The US military confirmed yesterday that it killed Mullah Abdul Salam, the Taliban’s shadow governor for the northern Afghan province of Kunduz, in an airstrike on Feb. 26. The military used Salam’s death to appeal to the Taliban to reconcile with the Afghan government.
According to Resolute Support, NATO’s command in Afghanistan, Salam and four other Taliban fighters were killed in an airstrike that was “part of a larger ANDSF [Afghan military] operation.”
“Salam was responsible for immeasurable suffering among the population of Kunduz,” Resolute Support noted in its press release. “Salam and Taliban forces attacked civilians and other non-combatants and destroyed bridges and key infrastructure despite claims that they would protect civilians and property.”
As FDD’s Long War Journal noted when the Taliban reported that he was killed, Salam was a key commander who was responsible for making Kunduz one of the most unstable provinces in all of Afghanistan. His forces overran Kunduz City twice since Sept. 2015. He was also instrumental in organizing training camps and keeping fighters and commanders loyal to the Taliban’s leadership after the deaths of its previous two emirs. [See FDD’s Long War Journal report, Taliban confirms death of Kunduz shadow governor.]
General John Nicholson, the commander of US Forces – Afghanistan and Resolute Support, used Salam’s death to encourage the Taliban to reconcile with the Afghan government:
“Salam’s death is an opportunity for change,” Nicholson said. “The people of Afghanistan want peace and the Government of Afghanistan is committed to achieving peace through reconciliation. The Taliban know the only path forward is reconciliation.”
US, European, and Afghan officials have been urging the Taliban to reconcile for well over a decade. The Taliban has been unwilling to negotiate a peace deal and join the government, even when it has suffered setbacks. As today’s suicide assaults in Kabul demonstrate, the Taliban is far from reconciliation. Mullah Salam’s death will not change the Taliban’s priorities.