Senior Taliban commander killed in Kandahar


Map of the Afghanistan’s 121 “key districts” and the measure of public support for the government and the Taliban, from the US Department of Defense. Click map for full view.

Coalition and Afghan forces killed one of the top two Taliban commanders in the strategic southern province of Kandahar during a raid yesterday.

A top military commander named Haji Amir and “several of his fighters” were killed Sunday morning in “a precision air strike” in the Taliban-controlled district of Panjwai in Kandahar, the International Security Assistance Force said in a press release.

Amir, who is also known as Haji Agha, was killed in an airstrike after he and his security detail stopped at a farm in the village of Zangabad. Intelligence assets had tracked Amir “for several days.”

ISAF considers Amir to be “one of the two most senior Taliban leaders in Kandahar province.” The current shadow governor of Kandahar is said to be Mohibullah Akhundzada, a US intelligence official told The Long War Journal. Amir was recently in Pakistan to plan the Taliban’s counteroffensive in Kandahar and returned in April to lead his forces against Afghan and Coalition troops. The Taliban’s top council, the Quetta Shura, is thought to be based in the Pakistani city of Quetta in Baluchistan province.

US military intelligence officials told The Long War Journal that Amir is a top military commander in the province. He is known to operate in the Taliban stronghold districts of Panjwai, Dand, and Zhari.

Amir escaped from Afghan custody during the 2008 jailbreak at the Sarposa Prison in Kandahar City. Scores of Taliban commanders and fighters, as well as criminals, were sprung from the prison during the coordinated assault by suicide bombers and armed squads who overpowered the prison guards.

The Taliban have denied reports that Amir is dead and claimed no top leaders have been killed or captured in the past week.

Over the past several months, US and Afghan special operations forces have been conducting raids against the Taliban’s top leaders and operatives in Kandahar to prepare the battlefield for an upcoming offensive that seeks to wrest control of the province from the Taliban. The US has placed great importance on the need to secure Kandahar, which is considered the ideological and spiritual home of the Taliban. Two brigades of the additional troops surging into Afghanistan are slated to deploy in Kandahar in the upcoming months.

But a Department of Defense survey of the situation in key districts in Afghanistan paints a grim picture of public support for the government in the south. In Kandahar and Helmand, the two provinces considered to be the key to the Taliban’s power in the south, the majority of the population is considered to be ambivalent toward the Afghan government and the Coalition, or sympathetic to or supportive of the Taliban.

Of the 11 of Kandahar’s 13 districts assessed earlier this year, one district (Kandahar City) supported the government, three districts were considered neutral, six were sympathetic to the Taliban, and one supported the Taliban. Of the 11 of Helmand’s 13 districts assessed, eight of the districts were considered neutral, one was sympathetic to the Taliban, and two supported the Taliban.

The US has indicated that it will begin turning over security to the Afghan Army and police by July 2011 and that it will also start to withdraw its forces from the country at that time.

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



  • Gerald says:

    A nation cannot survive that cannot govern itself.
    The map above shows ‘no’ support for the government while it shows support for a peacefull Afganistan in many areas.
    The old values of corruption, deciept, and deal making make the effort impossible for an outside military power to accomplish.
    Its best for the US and NATO to leave in 2011 and let the chips fall where they may.
    If Afganistan needs to be revisited on occasion then so be it.

  • nl says:

    what is your journal’s definition for ‘top’ and ‘senior’? Simply adding up the number of top and senior people killed, would imply the organisation of al qaeda and the taliban must consist of tens of thousands of operatives.

  • Zeissa says:

    Well, here’s a shocker nl… last time I checked the US army had a minority of its personnell as combat troops/sailors/aviators.

  • kp says:

    @nl: In both cases the number of folks working “with them” doesn’t map to a simple tree structure so the number of managers n is some n ~ log(N) where N is to total number in the hierarchy (and the base of the logarithm is the number of people at each level in the hierarchy).

    But AQ doesn’t do all the work itself. They aren’t the vertically integrated 1950s style company that includes everyone from the cleaners to the CEO.

    AQ is more a organization with a management structure for managing finance, long term goals, public relations, training and technical support. Plus a small private army (515 Brigade). And in some cases operations but the operations wing doesn’t seem to be delivering in the last few company reports. You might consider AQ to be more of a “Jihadi management consultancy” company. Or a fancy “temp” company. Or you might think of them as a franchising company. Or even a construction company with subcontractors. I guess UBL got the idea from the family construction company. But I think Jihadi management consultancy is perhaps the closest model today.

    The Taliban on the other hand perhaps have a structure a bit closer to organized crime warlord with tribal structure (like the Mafia and Sicilians, anyone?) combined with a religious ideology and some social services (taxing the locals and providing something in return) but with the ultimate goals of control of a large group of people with the man at the top as the “emir” or “The Godfather”. I note like the mafia families these guys are organized literally as “families” and they do like to get together

    Together AQ and the Taliban (as they’ve been reported to operate) you get management consultants from AQ helping with financing, training, management, and firefighting on particular projects with the Taliban (i.e. the locals) providing the bulk of the people, shelter, food and other basics.

    You might consider AZ and UBL to be the Gates and Ballmer: founders, direction setters and focal point for the group.

    It’s a metaphor but I don’t think it’s too far from reality. It goes back to the questions of was Afghanistan under the Taliban a terrorist (i.e. AQ) supported state or state supported (AQ) terrorists.

  • Andrew R. says:

    You know, I’m surprised that we aren’t seeing as much publicity for how much the McChrystal strategy involves killing and capturing Taliban/AQ middle management. Everybody and his brother is going on about population-centric COIN, but we’re hearing almost nothing about this particular side of it (aside from coverage that folks like Bill are giving us).

  • GWTalib says:

    Does anyone have a better/more complete name for this commander? Haji Agha and Haji Amir are simply double-honorifics. Usually there’s also a tribal or familial name, or perhaps something that tells us who he was connected to…

  • ArneFufkin says:

    @kp: An apt and illuminating metaphor I would say. Nice.


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