ISAF captures Taliban’s top leader for Helmand province

The International Security Assistance Force reported today that it captured the Taliban’s top leader of the southern Afghan province of Helmand during a May 14 raid. The raid also netted his predecessor. Both are thought to be members of the Quetta Shura, the Taliban’s top governing council. ISAF did not supply the names of either commander. If either commander decides to talk, they should provide a wealth of information on Taliban activities in both Afghanistan and Pakistan. From the ISAF press release:

Afghan and coalition forces confirmed the capture of the suspected senior Taliban leader for Helmand province and his predecessor during a security operation in Babaji district, Helmand province, May 14.

One of the men is accused of being the head of the Taliban provincial commission of Helmand province until the second man recently returned from Pakistan and assumed the role. Both are suspected members of the Quetta Shura.

According to reports, both men ordered the intimidation of the local Afghan population and were in charge of the insurgent justice system in that area. The senior leader also managed military appointments and the supply of weapons and ammunition to conduct attacks against Afghan and coalition forces.

Both men surrendered and were detained, along with several other suspected insurgents with ties to insurgent activities. During the operation, the force seized 176 pounds (80 kilograms) of opium.

And today in Helmand, the Taliban attempted to assassinate Helmand’s governor, Gulab Mangal, as he drove from the provincial capital of Lashkar Gah to the former Taliban stronghold of Sangin. From Reuters:

“The trip was to encourage people that top officials are able to travel by road in Helmand, not always by helicopter,” Ahmadi told Reuters.

Mangal had just opened several development projects when his motorcade was ambushed. Ahmadi said Mangal’s armored four-wheel drive vehicle was hit by at least 10 bullets.

Pictures of the vehicle showed several bullet-holes, two of them piercing a side window. Ahmadi said Mangal was traveling by road in the area for the first time in six years.

“We were ambushed but the governor does not regret (making the trip) and he plans to travel more by road,” Ahmadi said.

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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