Coalition kills Taliban’s shadow governor in Badghis province


Map of Afghanistan’s provinces. Click map to view larger image.

Coalition and Afghan special operations forces have killed the Taliban’s top leader for the northwestern province of Badghis along with a senior Taliban military commander in the province.

Mullah Ismail, the Taliban’s shadow governor of Badghis province, and Abdul Hakim, a senior military commander, were killed during a raid on Oct. 6, the International Security Assistance Force reported. Eighteen other Taliban fighters were also killed, according to Baghlan’s police chief.

As a top military commander in Badghis, Hakim “had operational control over Taliban fighters, suicide bombers, directed improvised explosive device strikes, indirect fire and complex ambush attacks on coalition forces,” ISAF stated.

Ismail and Hakim are among five top Taliban leaders killed or captured in the north over the past week. On Oct. 4, Maulawi Jawadullah , the district shadow governor for Yangi Qalah in Takhar was killed in an airstrike. On Oct. 5, Qari Ziauddin, the shadow governor for Faryab province, was killed. And also on Oct. 5, Coalition and Afghan forces captured Saifullah, the Taliban’s shadow governor for the district of Chahar Darah in Kunduz. Both Zianuddin and Saifullah took orders from the Peshawar Shura, one of four Taliban military councils based in Pakistan. And Saifullah also had close links to Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, an al Qaeda affiliate.

The Taliban establish shadow or parallel governments in the regions they control or where the Afghan government is weak. These shadow governments fill the void by dispensing sharia justice; mediating tribal and land disputes; collecting taxes; and recruiting, arming, and training fighters.

The Taliban have established shadow governments throughout Afghanistan, with provincial and militarily leaders appointed to command activities. In January 2009, the Taliban claimed to be in control of more than 70 percent of Afghanistan’s rural areas and to have established shadow governments in 31 of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces.

Badghis is a Taliban hub for operations in the northwest

The Balamurghab district serves as the Taliban’s main operations hub for northwestern Afghanistan. Taliban commanders in Badghis have claimed to have 74 bases scattered throughout the Balamurghab district alone. Both Balamurghab and the neighboring district of Ghormach are considered to be under Taliban control. US, Spanish, Italian, and Afghan forces now maintain a presence in the Balamurghab district at Forward Operating Base Columbus.

Badghis is critical to the Taliban’s northern front. The Taliban are attempting to isolate the province by keeping the instability high so the paved section of the northern ring road cannot be completed. The Taliban want to use their safe havens in Badghis to launch attacks against neighboring Faryab province and eventually Mazar-i-Sharif.

Coalition and Afghan forces have been targeting the Taliban in Badghis for years. In February 2009, Mullah Dastagir, the Taliban’s shadow governor for Badghis, was killed in an airstrike along with several aides and fighters. Coalition and Afghan forces battled the Taliban throughout 2008 and early 2009 but have been unable to dislodge them from strongholds in the two districts.

An al Qaeda affiliate also operates in Badghis

The al Qaeda-linked Turkistan Islamic Party is also known to operate in Badghis province. In January 2010, a US airstrike in the village of Khatawaran in Balamurghab killed 13 Uighurs and two Turkish members of the Turkistan Islamic Party.

The Turkistan Islamic Party, which is also known as the Eastern Turkistan Islamic Party or Eastern Turkistan Islamic Movement, operates primarily in China’s western province of Xinjiang as well as in the Central Asian republics. The group seeks to establish an Islamic state in the region. The Turkistan Islamic Party has training camps in Afghanistan and Pakistan and is known to operate in both countries.

The Turkistan Islamic Party has been designated as a terrorist organization by the United Nations, the United States, China, Kazakhstan, and Pakistan.

Abdul Haq al Turkistani, the former leader of the Turkistan Islamic Party, was closely linked to al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden. Haq, who is also known as Maimaitiming Maimaiti, became the leader of the terror group in late 2003 after Hassan Mahsum, the group’s previous leader, was killed in Waziristan, Pakistan. Haq was appointed a member of al Qaeda’s Shura Majlis, or executive council, in 2005, according to the US Treasury Department, which designated him as a global terrorist in April 2009. The United Nations also designated Haq as a terrorist leader.

Haq was killed in a US Predator airstrike in North Waziristan on Feb. 15, 2010.

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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  • Civy says:
    As anticipated, GBUs are now allowing heavier bomb loads to be deployed from fast movers to augment the Predator drones’ uniquely long loiter times.
    An initial GPS-banded target area is given terminal guidance by eyes-on SOF ground assets or Predator operators. This creates the ability for Predator drones to mass fires on large targets of opportunity – with cross-boarder stand-off – while still retaining long loiter times. Stand-off ranges of 100km should be possible using this weapon.

  • Luca says:

    Bill, great as always, but just one question, how come when you mention the RC-W you guys at the Long War never mention the italians? I was there in summer 09 when the paras were there and though it can’t be said publicly in my country – we took the fight to the enemy and we shed blood alongside our american brothers, and kicked ass. The spaniards in Qala-e-Naw were so static that we had to man extra FOBs in Bala Murghab to stem enemy encroachment upon the sabzak pass to Herat and on development projects. Hurts to hear that our allies think we go to Afghanistan just to eat lobster…when I was in Camp Arena US personnel actually complained about the quality of the food! As I said, great work, but it would feel good from time to time to be aknowledged, particularly from such well informed sources as yourselves.

  • Alex says:

    Luca, thank you for your service. This American won’t forget your country’s committment.

  • kp says:

    @Civy: The Reapers have been carrying (or are at least capable of carrying) up to 3000lbs in stores over Pakistan (and AFG) and that includes the GBU-12, GBU-34, GBU-39 (aka SDB) and I’m sure the GBU-54 will appear too.

    With a mixed load on a Reaper they have the choice of which store to use on a particular target: Hellfire on moving vehicle and Hellfire or SDB on a building or even Scorpion on a single walking target in an urban area (the latter has been done). That’s not something that done by the manned CAS aircraft where they want either GPS or laser guide bomb. If they want a target hit with a Hellfire you ask a chopper (or a UAV) to do it. Do any CAS aircraft carry Hellfire?

    I think you don’t see these too much of the GBUs in Pakistan to reduce collateral damage. I’m sure they do the evaluation on a case by case basis to use a Scorpion, Hellfire (with various warheads), SDB, GBU-12, GBU-34 and now GBU-54 on a given target. Quite a few of these targets are urban (low density urban but still urban).

    The issue is not the size of the bang (expect in some special cases but most of the time limiting the bang is important criterion) or hitting a large number of aim points simultaneously. The issue is finding the target at a single aim point. Humans in a mud brick building or a vehicle can be effectively killed with thermobaric or frag Hellfire and the building/vehicle destroyed. But if they have a bunker or cave to hit they’ll choose the appropriate GBU.

  • vladimir says:

    @ Luca, like Alex, I thank you for your service, and I agree. Troops from other countries should also be reckognized for their commitment. Any non-American that fights at the side of Americans is a hero to me just like the people in the U.S. military are heroes.

  • Civy says:

    Good info, but the only advantage to a Hellfire is the immediacy of it. If you have relatively static targets it’s a waste to use a Hellfire, as the rocket engine and guidance cut into the payload a lot. It’s also much more expensive.
    What UAVs have that is unique is loiter time, and loading out a lot of munitions on them cuts their loiter time almost in half. Even if loaded out fully, 3,000lbs isn’t much compared to a Warthog, Strike Eagle, BUFF or BONE.
    If you are targeting a compound, which is an area target, you’d really like to be able to blanket it, only it, and then use Hellfires (or these new GBUs) to clean up anything trying to flee. When I read reports where 10-15 Hellfires are used, it tells me they need heavier aircraft. You don’t use 10-15 missiles on a point target. Those are area targets.
    You can use these new GBU munitions to hit fleeing targets if you have a mobile laser designator – like both the Predator and Reaper have – so again, it keeps loiter times maxed, and still accomplishes the mission, without intruding into Pak airspace. I think, at least on this one, the USAF got it right. In any case, it’s nice to have a big tool box.

  • kp says:

    Civy: But the smaller payload of the Hellfire (which can carry one of several warhead types) is a win for this sort of operation.

    Plus the Hellfire is also the only armament the Predator MQ-1B and MQ-1C can carry (except perhaps for multiple Scorpions which are only useful when you can actually hit the human target (3lb warhead) or perhaps his car window. Clearly with the Reaper you do have flexibility and even there the SBD can use tungsten loaded explosives to reduce the lethal blast radius to around 8m. Still a bit big for urban use but in sparser urban situations or a building more than 10 or 20m from other habitation it would be usable.

    The GBUs with glide packages would be useful close to the border. But the problem is CAS response and loiter time. And mountains. To hit people in Miramshah and Mir Ali and Wana you need to be looking at the target when you release the weapon.

    I’m not sure what a typical Reaper load is in PAK or AFG but from the ground photos I’ve seen it seem two bombs (SDBs as they have a lower cross-section … they’re slimmer than the bigger GBUs so would help the loiter) and 4 Hellfire. THe could carry a lot more.

    It all depends what you expect to do with a given target. It seems that when the CIA want hit a target they use a swarm of UAVs. Even with 10 to 15 missile attacks they aren’t “Area bombing” they’re hitting individual targets with each shot. The initial planned target set may be one or more buildings and vehicles. But then you are looking for individuals who escape the initial attack. This is particularly useful when looking for “squirters” leaving the scene in all directions. Here precise low payload weapons are useful (big bombs obscure the target area and saturate thermal sensors). And having many “eyes” is more valuable than anything else to track people leaving in many different directions. The Gorgon’s Stare imager should help with that but if you have UAVs then use them. In that case you could imagine using a fully loaded Reaper or two to carry weapons and even use unarmed Predators to designate targets or to track squirters.

    CIA is not blanketing anything — this isn’t bombing on big military formations 🙂 They know the address/coordinates (or vehicle type) they want to hit and they just hit it with enough ordnance to kill the occupants. Even recent reports of a building hit with 2 missiles resulting in 4 KIA and 2 wounded was later updated to 6 KIA. Even if you don’t kill them immediately the small ordnance seems quite lethal when delivered close to the intended human target. The Scorpion has a CEP of 1m for a 3lb bomb: small bomb but very close is lethal.

  • Civy says:

    I’m sure we are testing Bill’s patience, but just to clarify.
    “To hit people in Miramshah and Mir Ali and Wana you need to be looking at the target when you release the weapon.”
    Not true. The whole point of the laser terminal guidance is precisely that they are released blind into a general area – enmasse and speculatively if need be – and then guided by laser, the exact same laser guidance used by the Hellfire missile, to their final target – moving or stationary.
    Speculative drops of GPS-banded munitions from altitudes of up to 60,000 ft only requires a designated ‘waste’ target area for the safe disposal of the weapon if no terminal guidance is forthcoming.
    Speculative drops done from multiple heavies allow dozens or even hundreds of munitions to land simultaneously at a target area. It is equivalent to the largest artillery bombardment ever imagined, and with terminal laser guidance, many of those are available for strikes every bit as precise as a Hellfire.
    Given this, the remaining advantage to UAV-fired Hellfires is the very low latency for suddenly emergent targets – and this is only true IF the launch is done at low altitudes. The ceiling elevation of the Reaper is higher than the range of a Hellfire – thus its much greater reliance on SDBs. Most current strikes are on targets at planned events or bedded down for the night.
    Several years ago the USMC had a training program in place to push the terminal guidance of such munitions down to the squad level. The tremendous advantage of such a weapon system to light, forward units is breathtaking. IIRC, the USMC program sponsoring this training was Distributed Operations.
    “having many “eyes” is more valuable than anything else to track people leaving in many different directions”
    Agreed, so use the uniquely long loiter times of unmanned platforms to the max to do so.
    When you’re putting 14 missiles into a 100x200ft compound that is well-separated from any adjacent structures, you’re engaging an area target. Study the photographs an you will see I’m right on this point.


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