US forces killed the shadow governor of Afghanistan’s northwestern province of Badghis and eight other Taliban leaders and fighters during an airstrike on a village near the border with Turkmenistan, according to a report from the US military.
Mullah Dastagir, the shadow governor of Badghis province, was killed in the Sunday night airstrike in the Balamurghab district along with his brother Mullah Nabi Jan, another known Taliban commander named Mawlawi Hayatullah, and five other Taliban fighters. US and Afghan Army forces called in the airstrike after surrounding Dastagir’s compound. Dastagir commanded more than 300 full-time Taliban fighters and another 300 part-time fighters.
Dastagir’s rise to power in Badghis was facilitated by an order issued last year by President Hamid Karzai. Dastagir was released from National Security Directorate custody after the Directorate received an order from Karzai in September 2008. Karzai was responding to the appeals of local tribal leaders in Badghis, who appear to have been coerced by the Taliban.
Dastagir was nominated as the shadow governor for Badghis by a Taliban shura in October 2008. The Taliban appoint a shadow government in the provinces when it is determined the Taliban presence is sufficient. He quickly exacted revenge for his capture with the deadly November ambush on an Afghan Army resupply column north of the Balamurghab district center. The attack, which was purportedly led by Dastagir, led to a three-hour battle that resulted in 13 Afghan Army soldiers killed, 11 soldiers wounded, and 16 others missing. Scores of vehicles were torched and destroyed and others were stolen by the Taliban raiders.
The Balamurghab district serves as the Taliban’s main operations hub for northwestern Afghanistan. Taliban commanders in Badghis claim to have 74 bases scattered throughout the Balamurghab district alone. Both Badghis and the neighboring district of Ghormach are under Taliban control. US, Spanish, and Afghan forces now maintain a presence in the Balamurghab district at the newly-built Forward Operating Base Columbus.
Fighting has escalated in Badghis since last year. In August 2008, Afghan soldiers killed 25 Taliban fighters during a 10-hour battle after being ambushed in the district of Muqur, which borders Iran. In September a Taliban spokesman and Afghan officials said that 50 Afghan soldiers had defected to the Taliban, taking their weapons with them. In October, two Taliban fighters were killed in an airstrike after they attacked a World Food Programme convoy in the Jawand district. In November, a US airstrike killed 15 Taliban fighters and seven civilians after the Taliban conducted an attack in the Ghormach district. In January 2009, 13 Taliban fighters and five civilians were killed after the Taliban attacked a tribal leader’s home in the Muqur district.
Factional and ethnic fighting has left a trail of destruction and bodies across Badghis since early January of this year when Taliban fighters attacked and killed some influential Tajik commanders formerly associated with Gulbuddin Hekmatyar’s Hezb-i-Islami. Tajik residents fought back on several occasions, and even killed Taliban commander Mullah Abdullah, a well- known leader in the district of Muqur. During January, Taliban fighters led by Dastagir stormed the remote district of Jawand and continued to occupy several villages on the outskirts of the district headquarters.
The killing of Dastagir will have immediate short-term implications for the security situation in Badghis. He was considered an able and effective commander and several of his senior leaders were killed alongside him.
Mullah Jamaloddin Mansoor, the deputy shadow governor of Badghis province who is likely to succeed Dastagir.
There are at least two separate Taliban factions operating in the province. The one faction was formerly led by Mullah Dastagir, the other faction by Mullah Jamaloddin Mansoor, who is associated with former regional Taliban commander Mullah Abdul Rahman Haqqani. Mullah Jamaloddin will likely replace Dastagir as the Taliban’s shadow governor for Badghis. Jamaloddin was appointed as the shadow deputy governor last October. Taliban commander Mullah Amoruddin will continue to run the district of Ghormach but it is unclear who will succeed Dastagir in Balamurghab.
For more information on Badghis province, see: