban commander Mullah Mansoor Dadullah. Click to view.

As 2007 comes to a close, the Taliban has dismissed its senior military commander in southern Afghanistan. Mullah Mansoor Dadullah, a senior military commander, was relieved of his command by Mullah Omar, according to a statement. Dadullah was accused of insubordination.

“Mullah Mansoor Dadullah has been dismissed as the Taliban commander because he disobeyed the orders of the Islamic Emirate,” Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahed told AFP. “Therefore it was decided not to appoint any post in the emirate to him,” Mujahed concluded.

Mansoor was the military commander of Taliban forces in the strategic southern provinces of Kandahar, Helmand, Uruzgan, and Zabul provinces. He took command of Taliban forces in May of this year after his brother Mullah Dadullah Ahkund, a popular but brutal and effective commander, was killed by British special forces in Helmand province.

Pro-Taliban supporters shout slogans during a rally in Killi Nalai [AP]. Click to view.

Mansoor eulogized his brother in May via videotape to a large gathering of 10,000 Taliban supporters in Baluchistan province in Pakistan. “The blood of my brother will never go waste. We will never forget his sacrifices, and the role of other martyrs,” Mansoor said. “We will complete Dadullah’s mission by expelling Americans and liberating Afghanistan.” The crowd chanted, “Long live Mullah Omar, Long Live Osama bin Laden and Taliban movement.”

The Taliban has made a major push in southern Afghanistan. The provinces of Helmand, Kandahar, and Uruzgan have seen major fighting since the Taliban attempted to retake remote districts from Afghan and Coalition forces. The fighting bled over to the western provinces of Nimroz and Farah, where the Taliban briefly stormed districts, only to be beaten back. The Taliban failed to achieve their goal of taking over the south, although they still maintain a strong presence in the rural areas.

Afghan and Coalition forces drove the Taliban from the former stronghold of Musa Qala. The Taliban fled without putting up much of a fight. Over 2,000 fighters were said to be in Musa Qala. It is unclear if the loss of Musa Qala and other Taliban failures in southern Afghanistan attributed to Mansoor’s dismissal.

Mujahed, the Taliban spokesman for eastern Afghanistan, did not provide details behind Dadullah’s dismissal. Matt Dupee, a contributor to Afgha.com and The Long War Journal, indicated there are “ongoing rifts within the Taliban’s upper echelon” over the past year.

“The Taliban’s decision to remove Shah Mansoor as their key commander in the southern areas is a significant development,” said Dupee. “Not only does it highlight the ongoing rifts within the Taliban’s upper echelon, but it follows their removal from Helmand’s Musa Qala district and a long list of successful Coalition operations against their command and control capabilities.”

Siraj Haqqani has been rising in the ranks of the Taliban in eastern Afghanistan. Combined Joint Task Force-82 has stated Siraj has adopted al Qaeda’s ideology and tactics, and is alienating Afghan commanders.

The senior Taliban leadership has been heavily attrited over the past year. Four members of the 10-member Taliban Shura Majlis, or executive council, have been killed or captured since December 2006. Mullah Berader was killed in an airstrike in August 2007. Mullah Dadullah Ahkund was a member of the Shura Majlis. Mullah Obaidullah Akhund was arrested in Pakistan in January 2007. He has since been released by the Pakistanis in exchange for hundreds of their captured soldiers. Mullah Akhtar Usmani was killed in an airstrike in Helmand province in December 2006.

Several other senior Taliban leaders have been killed or captured since December 2006. Qari Faiz Mohammad, a member of the Taliban’s military shura, was killed in a raid in Helmand province in July 2007. Afghan forces also captured Taliban spokesman Dr. Muhammad Hanif in January 2007. He was later released in an exchange for an Italian hostage. In June 2007, NATO forces killed Mullah Mahmud Baluch, a senior Taliban commander in Helmand and Nimruz provinces.

These deaths have given younger, more energetic commanders the opportunity to rise through the ranks. Mansoor may have been a victim of his failures in southern Afghanistan coupled with the ambition of junior Taliban commanders.

[Updated December 30]

Mansoor Dadullah has denied he was dismissed by Mullah Omar, but Dadullah has been unable to contact Omar to confirm or deny. The Times of India reports:

“It’s not true that Mullah Omar kicked me out of the Taliban,” Dadullah said by telephone. “If Mullah Omar wanted me to leave the Taliban, then he would send me the message and I would put down my weapons because he is our top commander.”

Dadullah said the news that he had been dismissed was a “conspiracy by my enemies.” He said he was trying to contact Omar to discuss who said he had been dismissed.

“If Mullah Omar wants me to disarm, there is no need to publish this in the media,” Dadullah said. “In jihad there is no personal interest. In jihad you will be injured or killed only for the sake of Islam.”

Mujahed responded and stated that Mullah Omar would release an audio recording which confirms the order dismissing Dadullah.

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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