Afghan civilians confronted a group of 12 Taliban fighters in the desolate northwestern province of Faryab on Thursday, sparking a clash that left two Taliban fighters killed and sent the rest fleeing for their lives. Among those killed was Abdul Hamid Akhundzada, the newly appointed Taliban “shadow” governor for Faryab, making it the second Taliban-appointed governor killed this season.
In May, the Taliban shadow governor for Ghor province, Mullah Jalil, and Mullah Abdul Saraj, who was appointed as police chief for the province by the Taliban leadership, were killed along with four other insurgents during an Afghan security operation. The Taliban’s feared shadow governor of Helmand province, Mullah Faizullah, was killed by Coalition forces last December.
Thursday’s clash came a day after the newly arrived Taliban insurgents attempted to kidnap local aid workers working to build a well in Faryab’s Qayar district. Villagers caught up with the gang of insurgents the following day and after a brief confrontation, shot the Taliban commander dead and chased the remaining fighters away using sticks and stones. It was the first reported incident of civilians killing Taliban insurgents in the northern areas this year.
The Taliban, who have spent the last three years patiently establishing their support and intelligence network throughout the northwest, have endured a recent spate of attacks against their command and control structure. On July 3, a failed Taliban ambush resulted in the death of 25 insurgents after NATO and Afghan forces used close air support to bomb the Taliban positions. In mid March, the Taliban’s commander for the northwestern province of Badghis was arrested during an Afghan intelligence operation in neighboring Herat province. Maulvi Dastagir spoke regularly with regional media outlets and was the Taliban’s unofficial spokesman for their northwestern faction.
End of Afghanistan’s most unconventional warlord
The only female warlord in Afghanistan, a weathered militia commander named Bibi Aysha, better known as her nom de guerre Kaftar (the Pigeon), has surrendered her arms and her militia to the central government. After engaging in nearly three decades of guerilla warfare, Kaftar surrendered to the government along with her four sons, her key battlefield commanders.
The move came after the central government threatened to launch an operation against Kaftar and her militia last month. She has been accused of launching a series of armed attacks, robberies, and drug trafficking in her native Baghlan province.
“Kaftar is allied with a local Taliban commander Mullah Dad-e Khuda, who has recently escaped from Bagram prison,” said one resident, speaking on condition of anonymity to the Institute for War and Peace Reporting. “She also has ties to another local warlord called Imam-e Sabz [the Green Imam]. They control all the drug trafficking routes.”
This is the second time she and her gang have disarmed and surrendered to the government since 2001. Officials have downplayed her significance saying her militia has dwindled to a dozen men, mostly family members, who were forced to hide in the mountains pending the security operation aimed at eliminating them. It is unclear whether or not the government will seek to press charges against her for committing a long list of crimes.
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