Afghanistan’s intelligence service, the National Directorate of Security (NDS), captured the Taliban’s shadow governor for Faryab province as he was traveling to Pakistan.
Qari Salahuddin was arrested as he made his way to Quetta, Pakistan, the headquarters for the Taliban’s Rahbari Shura, the NDS stated on its Facebook page. Salahuddin was purportedly captured while traveling in Herat province. He had planned to enter Pakistan’s Baluchistan province via Kandahar.
The Taliban has not yet commented on the NDS report that Salahuddin is in custody.
As the shadow governor for Faryab, Salahuddin is responsible for directing the Taliban’s political and military activities. He was one of the first governors to swear allegiance to Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansour, the group’s new emir. The Taliban published his oath on Voice of Jihad on Aug. 1, just two days after former emir Mullah Omar’s death was officially announced.
Salahuddin, who is also known as Ayyubi, was seen in a Taliban video that was released in December 2014. In that video, the Taliban highlighted one of its training camps in Faryab province. The footage also purports to show tribal elders and policemen meeting with Taliban officials, attacks against Afghan security forces, and policemen who have been captured by the jihadist group. In one scene, a Taliban religious official gives a speech to hundreds of fighters before they depart for an operation.
Faryab province has been one of many provinces in Afghanistan where the Taliban is ascendent. Under Salahuddin’s command, the jihadist group has contested several districts.
Afghan officials from Faryab have warned that the province is falling under the control of the Taliban. In April, Fathulla Qaysari, a member of parliament from Faryab, warned that the province was falling out of the government’s control.
“I want to tell you that Faryab is not in your hands,” he told parliament, RFE/RL reported in April.
By mid-July, Sayed Abdul Baki Hashami, the head of the Faryab Provincial Council, told RFE/RL that all of the province, including the capital of Maimana, was in danger of being taken over by the Taliban as the local militias were in retreat.
The situation in Faryab became so dire that in at the beginning of August, Abdul Rashid Dostum, the ethnic Uzbek warlord who serves as Afghanistan’s First Vice President, donned a military uniform to lead his followers and battle the Taliban in the province. Dostum declared the jihadist group defeated in the province and returned to Kabul.
While in Faryab, the Taliban ambushed Dostum’s convoy and killed nine of his militiaman. Dostum escaped the attack unscathed.
The Taliban continues to advance in Faryab despite Dostum’s offensive. Almar, Bala Morghab, Ghormach, Pashtun-Kot, and Qaisar districts are either contested or controlled by the jihadist group. Today, the Taliban took control of several areas in Qaisar district after Afghan soldiers abandoned two bases.
The NDS capture of Salahuddin is not likely to significantly impact the Taliban’s operations in Faryab. The group has been adept at replacing senior leaders who have been killed or captured. And the Afghan government has often helped the Taliban by freeing its senior leaders or releasing them as part of prisoner exchanges.
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