68 Taliban surrender after commander killed in Herat


Samihullah, the new commander of the Taliban in Herat, has close ties to al Qaeda.

Scores of Taliban fighters loyal to a recently slain Taliban leader have surrendered to the government in the western province of Herat.

Over the past two days, 68 Taliban fighters loyal to Ghulam Yahya Akbari have surrendered to the Strengthening Peace Committee in Herat and vowed not to take up arms against the government. The 68 fighters came from the districts of Gazara and Pashtun Zarghon, two Taliban strongholds in Herat.

The defections from the Taliban began just four days after Akbari and more than 20 of his followers were killed during a joint Coalition and Afghan raid in the Gazara district on Oct. 9.

Akbari, who was known as the “Tajik Taliban,” broke with the Karzai government last year and stepped up attacks in the formerly peaceful western province. In an interview with Al Jazeera in 2008, he claimed to operate more than 20 bases in the region and boasted of having more than 600 fighters under his command. With the defection of 68 fighters and the loss of the 20 fighters killed in the attack that also killed Akbari, the Herat Taliban faction has lost almost one-six of its effective strength.

An al Qaeda-friendly leader succeeds Akbari

Akbari has long been known to shelter al Qaeda fighters who transited Iran to destinations farther south.

“Arabs come and stay with us from time to time, but they don’t stay here, they move to provinces like Kandahar and Helmand,” Akbari said during an interview with al Jazeera in 2008. “They stay on the front lines.”

Al Qaeda trainers from the Lashkar al Zil, or the Shadow Army, are also known to have embedded with Akbari’s forces. Three such trainers were killed in the Gazara district on Oct. 6, just three days before Akbari was killed.

The Taliban have appointed a new leader who is thought to be closely tied to al Qaeda as well.

The new leader, known as Samihullah, was a senior lieutenant to Akbari and is thought to have been responsible for the group’s ties to al Qaeda. In addition to having close links to al Qaeda, Samihullah speaks fluent Arabic and graduated from the Arab Faculty in Herat, al Jazeera reported.

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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  • Alex says:

    Correct me if I am wrong, but isn’t Herat one of the less violent places?

  • Spooky says:

    Great victory. Perhaps we can resecure Herat by the end of the year and then add focus even further to the south.
    One wonders whether more surrenders are coming from this group. One also wonders whether Akbari wa exagerating or understating his forces’ true strength…

  • iPhone community says:

    “Arabs come and stay with us from time to time, but they don’t stay here, they move to provinces like Kandahar and Helmand,” Akbari said during an interview with al Jazeera in 2008. “They stay on the front lines.”
    True words of Islam, no doubt…

  • Tyler says:

    Underscoring the fact that Akbari was more of a warlord than a leader of committed jihadists. Take out the warlord, his mercenary crew will wither.

  • Screen Sleuth says:

    It’s amazing reading this blog how many wars all over the world are still going on, and taking lives.

  • Dan A says:

    Bill, do you think it would be a good idea to send enough troops, both US and Afghan, to Herat? It seems this would be a good chance, almost like a mini Suni Awakening, to cement these military gains?

  • David m says:

    The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the blog post From the Front: 10/15/2009 News and Personal dispatches from the front and the home front.

  • Ron says:

    I wouldn’t be deluded into making too much of this. They live to fight another day. A basic tactic used throughout history. This is why that war can never be won.


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