Coalition and Afghan forces have killed a senior commander of the al Qaeda-linked Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan who doubled as Taliban shadow district governor in the northern province of Takhar.
The combined force killed Qari Mahmad Umar and an associate in “a precision air strike” yesterday after tracking him to a remote region of the Bahawuddin district, according to the International Security Assistance Force.
Umar served as the shadow governor of Bahawuddin district. “Umar was an improvised explosive device expert and trainer involved in facilitating supplies as well as constructing and emplacing IED’s in northern Takhar and Kunduz provinces,” ISAF stated.
Umar is the second shadow district governor killed in Takhar this month. On Oct. 4, Maulawi Jawadullah, the district shadow governor for Yangi Qalah in Takhar, was killed in an airstrike.
Coalition and Afghan forces have targeted the Taliban’s shadow government in the north hard this past year, with several commanders, including the shadow governors, killed or captured [see LWJ report, Coalition continues pursuit of IMU commanders in the Afghan north, for more information]. But the Taliban have replaced the commanders and still maintain a firm grip on many of the districts in Kunduz, Baghlan, and Takhar.
The Taliban struck back earlier this month, killing the governor of Kunduz province in a bombing at a mosque in Takhar. Governor Muhammad Omar was a staunch critic of the Taliban and its terrorist allies.
The al Qaeda-linked Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan has integrated its operations with the Taliban in the Afghan north, and some of IMU’s leaders also fill top-level positions in the shadow governments. Within the past two months, Coalition and Afghan forces have killed several IMU commanders and more than a dozen IMU fighters in the northern province of Takhar. [See LWJ report, IMU-linked Taliban district commander killed in Takhar raid.]
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.
Throughout Afghanistan, the Taliban have established shadow governments, 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.
The Taliban in the north receive orders from the the Peshawar Shura, one of the Taliban’s four major regional commands for Afghanistan. All four of the Afghan Taliban’s regional shuras are named after and based in Pakistani cities in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa or Baluchistan.
The Peshawar Shura is based out of the Pakistani city of Peshawar, which is the provincial capital of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. The Peshawar Shura is thought to be led by Taliban commander Abdul Latif Mansur, who replaced Maulvi Abdul Kabir. Reports have claimed that Kabir is involved with negotiations with the Afghan government, but Kabir released a statement on the Taliban’s website, Voice of Jihad, denouncing the talks as “meaningless and futile.”
Background on the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan in the region
The Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan is based in Pakistan’s Taliban-controlled tribal agency of North Waziristan, and operates primarily along the Afghan-Pakistani border and in northern Afghanistan. According to one estimate, more than 3,000 Uzbeks and other Central Asian fighters are sheltering in North Waziristan.
Since Sept. 1, the US has ramped up airstrikes against the terror groups in North Waziristan, with 21 strikes that month and 13 more already this month. The IMU’s former leader, Tahir Yuldashev, was killed in a US Predator airstrike in South Waziristan in September 2009. Yuldashev sat on al Qaeda’s top council, the Shura Majlis. He has been replaced by Abu Usman Adil.
Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan fighters often serve as bodyguards to top Pakistani Taliban leaders. The IMU fights alongside the Taliban in Pakistan and Afghanistan. In northern Afghanistan, the IMU has integrated its operations with the Taliban, and senior leaders serve as members of the Taliban’s shadow government [see LWJ report, Coalition continues pursuit of IMU commanders in the Afghan north].
Tajikistan has seen an uptick in attacks from Islamist terror groups since the summer of 2009. [See LWJ report, Al Qaeda-linked IMU claims deadly ambush on Tajik troops.] In late spring of that year, NATO opened a supply line from Tajikistan into northern Afghanistan after the Taliban and allied groups heavily targeted the main NATO route from Pakistan.