Coalition, Afghan forces kill Taliban’s shadow governor for Nangarhar

Coalition and Afghan forces killed one of the top Taliban leaders in Nangarhar province during a raid last week that was also said to have killed several civilians.

Malauwi Ghulam Haideri, the Taliban’s acting shadow governor, and Malauwi Shir Agha, a facilitator, were killed in a combined Coalition and Afghan raid in the village of Khwazakheyl in the Sherzad district on Aug. 4. Twelve Taliban fighters were also reported killed In the combined assault.

The International Security Assistance Force confirmed the deaths of Haideri and Agha on Aug. 11, and identified Haideri as “a senior Taliban commander.”

“We are assessing Ghulam Haideri’s death based on Afghan National Police reporting following an August 4 operation in Sherzad district in Nangarhar province,” Major Michael Johnson, a public affairs official at ISAF Joint Command, told The Long War Journal in a response to an inquiry.

Haideri was one of the most senior Taliban commanders in Nangarhar and had close ties with the group’s leadership based in Pakistan.

He was “the deputy commander to the Pakistani-based Taliban shadow governor of Nangarhar province and was assessed to be the acting shadow governor for the province,” Johnson told The Long War Journal. “Additionally, he was in direct contact with senior Taliban leadership in Pakistan.”

Haideri also “was an active member of the Eastern Zone Shura,” Johnson stated. The Eastern Zone Shura is another name for the Peshawar Shura, one of the Taliban’s four major regional commands in Afghanistan. All four of the Afghan Taliban’s regional shuras are named after and based in Pakistani cities in Khyber-Paktunkwa or Baluchistan.

The Peshawar Shura is based out of the Pakistani city of Peshawar, which is the provincial capital of Khyber-Paktunkwa. The Peshawar Shura is thought to be led by Taliban commander Abdul Latif Mansur, who replaced Maulvi Abdul Kabir, who is said to have been detained by Pakistan’s intelligence service.

Haideri operated from the Khugyani district in Nangarhar. Khugyani is a known haven for al Qaeda, the Taliban, Hizb-i-Islami Gulbuddin, and the Pakistan-based terror group Lashkar-e-Taiba. ISAF and Afghan forces targeted an unnamed Taliban commander with direct links to Lashkar-e-Taiba during two raids in July 2010.

Al Qaeda maintains a strong presence in Nangarhar province, according to an investigation by The Long War Journal. The presence of al Qaeda cells has been detected in the districts of Sorubi, Shinwar, Sherzad, Khugyani, Jalalabad, Achin, Bati Kowt, Chaparhar, and Dara Noor; or nine of Nangarhar’s 22 districts.

Shir Agha, the Taliban facilitator killed along with Haideri, was arrested by Afghan police in Sherzad in July 2007. He “supplied large quantities of weapons to the Hizb-i-Islami Gulbuddin terrorist cell and network commanders throughout the Nangarhar province,” ISAF stated in a press release in July 2007.

It is unclear why Agha was released from prison, but the Afghan government frequently releases Taliban commanders and fighters in prisoner swaps or after lobbying from tribal leaders or other powerful officials. Also, the Taliban often bribe Afghan officials to secure the release of their followers.

US officials divided on reports of civilian casualties in Aug. 4 raid in Sherzad

The Aug. 4 raid that killed Haideri and Agha in the village of Khwazakheyl in Sherzad sparked controversy after reports of civilian casualties surfaced. ISAF first reported that no civilians were killed, then in a follow-up report stated that between four to 12 civilians were killed. Afghan officials claimed that 15 to 20 civilians were killed in the raid.

But a senior US intelligence official who asked not to be named due to the controversy over this issue said that the reports of civilian casualties are unsubstantiated. According to the official, ISAF did not investigate the claims of civilian deaths itself but accepted reports from Afghan officials uncritically.

“No credible source was cited by IJC or ISAF, and no names of civilian casualties have surfaced,” the US intelligence official said. “The allegations of civilian casualties surfaced from tribally affiliated government officials from an adjacent district. The governor of Nangarhar actually praised this raid as a good operation against bad people.”

In its latest press release confirming the deaths of Haideri and Agha, ISAF did not mention civilian casualties and claimed that at least 14 Taliban fighters and leaders were killed.

Sources:

ISAF confirms Taliban commander and facilitator deaths, ISAF press release

Taliban, civilians reported killed during raid in eastern Afghanistan, The Long War Journal

The Afghan Taliban’s top leaders, The Long War Journal

ISAF confirms civilians killed during operation that removed large number of Taliban from Nangarhar, ISAF press release

US military begins to link Afghan Taliban to Pakistani terror groups, The Long War Journal

ANP detains high level insurgent weapons dealer in Sherzad District, ISAF press release

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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