Afghan officials have announced the capture of Maulvi Dastagir following a raid by Afghan intelligence operatives in the western province of Herat, the Pajhwok Afghan News center reported on Sunday. Dastagir, a key Taliban field operative in neighboring Badghis province, was seized in the Kamarkalagh district just north of Herat’s provincial capital. Dastagir spoke regularly with regional media outlets and was the Taliban’s unofficial spokesman for their northwestern faction.
In November, he spoke with the Institute for War and Peace Reporting regarding the Taliban’s plans and objectives for the desolate northwestern area, which is lightly guarded by a small contingent of Spanish NATO forces.
“We are trying to open up this route just as we did in the past,” he told the agency. “Our policy is different up here. We have openly engaged the government and foreign forces in the south, but in the north we are quietly expanding our area. The government is weaker here than in the south and the mountains have provided good terrain for our operations.”
He went on to claim the Taliban controlled most of Badghis province but had refrained from attacking the province’s district capital, Qala-e-Naw. “We would like to occupy the province right away, since the capital [Qala-e-Naw] and some of the districts are still under government control. We could do it in one single attack, but we are waiting for a larger operation. Our strategy is to go for many provinces at once.”
NATO and Afghan forces launched Operation Eagle Claw II, a joint security operation targeting Dastagir’s men, shortly before his interview. Mullah Qayum, a local Taliban commander originally from neighboring Faryab province, was arrested along with 17 of his men during the operation. Another tactical level Taliban commander, Mullah Babai, was killed along with 20 of his fighters before Operation Eagle Claw II concluded in late 2007.
Recently, despite the foul winter weather that has swept across the northern plains, Taliban insurgents have repeatedly staged attacks against newly created police check points in the troubled Ghormach, Qadis, and Bala Murghab districts of Badghis province. Afghan security forces thwarted an ambush on March, 9 and killed Mullah Muhammad Hanif, a skilled improvised bomb maker from the Qadis district. Hanif was wanted by local authorities for a long list of bomb attacks that killed and wounded a number of Afghan police throughout 2007. Only days prior, Taliban insurgents attacked a police check point in the Bala Murghab district leaving a number of police and insurgents dead, including the Taliban cell’s suspected commander.
Northwestern Taliban leaders
Maulvi Abdul Rahman: This Taliban-era governor of Ghor province now heads the Taliban’s operations in northwestern Afghanistan. He coordinated two large-scale assaults on two districts in Badghis province in the summer of 2007 resulting in numerous casualties.
Mullah Babai: A tactical-level Taliban commander in Badghis. He died along with 20 of his men during Operation Eagle Claw II in late 2007.
Mullah Abdul Qayum: Another tactical-level commander in Badghis province, although he originally hails from the Qaisar district of Faryab province. He was the leading Taliban field commander in the northwest during 2007. He was captured along with 17 of his men during Operation Eagle Claw II in late 2007.
Mullah Dastagir: A local Taliban commander in Badghis province and unofficial spokesman for the group’s “northern front,” Dastagir was arrested on March 16, 2008.
Abdur Rahman Haqani: This top-level Taliban field operative launches attacks in northwestern Badghis and Faryab provinces. He is still active as of 2007.
Mullah Muhammad Hanif: A skilled IED bomb maker in the Qadis district, Hanif attacked a police post in March 2008 and was subsequently shot and arrested by authorities. He was wanted for a long string of attacks on police check posts in the area.
Mullah Mutmayen: The self-proclaimed Taliban commander in Badghis province.
Mawlawi Abdul Hamid: This Taliban leader in Herat’s of Shindand district is believed to have orchestrated the 2007 abduction of two Italian soldiers from their patrol in Herat. He conducts a wide array of anti-government acts throughout Herat.
See additional coverage, Northwestern Afghanistan: Badghis province seeks security, revitalization