Senior insurgent leader reported killed in Western Afghanistan


Ghulam Yahya Akbari (circled), the “Tajik Taliban,” was killed in a US airstrike in Herat province. Al Jazeera photo.

A key Taliban commander in the western province of Herat was killed during a raid, according to a senior Afghan general.

Afghan and US forces are thought to have killed Ghulam Yahya Akbari, a senior insurgent leader with ties to the radical Hezb-e-Islami Gulbuddin and the Taliban. Akbari, who claims to have hundreds of fighters at his disposal, is thought to be behind the surge in attacks in Herat over the past year.

“The operation supported by NATO’s helicopter gunships launched in Gozara district at 10:00 p.m. local time Thursday and continued until 02:00 a.m. Friday as a result Taliban commander Ghulam Yahya Akbari along with his 12 armed men were killed,” General Jalandar Shah Behnam told Xinhua.

The US military confirmed the raid in Goraza but did not indicate if Akbari was killed during the attack. The US military said the operation was aimed at an “insurgent leader” who “is known to be responsible for conducting roadside bomb attacks against International Security Assistance Force and Afghan forces in the area and kidnapping Afghan civilians.”

The joint US and Afghan force repelled a large insurgent counterattack with the aid of attack helicopters. No US or Afghan troops were killed or captured during the raid.

In February 2009, the US military targeted Akbari during a “precision strike” on his compound in Goraza. Akbari was not confirmed killed during the strike.

Background on Ghulam Yahya Akbari

Akbari, who is also known as the “Tajik Taliban,” served as the mayor of the city of Herat before the Taliban took control in 1995. After the fall of the Taliban, he was appointed the province’s minister of public works. He was relieved of his position in 2008 and took up arms against the government shortly afterward.

Akbari maintains his base of operations in the Gozara district, an area which has been considered outside of the government’s control. In an interview with Al Jazeera he claimed to have run more than 20 bases in the region and boasted of having more than 600 fighters under his command.

He claimed he is not Taliban and called his group the Mujahideen of Herat. But Akbari also said he shares the same goals as the Taliban and frequently allows Arab fighters to pass from Iran through the areas under his control. He also runs the areas under his control using the same harsh version of sharia, or Islamic law, that is used by the Taliban.

Akbari was profiled by The National on the same day he was targeted in February. In 2008 his forces fired rockets at the UNAMA compound as well as at the Herat airport. Akbari was also behind the abduction of one Indian and six Afghan nationals who worked for a communications company in Herat. The Indian national died in custody in the beginning of February 2009 but the six Afghans have been released.

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



  • Tyler says:

    Another day, another HVT.

  • Dan A says:

    It seems a lot of operations have been going on around Herat. It would seem to me that ISAF is trying to nip the problem in the butt (did I just say that?) before it spreads, which IMO is a good idea seeing what’s happening in Konduz.

  • Tyler says:

    Good eye Dan A. This operation was conducted in the very same district in Herat province as the raid early this week that supposedly killed three Arab Al Qaeda operatives.

  • Meremortal says:

    How are Taliban leaders supposed to have a “place in the government” as proclaimed by Obama if he keeps blowing them up? This is very confusing.

  • Mr T says:

    “The Indian national died in custody…”
    Where is the outrage? Where is the Red Cross? Amnesty International? Those hypocrites are all over Gitmo but I don’t hear much about all the “prisoners” taken by the Taliban including innocent civilians who are tortured and killed or used to get other Taliban and Al Qaeda murderers out of prison to kill again.
    They lock onto the case of Khalid Muhammed being tortured but no mention of guys like this who DIED, probably after being tortured.
    What a hypocritical double standard. We are fighting an enemy of murderers, thieves and liars but they hold the moral high ground in the publics view? Unbelievable.

  • referman says:

    Meremortal,the old school taliban believe in torture,suicide bombers and fear to rule the locals.This is unexceptable in most societies around the world.By blowing these guys up leaves way for a smarter and more understanding taliban.It’s an educational process and if they refuse to learn,well there is always room for more dead tangos.

  • Meremortal says:

    Referman: I’m fine with killing Taliban leaders and rank and file warriors. But we are going to bring about a kinder and gentler Taliban by killing off the “old school” ones? OK, this I have to see. I’ll wait.

  • man_in_tx says:

    Dan A: It seems a lot of operations have been going on around Herat. It would seem to me that ISAF is trying to nip the problem in the butt (did I just say that?) before it spreads, which IMO is a good idea seeing what’s happening in Konduz.
    Actually, there has been Taliban activity (and ISAF engagement) in the area since at least 2007 (and likely before). However, when the Army became more aggressive in the East and the Marines moved into Helmand, the number of Taliban in the Herat/Farah region increased due to migration from the “hotter” East and South.
    Interesting point: There are increased reports of Iran’s aiding the Taliban in their effort: Note that Herat and Farah are very close to Iran.
    Like you, I am glad that ISAF is taking the fight to them in this region!

  • anan says:

    Thanks for this good news. This is a “HUGE” win for the GIRoA, ANSF and ISAF.
    Who conducted this operation? Was it:
    -207th ANA commando kandak and its US SOF ETT?
    -207th ANA commando kandak, its US SOF ETT, and other US SOF?
    -some other combination of forces?
    Were either the 1st or 2nd Brigade of the 207th ANA (specifically their combat support battalions) involved?
    Any evidence that Yahya Akbari was backed by Khamenei? Yahya was a long time ally of Ishmael Khan. Khamenei is a big backer of both Ismael Khan and Karzai, and Ismael Khan helped Karzai win the recent election.
    I didn’t know about Yayha’s connections to Hezb-e-Islami Gulbuddin. It isn’t surprising though, given that Hekmatyur got sanctuary in Iran.


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