Taliban appoint al Qaeda-linked commander to lead Peshawar shura

The Taliban have appointed a Taliban leader with close ties to al Qaeda to lead one of their four regional military councils in Afghanistan.

Sheikh Mohammed Aminullah, who in 2009 was placed on the United Nations Sanctions Committee’s list of “individuals and entities associated with al Qaeda,” has been named to lead the Taliban’s Peshawar Regional Military Shura, which is responsible for operations in eastern and northern Afghanistan.

The Hindu was the first to report that Aminullah, who is listed as Fazeel-a-Tul Shaykh Abu Mohammed Ameen al Peshwari, had been named to lead the Peshawar Shura. Confirming that report, two US intelligence officials who closely track the Taliban and al Qaeda told The Long War Journal that Aminullah was appointed to lead the Peshawar Shura sometime last year, when he replaced Mullah Abdul Latif Mansour.

According to the United Nations Sanctions Committee designation, Aminullah runs the Ganj Madrassa, or religious school, which he has used to recruit and provide support for al Qaeda. Aminullah also furnished suicide vests to al Qaeda and Taliban suicide bombers, and paid the families of the terror groups’ so-called martyrs.

“[A]s the leader of the Ganj Madrassah in Peshawar, Pakistan, [Aminullah] was providing assistance including funding and recruits to the al Qaeda network as of early 2008,” the UN stated. “He also provided funding, explosive suicide vests and other resources to the Taliban. Al-Peshawari [Aminullah] also began a campaign to support Al Qaeda and Taliban militants in Pakistan. As of 2006, Al-Peshawari was providing monetary compensation to families of Al-Qaida and Taliban fighters killed in Afghanistan and was involved in Taliban recruiting activities.”

With the appointment of Aminullah to lead the Peshawar Shura, three of the Taliban’s four regional councils are now run by leaders who are closely linked to al Qaeda [for more information on the Taliban’s Quetta and regional shuras, see LWJ report, The Afghan Taliban’s top leaders].

Siraj Haqqani, the son of Jalaluddin Haqqani and operational commander of the al Qaeda-linked Haqqani Network, commands the Miramshah Regional Military Shura. Siraj directs activities in southeastern Afghanistan, including the provinces of Paktika, Paktia, Khost, Logar, and Wardak. The group has recently expanded its operations into the capital city, Kabul, and in Kandahar province. The Haqqanis shelter and support al Qaeda leaders and fighters from Haqqani bases across the border in the Miramshah area of North Waziristan, Pakistan.

Mullah Adbul Zakir leads the Gerdi Jangal Regional Military Shura, which directs operations in Helmand and Nimroz provinces. Zakir was a detainee at the Guantanamo Bay detention facility before he was released to the Afghan government, which soon set him free. He quickly returned to the Taliban, taking control of the Mullah Dadullah Mahaz, which is closely tied to al Qaeda. Zakir is also considered to be the Taliban’s top military commander.

The Taliban’s appointment of al Qaeda-linked commanders to top leadership positions takes place as the US and NATO are seeking to broker a peace agreement with the Taliban. As part of a settlement, the US wants the Taliban to renounce ties with al Qaeda and refuse the terror group sanctuary in Afghanistan. While the US wants the Taliban to renounce al Qaeda, the US is considering releasing five senior Taliban leaders who were instrumental in forging ties to al Qaeda [see LWJ reports, Afghan Taliban announces new ‘political office’ in Qatar, and Taliban seek freedom for dangerous Guantanamo detainees].

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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