Al Qaeda-linked Taliban commander killed in western Afghanistan


Map of 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 forces killed a Taliban commander with links to al Qaeda and the training of fighters in Iran during an airstrike in the southwestern Afghan province of Farah.

Mullah Akhtar and an undisclosed number of Taliban fighters were killed during a series of airstrikes and a ground raid yesterday and last night in the district of Gulistan in Farah. The operation took place in “a known insurgent safe haven,” the International Security Assistance Force stated in a press release.

Akhtar coordinated the training of Taliban fighters in Iran and was linked to top al Qaeda and Taliban leaders. Farah province, in which Akhtar was killed, borders Iran to the west. Mullah Hayatullah, the Taliban’s military commander in Farah province, is also closely linked with al Qaeda. He runs suicide training camps and also serves as a spokesman for the group.

“Mullah Akhtar had close ties with Taliban and al Qaeda senior leaders,” ISAF stated. “He was responsible for arranging training for foreign fighters from Iran and helped resolve disputes between militant networks.”

Akhtar was also linked to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps’ Qods Force, US military intelligence officials told The Long War Journal. Qods Force is the IRGC’s special operations branch tasked with promoting Iran’s radical Islamist ideology worldwide.

For years, ISAF has stated that Taliban fighters have conducted training inside Iran, with the aid of Qods Force, the special operations branch of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps. As recently as May 30, ISAF commander General Stanley McChrystal said that Iran is training Taliban fighters and providing them with weapons.

“The training that we have seen occurs inside Iran with fighters moving inside Iran,” McChrystal said at a press conference. “The weapons that we have received come from Iran into Afghanistan.”

In March 2010, a Taliban commander admitted that Iran has been training teams of Taliban fighters in small unit tactics. “Our religions and our histories are different, but our target is the same – we both want to kill Americans,” the commander told The Sunday Times, rebutting the common analysis that Shia Iran and Sunni al Qaeda could not cooperate due to ideological differences.

Southwestern Afghanistan a fallback position for the Taliban

Since the summer of 2009, the US military has launched three operations to clear the Taliban from various regions in Helmand province, and as a result, the Taliban have used the neighboring provinces of Farah and Nimroz as fallback havens.

Taliban support in the southwest remains a major problem for the Coalition and Afghan governments as they attempt to wrest control of the region from the Taliban. A Department of Defense survey of the local population’s support for the Taliban and the government that was released this spring shows that a difficult task lies ahead for the Coalition. The report identified 121 “key districts” as vital to both the Taliban and the government. In the survey, the majority of these districts were found to be either neutral, sympathetic to the Taliban, or supportive of the Taliban.

The picture in the south and southwest was particularly grim. Only three of the 27 districts assessed were sympathetic to the government; 12 districts were neutral; nine districts were sympathetic to the Taliban; and three districts supported the Taliban.

Of the four of Farah’s 11 districts assessed by the US military as key districts, two (Farah and Bala Buluk) were considered sympathetic to the government, and two (Pusht Rod and Bakra) were considered sympathetic to the Taliban. The district of Gulistan was not assessed, but is considered to be under Taliban control.

In Nimroz, only one district, Khash Rod, was assessed, and it is considered to be sympathetic to the Taliban.

In Kandahar and Helmand, the two provinces considered to be key to the Taliban’s power in the south, the majority of the population was found to be ambivalent toward the Afghan government and the Coalition, or sympathetic to or supportive of 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. Of the 11 of Kandahar’s 13 districts assessed, one district (Kandahar City) supported the government, three districts were considered neutral, six were sympathetic to the Taliban, and one supported the Taliban.

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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  • Zeissa says:

    As I’ve noted there is a momentum going on.

  • Zeissa says:

    I cannot see the red in Farah. This map must be outdated. Would you make us a new one please?

  • Gerald says:

    While I hate to draw parallels between Vietnam and most anything. The major reason the war in Vietnam was lost was because of the corrupt government. The ‘People’ did not want communism, but they could not support a corrupt bribery operating government as well. Hence the South Vietnamese government recieved little support from the people who had to live with the corruptocrates.
    Much is the same in Afganistan. The government is very corrupt with an attitude of ‘its our culture’. The people do not want the taliban but they don’t support the corrupt bribery taking government either.
    A war cannot be won by an outside military with a local government that cannot govern and have the support of the people.
    Leaving in 2011 with a declaration of doing its best, but of a incompetant government will be the best exit strategy. It tells the truth, and the best way forward. Let the chips fall where they may.

  • blert says:

    WRT Vietnam:
    The President’s personal secretary was a spy for the North!
    He made it all the way to Orange County California…
    Spying on the refugees, pretending to be one, himself.
    His status as an agent was only acknowledged after his death.
    Thieu was completely stunned.
    That one agent subverted everything that Thieu fought for.
    And that’s why every manner of the most secret information always found its way to the enemy.
    The corruption angle was NOT a major issue for the South.
    Such arrangements were the norm — and clearly exist in grand style today. Vietnam is widely noted as graft driven — more now than ever before.
    Likewise, in tribalist Afghanistan, it is expected for the Big Man to personally shunt funds to favorites — those on his team. The sense of nationalism common in the West simply does not exist there. Most Afghans live an isolated life….
    A couple of bucks can go a long way.

  • madashell59 says:

    Once again Iran is in the center of this War. All I can say is I hope the ground forces picked up a few key info guys that will provide us with more info locally and then possibly into Iran.
    Here is a question: What country is run by Islamist spiritual leaders? What major powers will benefit from the fall of the US and Euro economy? What countries keep on blocking major sanctions against Iran?
    This is not just about Pakistan or Afganistan it is much bigger than that!
    Let’s not forget the Korean war where the Chinese provided, I believe, thousands of troops to North Korea without the US knowing via the darkness of night after the North Koreans had been pushed back to the 38th parallel.

  • Infidel4LIFE says:

    i agree with BLERT on almost all his points. this war is not gonna be settled by the gun. Its gonna be a poltical solution, we will shell out more $$, and we will leave. The ONLY way to really smash the talibs and AQ is for PAK to deny them. That means fight, and if they don’t do we? They will settle in down there near Quetta and just wait us out. IF something can be traced back there if the US gets hit, damn I want revenge.

  • Thumpya says:

    I really wish we could snatch a HVT so we can gain some intel. Im happy as hell to see them whacked, but damn we need a break, we gotta get Omar, Zawahiri, or OBL. Either they are dead, or they just dumped all comms, relying on word of mouth, messages on CD’s, all by courier. IDing one of those guys would be a break, the trail can be followed. Oh well, could have, should have….

  • Bungo says:

    Great comments by all of the above. It sure is a tangled web of geo-political interests over there. Pakistan AND Iran both want some degree of influence in/over Afghanistan. Iran, obviously, wants us out of the region altogether so they can be the “big dog” in the entire region and Pakistan just wants our money to finance their perceived war against India. And all the West wants is the destruction of Al Queda and the elimination of it’s top leaders. Now the West is stuck in the middle of it all with no happy ending in sight. In retrospect me thinks we should have used tactical nukes in operation Anaconda or at least hot-pursued Bin Laden across the border at that time and got him then. Any way you look at it The Devil is in Pakistan and this will not end until The West sends troops into the Tribal Areas and cleans it up. It’s gonna be a Loooonnnnng war.

  • Zeissa says:

    Actually there are several military solutions possible, but they’re not diplomatically acceptable to the West.

  • James says:

    With today’s bad news of at least 7 US troops KIA, something tells me there is a mole somewhere high up in the Karzai regime (it just may even be Karzai himself).
    I wouldn’t trust Karzai for anything.
    The time for him to have been “eliminated” is long overdue.
    There is no substitute for victory, and there will be no excuse for defeat.

  • Rhyno327 says:

    Wow, tac nukes…yeah BUNGO im still mad as hell, and YES we shoulda had that sociopath Bin Laden at Tora Bora, but sometimes i think the politicians let him go. The RDF is 18 hrs wheels up, and there are airborne units in Italy Germany. The answer was NO. IF something catastrophic happens here, maybe tac nukes would be on the table. Scary isn’t it? Thats the kind of enemy we have, one that will bring on our wrath, God help us, and send them to HELL!!!

  • Cass McDonough says:

    Pardon my ignorance, I should know this but had a recent head injury that affected my memory, what does INS stand for?


Islamic state



Al shabaab

Boko Haram