Taliban change of command in Afghanistan

Bill Roggio:

As 2007 comes to a close, the Taliban has dismissed its senior military commander in southern Afghanistan. Mullah Mansoor Dadullah, a senior military commander, was relieved of his command by Mullah Omar, according to a statement. Dadullah was accused of insubordination.

"Mullah Mansoor Dadullah has been dismissed as the Taliban commander because he disobeyed the orders of the Islamic Emirate,” Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahed told AFP. "Therefore it was decided not to appoint any post in the emirate to him," Mujahed concluded.

Mansoor was the military commander of Taliban forces in the strategic southern provinces of Kandahar, Helmand, Uruzgan, and Zabul provinces. He took command of Taliban forces in May of this year after his brother Mullah Dadullah Ahkund, a popular but brutal and effective commander, was killed by British special forces in Helmand province.

...

Afghan and Coalition forces drove the Taliban from the former stronghold of Musa Qala. The Taliban fled without putting up much of a fight. Over 2,000 fighters were said to be in Musa Qala. It is unclear if the loss of Musa Qala and other Taliban failures in southern Afghanistan attributed to Mansoor's dismissal.

Mujahed, the Taliban spokesman for eastern Afghanistan, did not provide details behind Dadullah's dismissal. Matt Dupee, a contributor to Afgha.com and The Long War Journal, indicated there are "ongoing rifts within the Taliban's upper echelon" over the past year.

"The Taliban’s decision to remove Shah Mansoor as their key commander in the southern areas is a significant development," said Dupee. "Not only does it highlight the ongoing rifts within the Taliban’s upper echelon, but it follows their removal from Helmand’s Musa Qala district and a long list of successful Coalition operations against their command and control capabilities."

...

The senior Taliban leadership has been heavily attrited over the past year. Four members of the 10-member Taliban Shura Majlis, or executive council, have been killed or captured since December 2006. Mullah Berader was killed in an airstrike in August 2007. Mullah Dadullah Ahkund was a member of the Shura Majlis. Mullah Obaidullah Akhund was arrested in Pakistan in January 2007. He has since been released by the Pakistanis in exchange for hundreds of their captured soldiers. Mullah Akhtar Usmani was killed in an airstrike in Helmand province in December 2006.

Several other senior Taliban leaders have been killed or captured since December 2006. Qari Faiz Mohammad, a member of the Taliban's military shura, was killed in a raid in Helmand province in July 2007. Afghan forces also captured Taliban spokesman Dr. Muhammad Hanif in January 2007. He was later released in an exchange for an Italian hostage. In June 2007, NATO forces killed Mullah Mahmud Baluch, a senior Taliban commander in Helmand and Nimruz provinces.

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I think this attrition is reflected in the poor results from the efforts made by the Taliban in 2007. They have been active but ineffective and they continue to sustain high casualties among their rank and file as well as their leadership. Their inability to run an effective ambush has led to some spectacular losses for the Taliban. It is unlikely that this change of command will enhance their performance. It will be interesting to see if they focus more of their efforts on Pakistan where the army has not been nearly as effective in countering their operations.

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