Taliban denies shadow governor for Kandahar killed by Afghan forces

The Afghan Taliban denied reports from the Ministry of Interior that the shadow governor and his deputy were among the 45 jihadists killed during a raid in the southern Afghan province. The Taliban even said that the Afghan government has the wrong names of the shadow governor and his deputy for Kandahar province.

The Taliban issued a statement yesterday on its official website, Voice of Jihad, after the Ministry of Interior reported that it killed Haji Lala, who it identified as the shadow governor of Kandahar, and Ahmad Shah, the deputy shadow governor, along with 43 fighters during an operation in Shah Wali Kot district. The Taliban appoints shadow governors for each province to direct military operations and run its shadow governments.

“We strongly reject this claim by the defeated enemy,” the Taliban said. “Clashes took place in the mentioned area after the enemy launched an operation to re-open the road stretching towards Uruzgan province which ended with an enemy route [sic] while no Mujahideen were harmed.”

The Taliban claimed it took no casualties while killing 17 Afghan troops and decimating the military convoy. The district of Shah Wali Kot has been hotly contested by the Taliban, which seeks to wrest control of it from the government.

Representatives of Voice of Jihad claimed to have spoke to the shadow governor of Kandahar to confirm that he and his deputy were still alive. The Taliban also said that Lala and Shah are not leading the Taliban in Kandahar.

“It must be mentioned that their are no individuals by the stated names who are appointed by the Islamic Emirate as governor and deputy for Kandahar province,” it said. The names of the actual shadow governor and his deputy were not disclosed. While the Taliban have named the shadow governors for nearly every province since Mullah Mansour was appointed the new emir, the emirs for Kandahar, Ghazni, and Farah have yet to be identified.

It is impossible to verify the claims made by the Ministry of Interior and the denial by the Taliban. Both groups have a spotty track record when reporting on the status of Taliban leaders.

The Afghan government has routinely stated that top Taliban leaders have been killed or captured, only to be proven wrong when these leaders re-appear on the battlefield.

The Taliban has been somewhat more reliable, but its credibility took a major hit when it hid the death of Mullah Omar, its founder and first emir, for more than two years. Omar died in April of 2013, but the Taliban issued numerous statements in his name while denying occasional reports of his death. The Taliban was finally forced to admit Omar’s death at the end of July 2015, and claimed it was forced to hide it in order to maintain unity at a crucial time as US forces began its withdrawal from Afghanistan.

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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