The Taliban’s shadow governor for Badakhshan province, Qari Fasehuddin, released an audiotape to dispel the Afghan government’s claim that he was killed in a US airstrike in late last week. Fasihuddin is the second shadow governor to deny reports that he was killed in a US airstrike since the Taliban took control of Kunduz and several districts in the Afghan north.
The Ministry of Interior claimed on Oct. 2 that Fasehuddin was one of 40 Taliban fighters who were killed in an airstrike in the Baharak district in Badakhshan that same day. The Taliban massed in Baharak and overran the district center on Oct. 2.
The Taliban quickly responded to the Interior Ministry’s claim and released a Pashto-language interview with Fasehuddin on Voice of Jihad, its official propaganda website. The interview was clearly recorded after the Interior Ministry claimed Fasehuddin was killed.
After identifying himself, Fasehuddin also said that Wardoj district was also overrun. “The Mujahideen have gained considerable achievements on multiple fronts. They have launched operations in Wardoj District. The district has been conquered with little resistance,” he said. Wardoj district was confirmed to have been overrun by the Taliban on Oct. 1.
Fasehuddin then accused the Afghan government of manufacturing reports of success after suffering defeats.
“When the enemy is defeated, it launches such baseless propaganda to increase the morale of its soldiers who have been defeated and lost their morale,” Fasehuddin claimed.
Fasehuddin, who is reportedly around 30 years old, commands a force of nearly 1,000 fighters who are based in seven of Badakhshan’s districts, according to Afghan officials interviewed by The Washington Post earlier this year. Fasehuddin was targeted by Coalition forces during a combined operation codenamed Operation Hindu Kush in September 2013, but he escaped the dragnet despite his residence being raided by Coalition and Afghan security personnel.
The Badakhshan shadow governor was last seen in Taliban propaganda in May 2015, which depicted a series of attacks against Afghan security forces in the rugged and remote northeastern province. In that video, Fasehuddin was seen presiding over a “trial” of 22 Afghan captured security personnel.
The Afghan government has had a mixed record of reporting on the deaths of senior Taliban field commanders. Fasehuddin is the second shadow governor, or what the Taliban calls “Jihadi-in charge,” to have been wrongly reported dead in the past week. On Sept. 28, the National Directorate of Intelligence said that Mullah Abdul Salam, the Taliban’s shadow governor for the embattled Afghan province of Kunduz, a Lashkar-e-Taiba commander known as Hariz, and 15 fighters were killed in an airstrike in Kunduz. But on Sept. 30, the Taliban released a statement by Salam in which he refuted the reports of his death.
The Taliban have gone on a major offensive in the Afghan north over the past week. The the provincial capital of Kunduz was overrun on Sept. 28 and is still contested, although Afghan forces are said to have regained control of most of the city. The Taliban has seized 11 districts in five provinces (Wardoj, Baharak, and Khamab in Badakhshan; Khak-e-Safid in Farah; Khwaja Ghar, Yangi Qala, Ishkamish, and Bangi districts in Takhar; Khanabad and Qala-i-Zal in Kunduz; and Talaw Barfak in Baghlan), as well as the provincial capital of Kunduz in the span of one week.
The Taliban are thought to control or contest 63 of Afghanistan’s 398 districts throughout the country, according to data compiled by The Long War Journal. Many other districts are thought to be heavily influenced by the Taliban.